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Quilting Techniques: An Introduction

Updated on March 29, 2011

The Basics of Quilting...

In its most basic form, quilting consists of three layers, a fabric on top and bottom with a batting layer in the middle. This "sandwich" is then stitched or tied through all three layers to keep them from shifting. Beyond this basic three layer concept, quilting varies widely in technique, and most quilters prefer one technique over another.

Below is a brief summary of some of the different methods with links to additional information.

Printed Panels

Nursery Print-36In Bazoople Panel

The most simple quilting variation is to use a pre-printed panel or fabrics with decorative thematic designs. This quilting method does not require any piecing of smaller elements to create the design so they are sometimes referred to as "cheater" quilts. Pre-printed panels are a popular and quick way to make a baby quilt or other small projects such as place-mats. They are available in a variety of designs and themes. To the right, you can see an example of a panel that is designed for use as a baby quilt.

Traditional Piecing

Traditional quilting consists of joining pieces of fabric together into blocks that create geometric or decorative patterns. The blocks are then assembled together to create a quilt top. From there, the completed quilt top can be layered with batting and a backing and then be either quilted or tied together to finish it.

Piecing requires precision cutting and sewing in order to ensure that the seams all match without puckering or warping. If you are just beginning to quilt, the basic nine-patch is a good block to start with. The nine-patch, as its name states, is a block made up of nine squares that are the same size. The typical nine patch alternates colors in the rows so that the finished block looks like a checkerboard like the block shown at the right.

To see illustrated directions for assembling a nine patch block, visit A Plain Old Nine Patch page at the Quilter's Cache.

If you can only buy one quilting book, this is the one to have...

The Quilters Ultimate Visual Guide: From A to Z - Hundreds of Tips and Techniques for Successful Quiltmaking
The Quilters Ultimate Visual Guide: From A to Z - Hundreds of Tips and Techniques for Successful Quiltmaking

From A to Z you'll find combined wisdom from a star-studded cast of 60 expert quilters. Lavishly illustrated, this fun "look-and-learn" reference book covers every aspect of quiltmaking.


Foundation Piecing

Foundation pieced blocks are created by applying pieces of fabric to a foundation of either paper or muslin. It is also sometimes called paper-piecing because the block patterns are often printed on paper and the paper is used as the base. Foundation piecing is a way of putting together intricate blocks more easily and accurately than you can with traditional piecing. This method is also frequently used when making miniature blocks.

Paper Piecing Tutorial

Foundation or paper piecing is one of those techniques that is difficult to explain with visual images. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to put together a paper pieced block.

See what you can do with foundation piecing...

Simply Amazing Spiral Quilts
Simply Amazing Spiral Quilts

Learn to create six foundation-pieced spiral-based quilts--with no math! This one-of-a-kind technique for spiral quilt design allows you to create fascinating and beautiful art quilts. The bonus CD includes the basic shapes for the spiral patterns and the pattern insert helps you set up the perimeter shape, or draw free-hand irregular shapes without a template.



The term applique comes from the French word appliquer which means "to apply". In quilting, applique refers to the process of attaching pieces of fabric on top of a background fabric either by machine or by hand to create a pattern or motif. In the photo to the left, the green foliage pieces are appliqued on top of the pieced block to create the flower motif.

Applique can be incredibly ornate and some of the most beautiful quilts that I have seen have been constructed using the applique method.

Everything you need to know about applique...

Barbara's Brackman's Encyclopedia of Applique: 2000 Traditional and Modern DEsigns, Updated History of Applique, Five New Quilt Projects!
Barbara's Brackman's Encyclopedia of Applique: 2000 Traditional and Modern DEsigns, Updated History of Applique, Five New Quilt Projects!

Barbara Brackman has written numerous books about quilts and the history of quilts and fabrics. She also designs reproduction fabrics, is a consultant for museums, and a member of the Quilter's Hall of Fame. This book includes 2000 applique designs and 5 quilt projects.


Crazy Quilting

Webster's Dictionary defines crazy quilting as "a patchwork quilt without a design." Crazy quilt blocks were put together by sewing fabric scraps to a base fabric until the base was covered. The seams were then often embellished with embroidery stitches. When enough blocks were completed, they were sewn together to make a quilt. The photo to the left shows a pillow made from a crazy quilt block. You can see how random the shapes and sizes of the pieces are.

Are you ready to get crazy??

Crazy Quilting - The Complete Guide
Crazy Quilting - The Complete Guide

With details about all known methods of patching a crazy quilt, more than 100 embroidery stitches, step-by-step illustrations and how-to directions for finishing a crazy quilt, this unique guide is the first to cover the crazy quilting process from start to finish. You will quickly discover that the priceless information in this book will serve you for the rest of your quilting life.


Want to learn more about quilting?

Do you quilt? Do you like quilts? - Please tell us your thoughts on quilts or quilting...

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    • profile image

      Sunny 2 years ago

      God help me, I put aside a whole afonerotn to figure this out.

    • profile image

      River_Rose 5 years ago

      I like quilts very much. My grandmother had a sewing bee in her home and they hang the quilt on a frame from the ceiling and local women would come and sew all together on the quilt. I made a few in my younger years but not now. Beautiful lens!

    • profile image

      ShellB 6 years ago

      Great lens! I'm a quilter!

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Helpful introductory tips and pretty patterns. Added to my Squidoo Quilt Angel lens.

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 6 years ago

      Great lens! I love to quilt! :) It's so much fun and I love to see the reaction when someone receives one! blessed by a squid angel

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Very informative and nicely crafted - Blessed by a Squid Angel :-)

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 8 years ago from UK

      A great introduction, you are making me want to give it a go!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      we're all quilters in my family. great job!

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 8 years ago from Quezon City

      Nice primer to quilting Tammy, I didn't know about these various techniques. (:

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 8 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      My grandmother quilted, my mom quilted, my daughter loves to sew, and then there's me ... (sigh), well, I love what they have made and treasure them dearly, but the talent obviously skipped a generation! I like how you have explained the steps and listed books to enhance them!