For your reference, I've created a list of basic and not-so-basic quilting terms, tools and supplies. In this post you'll learn common quilting acronyms, technique names, and, if your head isn't spinning by then, lots of links to blog posts that dive in-depth into many different aspects of sewing. However, before we jump into that, I have a question for you...
Have you ever walked into a fabric store and immediately been hit with an overwhelming sense that there simply isn't enough time? Enough time to make it all, buy it all, or even just understand it all? Like what is that tiny pizza cutter? Why is flannel so fuzzy? And why would anyone need 12 wt. thread? Do I need 12 wt thread??
(An 18mm rotary cutter, it's fluffed with a metal brush, and no...but there are some cool things you can do with it.)
The quilt pictured above is Reflections. I experimented with using 12 wt. thread while free motion quilting. It kinda worked. 😉
Quilting can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. If you are new to quilting, you don’t need a lot. A few tools will get you through that first initial quilt. However, like any hobby, the more you fall in love, the more you want to invest...and that can get expensive.
Hopefully this list will help you hone in on what you need, what you want, and what is completely optional but really, really fun. That way the next time you walk into a fabric or craft store those feelings of confusion and overwhelm can be checked at the door (and saved for the grocery store. AMIRIGHT??)
Quilts pictured above include: Nordic Triangles, Campfire and Perennial quilt.
This post is divided into 3 convenient sections:
- Basic Tools for Making a Quilt: If you have those, you’re sitting pretty and on your way to making beautiful quilts.
- Advanced Tools for Making a Quilt: This list does not mean you are making difficult quilt patterns. It's simply for those who plan on continuing to dive deeper into their quilting hobby. It's for people who wander around with stray threads plastered to their pants, usually have a minimum of 3 quilts in various stages of completion and, let’s face it, may have a fabric hoarding problem. Should I say problem? Maybe let’s use a better word...a fabric hoarding talent. (You know who you are.)
- Glossary of Quilting Terms and Techniques: If you have any terms or tools you like to use or would like to see added to the list, let us know in the comments!
#1: Basic Tools for Making a Quilt
Listed below are the basic tools you need for making a quilt. I haven't included links to the blog posts written about each of these tools, but they exist. There is blog post diving deeper into each one of these tools, full of recommendations, what to look for and how to use it.
This post, Must-Have Quilting Tools, includes links to those posts.
- Sewing Machine - don’t spend a lot until you know you love sewing. A very basic sewing machine will suffice if you only plan on making a few quilts a year for special occasions.
- Sewing Machine Needles - 80/12 needles are basic enough to be great for both piecing and quilting.
- Thread - A poly-cotton blend or 100% cotton both work fine.
- Ruler - if you only ever get one ruler, get a 6" x 24" clear Omnigrip. It’s the most versatile and I promise you will reach for it the most often.
- Rotary Cutter
- Self-Healing Cutting Mat
- Ironing Board
- Safety Pins - for basting
- Masking Tape or Painters Tape - also for basting
- Fabric Scissors
- Seam Ripper
- Batting - batting choices can be really overwhelming so I highly recommend reading this post on how to choose the right one.
- Walking Foot - I debated whether or not to put this on the essentials list, but finally decided to do it. One of the most frustrating things about learning something new is when your tools are working against you. That would happen if you kept your standard presser foot on your machine during the entire quilt making process. Using a walking foot during the quilting and binding process will help your quilt lay flatter, have less distortion and be much easier to manage. Note: Every sewing machine brand will have its own walking foot – so match brands if you want them to fit together 🙂
If you are brand new to quilting and looking for a place to start, check out the Quilting 101 tab here on the blog! Below is a quick little vid on how to chain piece quilt blocks—a basic technique that will save you lots of time.
The quilt pictured above is Mod Mountains.
#2: Advanced Tools for Making a Quilt
You have finished a few projects and officially have the quilting bug. Yay! Now is the time to think about some upgrades that will make your life a bit easier. The items below are in addition to or replacing what is listed above.
- More Rulers! - As you make blocks in various shapes and sizes, you will find that different-sized rulers help when trimming blocks and cutting smaller sizes of fabric. A few sizes I really like are:
- Magnetic Pin Holder - soooo helpful if you happen to be a bit clumsy. If you drop pins, just wave this magnet above them and woosh! They are sucked up and back at home.
