Ask the average person and they would tell you that they have a good grasp of their native language, some might even be able to say the same of other languages, but start a new hobby and you soon discover a whole new language within a language which will leave you more than a little baffled at first. To help with this, I’ve compiled below a handy list of terms commonly used in quilting in the English speaking world, including a few translations that got lost somewhere across the Atlantic ;o)  Part 1 is below.

Fabric Used In Quilting:

Fabric Types:

  • Quilting Cotton – a medium weight woven cotton, which is commonly 44″ across, from selvedge to selvedge.  Quilting cotton comes either as ‘pre-cuts’, where the manufacturer cuts the fabric to a certain size or shape and bundles it together, or on bolts where it is usually folded in half lengthways on the bolt so that only 22″ is visible.

  • Solids – quilting cottons which have been uniformly dyed a single colour.  Due to the dyeing process, fabric therefore comes in dye lots and does not always match perfectly if bought at different times.

  • Prints – quilting cottons which have been printed with patterns that come in coordinating collections often referred to as a ‘fabric line’.  The prints are usually done on a white backing fabric, with the colours of the pattern printed on top (there may in fact be no white in the pattern, but you can see the white base from the back)

  • Batiks – quilting cottons which have been dyed and patterns created using a batik technique of wax-resist dyeing.  Batiks tend to be a tighter weave than other quilting cottons, so can benefit from being sewn with a Microtex needle.

  • Selvedge – the tightly woven edge of the fabric where it was held on the machines as it went through the mill.  On one side of print fabrics you will usually find a strip of white with text on it referencing the manufacturer, in the above photo that is: Cotton + Steel, Benartex, Moda, Free Spirit and Robert Kaufman, the name of the designer, eg Melody Miller, Amanda Murphy, Deb Strain, Anna Maria Horner and Laurie Wisbrun and the name of the fabric line, eg Playful, Contemporary Sewing Room, Jolly, Floral Retrospective and Perfectly Perched.  Depending on the manufacturer there can also be things like little quotes (in Playful the quote was ‘Games to play on a rainy day’), there can be web sites for the company or even the designer, there can be codes for that particular print, and there are often colour codes to show the different colours used in a print.  The other selvedge is generally printed right to the edge of the fabric, but you will see little holes along the edge where it was gripped by the mill machines.

Fabric Cuts:

  • 1 yd / 1 m – a cut of fabric 1 yard or 1 metre in length, across the full width of the fabric, ie 36″ x 44″ or 39″ x 44″
  • 1/2 yd / 1/2 m – a cut of fabric 1/2 yard or 1/2 metre in length, across the full width of the fabric, ie 18″ x 44″ or 19 1/2″ x 44″
  • Fat Quarter – a cut of fabric 1/2 yard or 1/2 metre in length, across half the width of the fabric, ie 18″ x 22″ or 19 1/2″ x 22″ (the length will depend on where the fabric is purchased, but it should indicated wherever you buy it whether they are working in imperial or metric measurements)
  • Fat Eighth –  a cut of fabric 1/4 yard or 1/4 metre in length, across half the width of the fabric, ie 9″ x 22″ or 10″ x 22″
  • Fat Sixteenth – a cut of fabric 1/4 yard or 1/4 metre in length, across quarter the width of the fabric, ie 9″ x 11″ or 10″ x 11″
  • Extra Wide Backing – a piece of fabric generally around 108″ wide which can be cut to the length of your quilt to save you from having to sew multiple pieces of fabric together for the back of your quilt

Fabric Pre-Cuts:

  • Layer Cake – a proprietary term for a pre-cut 10″ x 10″ square from Moda fabrics
  • Charm Square – a term for a pre-cut 5″ x 5″ square
  • Mini Charm Square – a term for a pre-cut 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ square

There are a large number of fabric pre-cuts from a number of manufacturers, and I compiled a handy table here.

I’ll be back with part 2 in a couple of weeks, but hope this helps for now!