What Is Quilting?- 101 Simple Answer From Quilting Veterans

What is quilting? For those who know what quilting is, this might seem like a remedial question but the truth is that some folks do not truly know what quilting is. Therefore, n this discourse we want to attempt answering the question.

There are certain objects we are so familiar with that we’ve taken for granted. Our quilted materials come within this class. We may also have such materials as part of our bedding or home furniture.

In all of these, we hardly take out time to find out how some of these materials were produced in the first place. Like most other textile materials, quilts have a long and eventful history which spans hundreds of years back.

A Definition of Quilting

Quilting is a sewing technique where two fabric layers are stitched together with an interior layer that acts like an insulator to make it thicker.   Quilted materials have been in use as clothing in most Asian, North African, Middle East and the very cold regions of Europe over the years. Quilted materials are however mostly used presently for making bedcovers and artistic wall hangings.

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The Process of Quilting

When we talk about the process of quilting, we want you to know that there are many pieces that can be made with quilts. So note that the process we would discuss here is just an example and not definitive and that process is making quilt for bedding.

To make a quilt for bedding, there are processes involved. The first is to create a top which is made of cut patches of the material. These patches are then assembled together and stitched in blocks.

The two fabric layers together with the middle insulator-like layer are sewn together. The design of the quilting will be made and then sewn on the fabric in small but equal stitches. This can be handmade, sewn by a sewing machine or done by a quilting machine. 

The first fabric layer is called the quilt top, the insulating middle material is the batting while the third layer is the backing material. There could also be other styles and arrangement which can be employed in quilting.

In the quilting process, the needle and thread are used in joining all the fabric layers and other materials for making the quilt. The sewing machine needle or the quilter’s hand will pass the threaded needle through the fabric layers and thereafter return the sewing needle up again. The process continues all through the area of the fabric where such quilting is desired.

Quilting Designs

Quilting designs are either geometric or represented by figures. Their quality will depend to a great extent, on the finishing of the sewing and how well matched and appropriate the design is to the piecing. The quilt’s layers can also be made firm by being knotted at intervals using either a yarn, thread or a narrow ribbon. After the knotting, the quilt’s outer rough edges will normally be turned together and covered by a binding process.

Such decorative stitches as the straight, rocking or running stitch methods are usually employed for quilting designs since they are purely functional. Quilting is usually designed on bed spreads, for artistic wall hangings, thick clothing, and many other textile products. Quilting will give a project thickness, or designs that are dense which makes parts of the clothing or fabric stand out.

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The Rudiments of Quilting

For the layers of the quilt to be stitched together, various common stitches are used both for decoration and functionality. The most ordinary is a running stitch which is basic. To create a quilt in general involves a collection of other methods together with the layers being sewn together. While the upper quilt is created from ready-made patchwork shapes or diverse forms of sewing, embroidery can then be made as decoration. Many quilts combine these techniques.

2 Methods Of Quilting

Quilting can be either completed with the use of a sewing machine or by hand

Hand Quilting

This form of quilting is done by stitching using a thread and needle by hand. In this method an operational stitch is sewn throughout the layers of the quilt getting them attached together.  The stab stitch should normally be used during this process. Here, the needle is pushed in by the quilter through the clothing right sided and also gets it pulled back up by the other fabric side making sure the stitch is secured.

You can alternatively use the rocking stitch method. This is where one hand is put on the quilt’s top thereby feeding the down needle with the next hand under the fabric pushing the needle up.

Machine Quilting

The machine quilting method is a quicker process whereby a quilter makes use of sewing machine in stitching layers together. Immediately the Wadding, Backing and the Quilt top get pinned jointly on a level surface, the person making the quilt then sews to the opposite side of the sandwich. This securely attaches the fabric layers together.

The machine stitching can usually be done through straight rows evenly brought in line to the joint. They can also be done in completing patterns that suit the design of the upper quilt.

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Batting is a very important factor in a quilt. The type of batting you choose changes the appearance, warmth and feel of the quilt. Batting has three major types and they comprise of cotton (bamboo is in this category], wool and Polyester. We shall consider each of them individually:-


Cotton material sews easier, lays flatter and is actually more breathable. It washes very well and creates a long lasting, low maintenance quilt. Batting comes in different rolls and sizes and it is not difficult getting the size that suits your needs.

