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Abbreviations and Acronyms, Oh My!!

Quilt Patterns and Their Terms

by Beth Cooper

Are you new to quilting and trying to make sense of your first pattern?  You thought someone said this was easy but what do these words even mean? 

There are several phrases, words, and abbreviations that are commonly found in quilt patterns that can be confusing.  Someone who has been quilting for awhile wouldn’t even think twice about these words, but a newbie is definitely going to stop in their tracks. 

WOF – This is the first term that might catch your eye.  It is usually found in the cutting instructions of a pattern and stands for Width of Fabric.  Measuring your fabric from one selvedge edge to the other is your width of fabric (or WOF).

Selvedge – This is the edge of the fabric where the manufacturer’s and/or designer’s information is listed.  This edge is tightly woven, made to be cut off, and is not used in the quilt.  (Although there are some other fun projects you can make with them!)

Fat Quarter (FQ) – This is a pre-cut piece of fabric that measures 18”x22”.  They are different than just a quarter yard cut, which would measure 9”x 44”.  Fat quarters allow quilters to cut wider pieces and are more practical than just a quarter yard of fabric.

Fat Eighth (FE) – This is a pre-cut piece of fabric that measures 9”x 22”.  It is half of a fat quarter.  These fat-eighths are handy if you need a small amount of a variety of fabrics.

Fusible Interfacing – This is ironed on to the back of fabric to make it stronger or sturdier.  It is commonly used in applique.

Applique – A technique where fabric, usually cut into a cute shape, is sewn on top of a background fabric.  This technique can be done by machine or by hand.

HST – This stands for half-square triangle.  These are a common component of quilts.

RST – Right Sides Together.  This means that you should lay the front (or right) sides of the fabric together.

Fussy Cut – This is the process of cutting out a certain section of your fabric, rather than just cutting from the edge of the fabric.  For example, if your fabric features cats and you want the whole cat centered on your block, you may fussy cut that piece, rather than just cutting a section that would not show the entire cat.

Jelly Roll – A bundle of pre-cut strips of fabric which measure 2 ½” x 44”.  All strips are from the same collection of fabric and are coordinating. Check out some jelly rolls here!

Layer Cake – A stack of pre-cut 10” squares.  There are usually 40 squares in the bundle and they are all cut from the same collection of fabric. Check out some layer cakes here!

Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP or just PP) – A piecing technique in which a pattern is drawn or printed onto a thin sheet of paper.  This paper is then sewn to your fabric.  This allows for very precise piecing.  The paper is later torn off.

Bias – To cut fabric on the bias, you would make a diagonal cut, at a 45-degree angle, across the fabric.  Bias cuts are used when binding a curved edge or when working with curves in a quilt.  Fabric cut on the bias stretches easily.

Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) – A type of quilting where the quilter manually guides, or “draws” the pattern onto the finished quilt.  This can be done on a domestic sewing machine by lowering the feed dogs or on a longarm machine.

Feed Dogs – Part of the sewing machine located under the needle plate.  The feed dogs pull the fabric through the machine.  They can be lowered when doing free motion quilting.  When they are lowered, the fabric will not be pulled through. Rather, the quilter will have to push the fabric through.

Will finish at – If your pattern reads that the block will finish at 8”, that simply means that the block will measure 8” when it is sewn into the quilt.  This measurement does not include seam allowances.

¼” Seam – This is the standard seam allowance in quilting.  Quilters should strive for their ¼” seams to all be exact, as this will ensure that your piecing all fits together.  Read more about how to perfect your 1/4″ seam allowance here.

Binding – Strips of fabric sewn end to end and then folded in half.  These strips are then sewn to the edge of your quilt to finish it.

Chain Piecing – This is also known as the assembly line technique. It means to sew your pieces one right after the other, without stopping to trim the thread.  This method is a great time-saver.

QAYG – This stands for Quilt As You Go. This is a technique that allows you to quilt each block with backing and batting and then when you sew all of your pre-quilted blocks together, VOILA! Your quilt is already quilted!

Reading a pattern when you’re a new quilter can be confusing.  Knowing these terms and abbreviations will help you on your journey and you’ll be whipping out a beautiful quilt in no time at all!

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Karen Nettesheim
Karen Nettesheim
11 months ago

Well Done!

11 months ago

EXCELLENT! Helpful for all quilters. Thank you!

11 months ago

Our quilt guild is offering a beginning quilt class and your series of 101s is great! Would it be possible to make them into pdf documents?

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