sewing & quilting terms

What is seam allowance, WOF, warp and weft, QAL, and RST?

As a self taught quilter, I understand the terms we quilters effortlessly throw around can become quite confusing.  In an effort to help those just starting out I have put together this list of sewing/quilting terms that you might find useful.

This list is by no means all encompassing and I will add to it as I go along, but if you read/hear a sewing/quilting term that you are unsure of leave me a comment and I will add it to the list.

The italicized words in the definitions are also included as part of this list.

Backing - the back layer of a quilt.

Basting - a temporary way to secure quilting layers (pinning, spray, stitching).

Batting - the middle layer of a quilt sandwich.

Bias - the grain line that runs diagonally on the fabric.  It stretches easily so be careful!!

Binding - the strip of fabric that is stitched around the edge of a quilt to finish it.

Block - pieces of fabric stitched together to make a unit of the quilt design.

Bolt - a long piece of fabric wrapped around a cardboard tube.  This is how fabric is sold when not precut.

Border - strips of fabric sewn to the sides, top and bottom of a quilt top.

Chain Piecing - a sort of assembly line style of stitching pieces together.  Instead of lifting the presser foot and cutting the thread between each unit you stitch, you simple put one fabric through after another, leaving at least 1/4" gap between units.

Crossgrain (weft) - the grain line that runs perpendicular to the selvage edge.

Cutting Mat - a self healing mat used to cut fabric with a rotary cutter.

Fat Eighth (FE) - an eight yard cut of fabric measuring approximately 9" x 22".

Fat Quarter (FQ) - a quarter yard cut of fabric measuring approximately 18" x 22".

Hand Piecing - the process of stitching fabrics together by hand.

Lengthwise Grain (warp) - the grain line that runs parallel to the selvage edge.

Machine Piecing - the process of stitching fabrics together using a sewing machine.

Machine Quilting - the process of stitching all three quilt layers together using a sewing machine.

Quilt Front - the finished layer of the quilt sandwich that features the blocks.

Quilt Ruler - a see-through ruler.  Generally used as a guide when using a rotary cutter.

Quilt Sandwich - the top, middle (batting) and back layers of a quilt.

Quilt Top - the top layer of a quilt sandwich.

Raw Edge - the unstitched edge of a piece of fabric.

Rotary Cutter - a cutting tool with a round blade.

Sashing - strips of fabric stitched between quilt blocks.

Seam Allowance - the distance from the raw edge to the stitch line (usually 1/4" when piecing a quilt).

Selvage Edge - the tightly woven edge that runs the length of fabric.  It runs the length of the fabric when cut from the bolt.

Walking Foot - A presser foot used to move all layers of fabric through the sewing machine at the same time to prevent shifting/puckering.

Whole Cloth Quilt - a quilt made from a single piece of fabric.

WOF (width of fabric) - refers to the measurement from selvage edge to selvage edge when a piece of fabric is cut from a bolt.


  1. Hi Kirsten. I was greatly helped by the 60 degree angle triangle quilt tutorial. I need some info on how to cut half triangles, and wondered if you have a tutorial for that.

    1. I'm so glad you found that tutorial helpful! I do have a tutorial on how to cut half-square triangles. You can find it here...

      Hope that helps!

  2. I love the triangle tutorial as well and wondered if you can tell us how big the triangles need to be. I think I missed that somewhere;)

    1. If you are referring to the 60 degree quilt, the triangles are cut from a 5" x WOF strip. Does that help?