- Magnetic Wrist Pin Holder - my favorite notion!
- Grips For Rulers - no more slippery rulers
- Gingher Shears
- Embroidery Scissors - for snipping those little threads
- Measuring Tape - the official roll a construction worker would carry. Goes up to 16 feet
- Aurifil Thread
- Plastic Template Sheets - these are only needed if you are cutting out templates
- Temporary Marker/Pencil - I like this the best, but for marking on top of a quilt I always use a hera.
- Tailor's Clapper
- Thread Conditioner - this is used to condition cotton thread so it glides through fabric better. I only use this when hand-sewing binding.
- Fabric Starch - Best Press is aaaaamazing. AND it comes in different scents. mmmmmm….Check out this blog post for more info on fabric starch.
- Shout Color Catchers - whether you are a pre-washer or not, it’s not a bad idea to throw one of these sheets in the washing machine when it’s time to wash your quilt for the first time.
- Thread Rack
- Fusible Web - Keeps small appliqué pieces in place while you stitch them down
Quilts pictured above include: Maypole, Bohemian Garden, Fly Away and Mod Mountains. My standing desk is also featured, as is 4-week old baby Desi 🙂
#3: Glossary of Quilting Terms and Techniques
- Appliqué - A piecing process, done either by hand or by machine, using small pieces of fabric which are then sewn onto a background fabric in a decorative design.
- Aurifil - An Italian company that produces high-quality cotton thread
- Backing - the back layer of a quilt
- Basting - used to hold the three layers of a quilt together while it is being quilted. Basting options include: long stitches sewn around the quilt meant to be temporary and then removed after quilting, safety pins, adhesive basting spray and fusible batting
- Batting - the thick layer in the middle of a quilt sandwich between the top and backing.
- Bearding - the migration of fibers from the batting through the quilt top; most often associated with cheap polyester batting
- Bias - the diagonal direction across the surface of a woven fabric at a 45° angle; fabric cut on the bias stretches easily and must be handled with care
- Binding - strips of fabric sewn together, folded in half and sewn to cover the raw edges of a quilt
- Bobbin - a small spool of either plastic or metal wound with thread; fits in the base of a sewing machine and produces thread for the bottom stitch – this links to the top stitch allowing a seam to be sewn
- Buttonhole Stitch - looped stitches used for edging buttonholes or appliqué
- Chain Piecing - sewing blocks together one right after the other without snipping the thread in between; this allows you to sew many pieces without stopping each time
- Charm Pack - a bundle of 5" pre-cut squares of fabric
- Corner Setting Triangles - half square triangles placed in the corners of a quilt that has blocks on point (see On Point)
- Cutting Mat - a self-healing surface used to protect a work surface while using a rotary cutter (see Rotary Cutter)
- English Paper Piecing (EPP) - a method of hand piecing which uses paper templates inside the block elements to guide where the edges are turned under; the paper templates are later removed
- Fabric Grain - the lengthwise and crosswise threads of a fabric; the lengthwise grain parallel to the selvage stretches the least (see Selvage)
- Fat Eighth (FE) - pre-cut fabric measuring 9” x 18”; half of a Fat Quarter
- Fat Quarter (FQ) - pre-cut fabric measuring approximately 18” x 21”; this allows for cutting larger pieces than a regular quarter yard which is 9” x 42”
- Feed Dogs - the teeth below the needle plate of a sewing machine that pull fabric through (see Needle Plate)
- Finger Pressing - using your fingers instead of an iron to press a seam
- Finished Size - the final size of a completed quilt block without seam allowances
- Foundation Piecing - assembling a block by sewing pieces to a foundation of muslin or plain fabric, also adding strength and stability to delicate or stretchy fabrics
- Flannel - a soft fabric that can be made from cotton, wool or synthetic fibers; is usually loosely woven, slightly fuzzy and is very soft; the looseness of the weave causes flannel to shrink more than regular quilt-weight cotton (see Quilt Weight Cotton)
- Free Motion Quilting - a type of machine quilting in which the feed dogs are lowered so they no longer pull fabric through the machine during the quilting process – the quilter must create the quilting pattern by move the quilt sandwich under the needle
- Fusibles - webbing or interfacing that can be fused to the back of fabric through heat for easier appliqué or to support delicate fabric
