Tips and Techniques: A Quilt Glossary for the 21st Century

Most of us have at least one good quilting reference book with an extensive glossary in it that covers all the jargon that is unique to quilting. (Or if you are anything like the quilters here at Landauer Publishing, you have about 50! Professional hazard…) I am a self-taught quilter, so I have relied heavily on those glossaries and reference books to learn how to make quilts! However, self-taught quilters don’t have to rely solely on books for learning at home anymore. Now that there is so much information available to us on the internet, we can find what we’re looking for in nanoseconds, whether it is a pattern, a video tutorial for a new technique, advice from a far-flung quilter, or a definition of a term you haven’t come across before. But when you look for those resources online, you’re likely to find a lot of acronyms that you may not be familiar with. I’d wager that anyone using the internet knows what LOL (Laugh Out Loud) means, but many will be scratching their heads if I refer to my LQS (Local Quilt Shop).

Below are some of my favorite quilting acronyms, many of which are good for a chuckle or two. You can also find pretty exhaustive lists of online quilting lingo at and I’ve also included a more traditional quilt glossary of terms related to piecing, appliqué, quilting, and more, so feel free to bookmark or pin this post to make it easy to find when you need it, and share it with your quilting friends! And be sure to let us know in the comments what your favorite acronyms are and what terms we left out…we’ll keep updating this post as needed!

  • 401F Fabric for retirement
  • BOM/W Block of the Month/Week
  • BRB Be Right Back
  • BTW By The Way
  • DH Dear/Darling Husband
  • GTG Got To Go
  • HST Half Square Triangles
  • HTH Hope This Helps
  • IM(H)O In My (Humble) Opinion
  • LQS Local Quilt Shop
  • NBD No Big Deal
  • NP No Problem
  • NQR Not Quilt Related
  • PIGS – Projects in Grocery Sacks
  • PiP Project in Progress
  • QST Quarter Square Triangle
  • TOAD Trashed Object, Abandoned in Disgust
  • TTYS/L Talk To You Soon/Later
  • TY Thank You
  • UFO Unfinished Object
  • WiP Work in Progress
  • WOF Width of Fabric
  • WOMBAT Waste of Material (Money), Batting, and Time
  • WWYD What Would You Do?


Appliqué The sewing technique for attaching pieces (appliqués) of fabric onto a background fabric. Appliqués may be stitched to the background by hand, using a blind stitch, or by machine, using a satin stitch or a blind hemstitch.

Backing Layer of fabric on the back of the quilt.

Basting The sewing technique for joining layers of fabric or the layers of a quilt with safety pins or large stitches. The stitching is temporary and is removed after permanent stitching. Pin-basting is accomplished using small safety pins to temporarily hold layers together.

Basting tacks Commercial tacks used in place of thread for basting.

Batting A layer of filler placed between two pieces of fabric to form a quilt. Its thickness and fiber content varies.

Betweens  Short needles with a narrow shaft used for hand sewing.

Bias The grain of woven fabric that is at a 45-degree angle to the selvages.

Binding The strip of fabric used to cover the outside edges—top, batting and backing—of a quilt.

Blind hem stitch Stitch on sewing machine that duplicates the look of hand appliqué.

Blind stitch Small stitch used for hand appliqué.

Block A basic unit of a quilt top.

Border A strip of fabric that is joined to the inner quilt, or quilt center, to enhance it.

Chain-piecing (or Chaining) The action of sewing a pair of fabric pieces together and continuously pushing pairs under the presser foot without cutting the thread between them.

Charm pack One 5” square of fabric from a specific fabric line.

Color wheel Tool defining the characteristics of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Continuous-line quilting Stitching a quilting design from beginning to end without stopping.

Cornerstone A fabric square positioned at the corner of sashing strips, or a plain square or pieced block used in the four corners of a quilt border.

Diagonal set Quilt top where blocks are set on point in diagonal rows.

Double-fold (French-fold) binding Fabric strip folded in half before being sewn to the quilt sandwich.

