Quilting Terms, Tools & Supplies

Quilting Terms

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, if you decide to come over to the dark side, like yours truly, and become a crazed quilt-osaurus, the amount of gadgets, notions, tools and whatchamathingies is pretty endless. How exciting!!!


I’m going to make a few lists for you. The first list will be the essentials. If you have those, you’re sit’n pretty and on your way to making rock’n quilts. The second list will be for those who have a few quilts under their belt, have decided to up their game a bit and are starting to feel the itch...the quilting itch. The third list...well, the third list is 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 the word talent. A fabric hoarding talent. (You know who you are.)

The fourth and final list will be a simple glossary of quilting terms. Also, if you have any terms or tools you like to use or would like to see added to the list, just let me know!

Quilting Tools

Basic Tools For Making A Quilt

  • 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. Try to avoid 100% polyester. It may produce less lint than cotton, but will not hold up as well.
  • 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
  • Iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Quilting Weight 100% Cotton
  • Pins
  • Safety Pins
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Seam Ripper
  • Batting - I recommend using either 100% cotton or an 80/20 cotton-poly blend.
  • Embroidery needles - for hand-sewing binding
  • Walking Foot - I debated whether or not to put this on the essentials list, but finally decided to do it. To tell you the truth, I never take mine off. Even though that is not necessary, it is necessary to use one when quilting and sewing binding. Will your quilt be ruined if you use the presser foot that came with your machine? No. But your quilt will lay flatter, have less distortion and be much easier to work with if you use a walking foot. 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 my Quilting 101 video tutorials on YouTube! Below if a quick little vid on how to chain piece quilt blocks.

Sewing Terms

Advanced Tools For Making A Quilt

You have finished a few projects and officially have the quilting bug. Yippy! Now is the time to think about some upgrades that will make your life a bit easier and help some quilting techniques work more successfully. These items below are in addition or are replacing what is listed above.

Trending patterns!


What was that? You want to buy the rad Quilter for Life shirt I'm wearing? 😉 I don't blame you. I designed it am selling it in my shop!

Quilting Terms

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 - 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

Long Arm - 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)

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

Template - a shape cut from either cardboard or plastic and used as a pattern for tracing shapes

Thimble - a metal or plastic 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

12 thoughts on “Quilting Terms, Tools & Supplies

  1. Hydeeann says:

    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!

    • Suzy says:

      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 😉

  2. Trace says:

    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.

  3. julianne gaut says:

    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

  4. Emily says:

    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?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      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!

  5. Eliane Freire says:

    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?

  6. Pingback: 3 Easy Steps to Make a Memory Quilt - Suzy Quilts

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