- Fussy Cut - cutting out a specific area of fabric rather than laying out the fabric and slicing it with a ruler and rotary cutter
- Hand Quilting - using a needle and thread to stitch the quilt sandwich together by hand; a quilting hoop is typically used to hold the quilt in place
- Hanging Sleeve - A sleeve sewn to the back of a finished quilt; the standard size for quilt contests and shows is 4” wide
- HST - Half Square Triangle
- Improv Piecing - cutting fabric as you sew it together; no defined pattern or plan for the quilt blocks; made popular by the quilters of Gee’s Bend
- Jelly Roll - a bundle of pre-cut fabric strips measuring 2 ½” x WOF (see WOF)
- Layer Cake - a bundle of pre-cut 10” fabric squares
- Loft - the thickness, height and weight of batting; high-loft batting is thick, fluffy and usually made of polyester; low-loft batting is thinner, denser and usually made from cotton
- Longarm - quilting using a very long bed (often as long as 12’) commercial quilting machine to do the overall quilting
- Mitered Corner - joining corners at a 45° angle
- Muslin - an inexpensive, medium weight, plain weave, low count (less than 160 threads per square inch) cotton sheeting fabric
- Needle Plate - the metal or plastic plate at the base of a sewing machine; typically has guide marks and is on top of the feed dogs (See Feed Dogs)
- On Point - a square block that is set on edge like a diamond with the corners running vertically
- Paper Piecing - a method of piecing small pieces of fabric together using a block drawn or printed and sewn on paper for highly accurate details
- Patchwork - the basic method of making a quilt by sewing pieces of fabric together
- Piecing - sewing together cut pieces of fabric to make a quilt
- Presser Foot - the basic foot that comes standard on most sewing machines; its function is to hold the fabric in place against the feed dogs and guide it as you sew
- Quilt-Weight Cotton - lightweight, 100% cotton used most often in quilting
- Quilting Foot - a sewing machine foot that measures ¼" from the needle point to make sewing a ¼" seam easier
- Quilting Hoop - a small circular or oval apparatus that is used to hold the layers of a quilt together during hand quilting (see Hand Quilting)
- Quiltshoot - a made up term for a photoshoot of a finished quilt; typically involving a bored spouse and sometimes also bored children and pets. See example below.
- Raw Edge - the unsewn edge of fabric; will fray if not stabilized with stitching or a seam
- Rotary Cutter - a fabric cutting tool with a circular blade that cuts through several layers of fabric at a time
- Ruler - a heavy plastic measuring guide
- Sampler - a quilt made of different block patterns
- Sashing - strips of fabric that separate blocks, framing them to create added negative space
- Seam - joining two fabrics together with stitches; in quilting, the standard seam is a ¼"
- Seam Allowance - the width of fabric to the right of a sewn seam; in quilting the standard seam is a ¼"; for sewing garments, it is ⅝"
- Seam Ripper - a small tool used for unpicking stitches; commonly consists of a handle, shaft and forked head
- Selvage - the outer edge of the length of a fabric which is usually more tightly woven and is normally cut off and not used in a quilt; the manufacturer’s information can usually be found here
- Side Setting Triangles - triangles added to the sides of a quilt on point to keep it square (see On Point)
- Stash - a supply of fabric and notions
- Starch - a spray used before ironing to stiffen fabric
- Stitch In The Ditch - quilting in the seams or “ditch” of the quilt top
- Tailor's Clapper - a piece of hardwood, such as maple, used in conjunction with steam to press seams flat
- Template - a shape cut from either cardboard or plastic and used as a pattern for tracing shapes
- Thimble - a metal, plastic or leather cap with a closed end, worn to protect the finger and push the needle in sewing
- Thread Conditioner - a wax substance that can be applied to thread to prevent tangling and fraying during hand sewing
- Tied Quilt - a quilt that uses knotted strings or ties spaced evenly over the quilt to hold the three layers together; used as an alternative to stitching the layers together
- Walking Foot - a special foot that can be attached to a sewing machine to help feed thick layers of fabric evenly through the machine
- Whip Stitch - a hand stitching technique that “whips” the thread through one layer of fabric and back through the other; used during the final stage of hand sewing binding (see Binding)
- WIP - Work In Progress
- WOF - Width Of Fabric
The quilt pictured above is Mod Mountains and the quiltshoot was done underneath the L in Wicker Park, Chicago.