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Polyester is denser and warmer but has an inclination to cluster. It also forces its way from the top of the quilt with the passage of time. It is better used on light visible colored quilts unlike darker ones where little white leather- like materials are seen.  Polyester is relatively lower in price than cotton in so many cases.

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Wool is heavy and takes in moisture. This is the best fabric to be used while camping or mainly in winter.  It can however be fussy when it is time for washing and also shrinkage can occur. To this end, you need to exercise caution when washing and follow laundry instructions.

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Simple Techniques for Quilting

There are sewing methods and techniques peculiar to making of quilts and we shall look at them together with a brief summation of how to make a quilting material.

Finger Pressing

This is really a simple technique which will accelerate your quilting procedure giving you better sewing.  Once a seam is sewn, you will need to simply turn the fabric to the back, get the seam opened up and move its length using your thumbnail. This process flattens your seams adequately for a neat sewing without having to take hold of the iron at all times.

How You Can Achieve Even Seam Allowance in Quilting

Many tools are available that will assist you achieve sewing your quilt with 1/4 inch seam allowance. Every sewing machine has quilting feet and the proper foot edge happens to be 1/4 inch. The magnetic stitching guide is equally available except that it works only if there is a sizeable metallic surface at the presser foot region of your machine. The throat plate of some machines are quit small.

The other easy alternative which is equally very affordable is to make use the masking tape. You do this by sticking a piece of the masking tape at the location the fabric’s edge is to lie on your sewing machine. The right allowance should be achieved for you fabric’s seam at that point. It’s advisable to use the masking tape even after achieving the seam allowance just to be doubly sure.

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Preparing for Quilting

To begin quilting, it would be necessary you change the thread you will use for it. The spool which houses the thread located your machine’s top side will be the type made of clear nylon. The one loaded into the machine’s bobbin will either be made of cotton of white color or any other color that would match the backing of your quilt.

The stitch length setting of the sewing machine should be at the longest. As soon as your thread has been loaded, there will be need to test run the stitch setting either on a paper piece or that of a scrap fabric. If the setting is not right you can do some adjustment until the right setting is achieved. It may be necessary to use a new needle at this point since the sewing will involve a number of fabric layers.

The best positioning of your sewing machine for quilting is actually by the border of the table. This is to give room for what you are quilting to collect somewhere while the sewing is going on.  The quilting material that is yet to be sewn could be by your lap. The quilt should not be made to dangle from the top of the table as this may make your stitches uneven.

Sewing the Quilt

The major issue about quilting is just doing sewing across seam lines thereby creating a nice grid that is puffed out. The quilting process is begun by stitching the fabrics the right side going upward by the side on the right.

The sewing should be done lengthwise first and there will be no need to do any backstitch at this point. You can equally do a parallel stitch that runs down to the initial seam and thereafter quilt edges together. You can repeat the initial process for another set of rows and then remove the pins after sewing the fabric seam towards the left side of the fabric.

At this stage you will observe that a good quantity of the quilting fabric has been gathering against the sewing machine to the machine’s right side. As the quilt fabric continues to gather you will need to roll it up until you are in a position to start sewing the flip side. You will continue this process until the entire length of the seam is sewn. You will sew the width of the fabric in the same manner and finally the middle of the fabric. All sewing are to be done back and front of the fabric for all sides.

Completing the Quilt

Once you’ve finished making the quilt, it will have the look of a puffed up grid. This pattern is usually more visible on the fabric’s backside. If your quilting comes with some tiny puckers on the fabric, you don’t need to bother! If the fabric layers did not align properly, all you need to do is to trim off the quilt’s edges and your quilt will come out good.

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Even though many of us have seen or used some quilted fabrics before now, you may not have adverted your mind to what it is all about. At least you can now explain that quilting is the procedure whereby multiple rows of material are sewn together forming a deeper and warmer structure. You also know that it has three divisions which include the Wadding, Quilt top as well as the backing.

You equally know that the wadding is used as padding, the backing, usually the cotton fabric, is used to support the wadding, while the quilt top has the features of the quilt’s primary design.

Apart from the definitive knowledge we have shared about quilting, you have probably acquired a general knowledge of how quilted fabrics are made and the materials used.

This articles is solely aimed at explaining by way of definition, what quilting is. We have however given more insight on how to make specific quilting products in our article on, How to make a quilted frame. You may refer to it for further reading. Meanwhile we hope this article helped? Let’s hear from you.