Quilt Appreciation 101: Anatomy of a Quilt

I realize that many readers of The Inbox Jaunt are not quilters..so I would like to start a regular feature- Quilt Appreciation 101.  I hope this feature will bring a little insight into the vocabulary and  process of quilting and perhaps shed some light on why the Quilting Subculture is so fanatic passionate–and WE ARE fanatics passionate.   (Read more about this $3.6 Billion/year industry here.)

So, what is a quilt?  The definition of a quilt is constantly expanding, but we will stay very basic for now…

Quilt-a textile consisting of padding enclosed in two layers of fabric and held together with stitching.

Quilt top, batting, backing not visible

Quilt top, batting, backing

Stated another way:  a quilt has five elements:

  1. Quilt top
  2. Padding (known in the US as batting)
  3. Backing
  4. Stitching
  5. Binding

1.  The Quilt Top-The decorative fabric on top.  It is most commonly pieced or appliqued

  • Pieced-fabric is cut up and then sewn back together in a decorative manner
  • Appliqued-a large piece of fabric has decorative elements sewn onto it
Quilt Appreciation, Pieced block,


Applique Block, Quilt Appreciation


2.  The Padding-the warm, thick layer in between the quilt top and the backing.  Common paddings (also known as batting or wadding) are made of cotton, polyester, wool, silk or bamboo.  The type of batting determines the overall weight and warmth of the quilt.

Batting, Wadding, Padding

Batting, Wadding, Padding

3.  The Backing-The backing is often a solid sheet of fabric, but increasingly, quilt backings are more decorative.

Quilt backing

Quilt backing

4.  The Stitching (my favorite part)-The sewing that holds all three layers together and is called quilting. In addition to holding the three layers together, the quilting adds texture to the textile.
This element may be sewn by hand, on a regular sewing machine-called Free Motion Quilting, or on a special frame with a unique sewing machine-called Long Arm Quilting.   

Hand Quilting

Hand Quilting

Free Motion Quilting

Free Motion Quilting

5.  The Binding-The binding is a fifth element-(not included in the definition above, but found on almost all quilts)-The fabric that encloses the edge of the quilt.

Quilt Binding

Quilt Binding

Next time in Quilt Appreciation 101, we will look at the stitching or quilting stitch and compare free motion, long arm and hand quilting stitches…I receive a lot of questions about how “Doodle Quilts” are made–they are Free Motion Quilted-without any computer aid, just free hand, but they are NOT hand sewn–that has an entirely different meaning which we will demonstrate…

I hope this discussion was useful.  Please chime in with questions at any time.   I will expand on every aspect…I could go on, and on, and on….

Don’t forget to sign up for the Stencil Giveaway.   If you are not passionate about quilting, but still like quilts…we will be offering A Shamrock Doodle Quilt Giveaway in early March…

8 thoughts on “Quilt Appreciation 101: Anatomy of a Quilt

  1. This post is great. When I tell people (nonquilters) that I am a professional long arm quilter, you can’t believe what it takes to help them understand what I do. Most assume I must makes quilts and sell them. When I tell them that people bring me their pieced ‘tops’ and I do decorative quilting, they still don’t get it. I call myself a ‘quilt finisher’,but most people really don’t understand why there is a need for my services. I believe they think quilting ended about 50 years ago with their grandmothers!

  2. Pingback: The Shamrock (Geranium) Stencil Winners Are… | The Inbox Jaunt

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