22 thoughts on “Quilting Terms, Tools & Supplies”
Rotary blade sharpener?!!! Where has that been all my life? And I just finally disposed of all my dull blades. I’ll have to put it on the birthday list. How many times can you reuse a blade, give or take? I’m forever nicking my blades on my tile floor when I trim quilt sandwiches for binding. Every single time! No matter how careful I am. Anywho, I’m gonna get me one of those, dang it. Thanks for the suggestion!
YES!!! I discovered my rotary blade sharpener about 6 months ago and it’s a total game changer! I don’t know what the limit is on how many times you can sharpen one blade. So far, I think the most I’ve sharpened one is three times, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do it more. I’ll let you know once I hit the limit 😉
Would you have a link for the rotary blade sharpener? I haven’t had much luck with the ones that I have purchased. Thank you!
This is the one I have. It’s pretty good, but sadly I can never get my blades as sharp as they are fresh from the package.
We are going to make the Warrior quilt. When cutting out the templates do you add 1/4 inch to the template to cut out your fabric. Or do you just cut the fabric the same size as the template. I guess I’m asking if the seam allowance is included in template. Thanks. We love the quilt.
The seam allowance is included in the templates, so no need to add 1/4 inch. Use #warriorquilt on Instagram if you want to share pics 🙂
On your sawtooth star quilt, how big are your squares inside the stars… I’m a beginner
But I love your quilt and I want to make one
I use the free pattern here – https://suzyquilts.com/reverse-sawtooth-star-quilt-pattern/
The finished blocks are 8″.
Hi Suzy! After studying and studying and stashing and planning I decided to make a first real quilty quilt retro plaid (then triangle jitters, bird watching, fly away and Indian summer… basically I love the way your mind works and so I want them all)!
The actual question I have is… When it comes time for quilting if I don’t machine quilt what size hoop should I get?
Are you thinking about hand quilting? I actually lay my quilt flat on a table and hand quilt that way. However, if you would prefer a hoop, I suggest a 14″ one. It’s nice and big so you don’t have to constantly adjust it while sewing. Good luck!
Suzy, I’m from Brazil. I have seen many things on your page. I’m really delighted.
Now, I’m learning quilt and improving my English. Do you know Portuguese?
Hello hello! I don’t know Portuguese but I’m proficient in using Google translate 😉
What is the fabric used for the backing in this quilt?
I love it!
Isn’t it pretty? It’s Figo Surface Waves in Blue.
Hi Suzy, I found a quilt pattern that is named Ahoy Sailor and I love the fabrics that you used to make it. Please would you help me to find them? I need to make a baby quilt and fell in love with the fabrics that you used to make the quilt.
Hi Gloria, I link to the fabrics in this post – https://suzyquilts.com/free-ahoy-sailor-quilt-pattern/ However, they are a few years old so I’m not sure you’ll still be able to find them. They were made by Birch Fabrics.
Have you ever tried a stripology ruler for cutting quilt squares or strips? I just read about them and wondered if you had an opinion.
I have! Some people really like them. I rarely get mine off the shelf, though. My favorite way to cut strips is with a sharp rotary cutter and a long ruler that covers the fabric folded in half. The Stripology ruler requires you to fold the fabric in half twice from selvage to selvage. I actually have a video on how I cut strips in this blog post – https://suzyquilts.com/grow-quilt-sew-along-week-2-cutting/
As for digital tolls, do you use a quilting app or any kind of software to design your work? One that also helps you make the best of your fabric stash such as a calculator?
Thank you so much!
Since I have a background in graphic design, I use Adobe Illustrator to design my quilt patterns. It doesn’t help me calculate fabric, though. That’s something I have to do manually. There is a program out there called EQ (Electronic Quilter) that is less flexible than Illustrator, but geared towards quilters and does calculate fabric requirements.
I want to make Cincinnati quilt king size. Any suggestions how to do this?
You will probably want to sketch this out, but all you would need to do is continue the repeating pattern on the bottom and side to achieve the desired size.