Quilting Basics: What are the parts of a quilt?

As promised, here’s the first episode in what may just become the neverending series. So many of you asked for “beginner” patterns, and just a little bit of handholding, so here I am friends! Happy to oblige.  Quilt School: Quilting Basics is my way of walking you through a quilt, start to finish. Of course, there’s no way I can cover absolutely everything, but I am MOST DEFINITELY up for suggestions.

Without further ado, here’s lesson 1:

What makes a quilt, a quilt?

You’ll be pleased to know that this is a SIMPLE lesson. No tests. No sewing machines, even.

A quilt is made up of 3 basic parts: a top layer, some kind of filler in the middle (we’ll get to that later), and a bottom layer. A “quilt sandwich” as some like to call it.

Often, the top layer is referred to as the “quilt top”. Simple enough, right? The top layer is typically the “pieced” part of the quilt, meaning, the part of the quilt that is made up of smaller pieces sewn together. When you think of a quilt, the quilt top is what most people picture. It contains the design of the quilt, as well as a majority of the visual interest. Quilt tops are typically made of high quality quilter’s cotton fabric.

The middle layer is generally made of what’s called batting. Batting is usually thin, and made from a cotton or cotton blend, or polyester. It adds the thickness to your quilt, and adds an extra layer of insulation. How thick your batting is (that’s called the loft) is a matter of personal preference. Keep in mind, however, that if you choose a thicker batting, it will be harder to “quilt” your quilt by hand, if that’s your plan. There are advantages and disadvantages to different types of batting, we’ll talk about that another day.

The bottom layer is called the backing. It is typically made out of the same fabric as your pieced quilt top, though generally just one print. Depending on the size of your quilt, your backing may be 2 or more pieces of the same (or different, if you want) fabric sewn together to make a large enough size. I like to choose a fabric that has a large allover print for my backing, because I can enjoy it in one large piece. If I used a large print for my quilt top, I would cut up the large print, and not be able to see it all together.

In addition to these three layers, a quilt also typically has a binding, which is several layers of fabric sewn around the edge of your quilt, to cover raw edges and keep everything together.

There you have it! The anatomy of a quilt.

So you don’t forget, I’ll put the bolded words into that “glossary” page over there on the left. (Coming this afternoon!) See the little icon? If you ever want to review what we’re learning, just click on over there.

Hope you learned a little something, new kids! Talk to you soon!



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7 thoughts on “Quilting Basics: What are the parts of a quilt?

  1. It’s always helpful to have a sure, basic understanding of things before jumping into things! Thanks for the great explanation. Oh, and I love the glossary idea! Thanks!

  2. You are awesome! I always like to go back to basics. Sometimes I just use my own lingo and expect everyone else to understand what i am saying. I am excited for the next lesson!

  3. Don’t believe I’ve ever heard the term “loft” before… interesting. Good thinking on the tutorial. yay for not having to take a test at my first quilting class at Charm School ;) I like the glossary idea too. That will definitely help as you continue on. You may just make me brave enough to attempt quilting again…

  4. I’m going to keep my eye on this site. I am just beginning sewing and next is a quilt. I have a lot of obstacles… first, I am 77 yrs old. Second, I am a man. Men don’t sew… smile, old Phil.

    1. You are never too old to learn to sew or start a quilt. As long as you enjoy it, who cares how old you are. I’ve been sewing off and on for 30+ years and and all the ladies in my quilting group are much younger than me. Have fun & enjoy.

  5. How big should a quilt be if you are just starting out? I was thinking 4ft. I am an AP art student and I recently taught myself how to use the sowing machine and I also taught myself how to embroider designs on fabric. I ran across your blog here and I am going to read everything under quilt school. If you have the time. Please answer my question.
    Thanks, Dev

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