Echo quilting A type of outline quilting in which the first line of quilting is quilted in-the-ditch of an appliqué motif. The next line is quilted a measurement (i.e. 1⁄2″) away from the first, and subsequent lines 1⁄2″ from previous lines.

Finger-pressing A method for forming temporary guidelines by pressing fabric between your fingers to make a temporary crease.

Finished size The measurement of a completed block that has been sewn into a quilt.

Fat eighth A one yard length of fabric that has been cut into four equal rectangles each measuring approximately 9″  x 22″.

Fat quarter A one yard length of fabric that has been cut into four equal rectangles each measuring approximately 18″ x 22.

Grain The direction of woven fabric. The cross grain is from selvage to selvage. The lengthwise grain runs parallel to the selvage and is stronger. The bias grain is at a 45- degree angle and has the greatest amount of stretch.

Half-square triangle A square cut in half diagonally.

Hanging sleeve A fabric “tunnel” that is sewn to the top edge of the quilt back. It is also called a rod pocket and used with a board or rod as a support to hang a quilt on the wall.

In-the-ditch quilting (or stitching-in-the-ditch) The top stitching that is made alongside a seam, usually on the side without the seam allowance.

Jelly roll Forty 2-1/2″ wide strips of fabric from one fabric line.

Loft The thickness of batting.

Meandering (Stippling) A random quilting design used to cover a quilt surface.

Mitered seam A 45-degree angle seam.

Outline quilting Stitching that is made outside or inside the pieced seamlines of patchwork.

Patchwork A composite of pieces sewn together to form a larger piece, such as a quilt.

Piecing Process of sewing fabric pieces together to create a block or quilt top.

Pressing Using an iron with an up and down motion to set stitches and flatten a seam allowance, usually pressed toward the darker fabric.

Primary colors The three main colors on the color wheel – red, yellow and blue.

Quarter-square triangle A square cut diagonally twice.

Quilt sandwich The layers of backing, batting and quilt top.

Quilting The small running stitches made through the layers of a quilt (quilt top, batting and backing) to form decorative patterns on the surface of the quilt and hold the layers together.

Quilting thread  A heavy cotton thread used for hand-quilting.

Rotary-cutting The process of cutting fabric into strips and pieces using a revolving blade rotary cutter, a thick, clear plastic ruler, and a special cutting mat.

Raw edge The cut end of fabric.

Sashing Strips of fabric used to separate blocks in quilt top.

Satin stitch A stitch created with the zigzag stitch setting on a sewing machine and generally used for appliqué projects.

Scale The size of the pattern on a fabric.

Seam allowance The 1⁄4″ margin of fabric between the stitched seam and the raw edge.

Seam line The guideline that the quilter follows while stitching.

Secondary color A color that is created by combining two primary colors.

Selvage The lengthwise finished edge on each side of the fabric.

Set or setting The arrangement of blocks in a quilt top.

Setting square A plain block that’s sewn next to a pieced block.

Setting triangle Triangle used to fill in a space when blocks are set on point in a diagonal set quilt top.

Sharps Needles with a narrow shaft and small eye used for hand piecing and appliqué.

Slipstitch A hand-stitch used for finishing such as sewing binding to a quilt, or a sleeve to a quilt back.

Stabilizer Product used as a foundation when appliquéing shapes to fabric.

Straight-set A quilt top with blocks assembled in straight horizontal rows.

Strip-sets Two or more strips of fabric, cut and sewn together along the length of the strips.

Sub-cut Cutting fabric strip sets into smaller units.

Templates A pattern made from plastic to cut shapes for appliqué or patchwork.

Tertiary color A primary and secondary color mixed in equal measures.

Thread basting securing the quilt sandwich with thread before quilting.

Value The light to dark color contrast in fabric.

Unfinished size The measurement of a block or quilt before the 1⁄4″ seam allowance is sewn.

Zigzag stitch A stitch feature on a sewing machine that creates the satin stitch for appliqué projects.

    • E.B. Updegraff

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