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The A B C’s of Quilting

Most of the terms used in quilting don’t come up in everyday conversation (unless you work in a quilt shop!)  Here is a lexicon of some of the basic that you will need to know as you learn to quilt:

Applique:  Some quilt designs are created by applying smaller pieces of fabric on top of a larger background.  These may be stitched to the background by hand or by machine.  The pieces can be held in place by pins, basting, or even with heat activated adhesives (known as fusible applique).  An applique can be very small such as a single berry on a vine to a very large intricate shape that covers most of the area of the quilt in the example of Hawaiian Applique.

Backing:  Simply put this is the fabric that goes on the back or your quilt.  Most quilt patterns will provide requirements for the backing based on the standard width of quilt fabric (approx. 44”).  Larger projects will require that you join multiple panels together to create the backing.  There are also wide fabrics available made specifically for back quilts that would eliminate the need to join panels.  These are commonly called widebacks and usually range from 90” – 108” wide.

Batting:  This is a very important term that refers to the fluffy, insulating layer that goes between the quilt top and the backing.  Batting can be made from various fibre types such as cotton, polyester, wool, bamboo viscose, or a blend of these.  Batting comes in various widths so make sure that the width you are purchasing is wide enough for your project.

Binding:  Binding is the fabric that is used to provide a nice finished edge to your quilt.  Most quilt patterns will assume that you are doing a traditional binding, which is created from joining 2.5” wide strips of fabric end to end to go around the outside edge of your quilt.  The pattern will provide the fabric requirements as such.

Block:  This is a basic central part of a quilt. Many quilts are built by creating many blocks and then sewing them all together.  Typically a quilt block will be square, but this isn’t always the case.  Examples of some classic quilt block patterns are “The Log Cabin Block”, or the “Ohio Star Block”.

Border:  Just like it sounds, a quilt border is fabric that borders the outside of a quilt serving a similar purpose as matting on a framed piece of art.  Borders are very common but not necessary.  A border can be a single strip of fabric, multiple strips sewn together (i.e. inner and outer borders), or intricate pieces of various shapes sewn together known as a pieced border.  An inner border is the border closest to the main body of the quilt.  An outer border is a border furthest away from the main body of the quilt.

Sashing:  A very common practice in quilting is to sew strips of fabric between your quilt blocks.  This is known as sashing.  It can help frame individual blocks, help tie a colour scheme together, and it’s an easy way to increase the size of a quilt.

Setting Squares:  This less common term describes small squares of fabric that are used where sashing intersects.  The setting squares may often contrast with the sashing to make them more obvious and can also be used to help create a cohesive colour scheme.

WOF:  This is an abbreviation for “width of fabric”.  This term is generally seen in quilt patterns in the cutting instructions.  Here is an example:

                  Cut Fabric “A”:  4 strips – 4” X WOF

This means you cut four strips of fabric that are four inches wide and the LENGTH of the strips is the WIDTH of the fabric.  If you follow the instructions correctly, you will end up with four pieces of the fabric that are 4” by 44”.

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