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For Beginning Quilters: Learning The Language Of Fabric

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If you are just entering the exciting world of quilting, you may feel overwhelmed by everything there is to learn about the craft. You may hear more seasoned quilters using terms that are unfamiliar to you, especially when discussing fabrics.

Learning the fabric lingo associated with quilting will help you get off to a great start. In no time at all, you will feel like a pro when you hear other quilters discussing the latest fabric trends arriving on the scene at the local fabric store.

Fat quarters

A fat quarter is one-quarter of a yard of fabric cut to benefit quilters. Fabric stores cut fabric into half yards and then cut them down the middle. This results in a nearly square piece of material rather than a long skinny piece that would result from traditional sewing cuts.


The hand of a fabric simply refers to the way it feels. Quilters often use it to discuss whether a fabric feels crisp, soft, or silky. Stiff fabrics can be difficult to work with and are typically avoided by quilters.

Focus fabric

Chosen first when starting a quilting project, the focus fabric is a bold fabric that dominates the design of the quilt. Other fabrics are selected to contrast or complement the focus fabric.

Fabric stash

A quilter's collection of fabric is referred to as their stash. Most sewers and quilters can't resist adding new prints to their collections when they see a new fabric they love. Building a fabric stash is one of the most enjoyable parts of quilting and can become addicting.


The tightly woven lengthwise edges of fabric are referred to as the selvages. These are useful during the manufacturing process to prevent raveling. However, these edges should be removed before fabric is sewn to prevent puckering in quilts.


One of the most gorgeous fabrics, Batiks are colored by a succession of dye baths. Wax or other dye-resisting substances are applied to parts of the fabric to create a design. Batiks are intense and bright in color. Many of these wildly popular fabrics are produced in Bali, Indonesia.

Novelty prints

Sometimes referred to as conversation prints, novelty fabrics feature images of actual objects rather than abstract shapes. Whether you love cats, dogs, tractors, or a cartoon character, you will probably be able to find it on a novelty fabric at your local fabric store.


Calico is a type of cotton fabric with a delicate repeating pattern, often in muted shades of blue, brown, tan, or red. Quilters love calicos for giving quilts an old-fashioned appeal.

Once you know the language of fabric, you won't feel so overwhelmed about all the new things you are learning about quilting. In no time at all, you will be talking with other quilters about your quilting stash and the great new Batik fabrics that just arrived at your local quilting store.

To learn more, visit a local fabric store like Ruth's Stitchery.