Quilting Glossary

Understanding the Unique Jargon of the Quilt World

African-American quilts

African-Americans make all kinds of quilts, but a style that is popularly attributed to them is improvisational quilts, characterized by bold colors in unusual combinations and asymmetrical designs. The best known examples are the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

Album quilts

These are very elaborate appliqué quilts that were popular in the middle 1800’s. They were often made by a group of women as a special presentation gift to someone moving away or to commemorate a special event. Each person made one block, and then they were joined together, often with sashing and arranged in a straight setting. Sometimes the maker of each block would sign her name and these were called signature quilts or autograph quilts. Because these special quilts were prized and not used, many antique examples are still in very good condition and can be seen in museums. The most popular color combination was red, green and gold on an ivory background.

Amish quilts

Quilts made by or in the style of the Amish people of the US. These quilts are characterized by the use of solid color fabrics used in bold and unusual color combinations. Often the quilting is abundant and masterfully done. The designs are usually geometric and not representational. Popular Amish quilt designs include: Center Diamond, Sunshine and Shadow (the same as Trip Around the World, but done in solids), Log Cabin, Bars, Chinese Coins, and Nine-Patch.


The decorative technique of cutting a shape out of one fabric and sewing it onto a background of a different fabric. Popular among quilt makers, applique can be done by hand (called needle-turn applique), by machine, or with the use of iron-on fusible web. See “reverse applique” and “mola.”

Applique, stuffed

A technique of inserting batting between the applique fabric and the background fabric. This gives a nice raised padded effect to such designs as flowers and berries. This is often seen in Baltimore album quilts.  

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