Tips for Beginning Quilters (Part 3)

Note: This is article is the 3rd in a series called Tips for Beginning Quilters.
Tips for Beginning Quilters – Part 1
o Tips for Beginning Quilters – Part 2
o Tips for Beginning Quilters – Part 3 (this article)

In this article we will talk about:

1. Why it is important to understand the grain in fabric
2. Standard quilt sizes
3. Acronyms frequently used in quilting

1Understanding Grain

It is important to understand the grain in fabric as some quilt patterns will ask that you cut the fabric in a certain direction.

Below are two closeup photos of the same piece of fabric. Please take a moment to study them carefully before moving on to the detailed explanations of grain.



Lengthwise Grain

The lengthwise grain (thread) runs parallel to the selvage. Lengthwise grain is very strong and has little give, which means it does not stretch much.

I like to cut fabric using the lengthwise grain for the borders of a quilt. (The border of a quilt is the fabric that frames the outside of a quilt — not to be confused with the “binding” which is sewn onto the edge of the quilt.) Using the lengthwise grain helps the border lie flat, which helps prevent full or wavy borders.

While I am thinking of it, when sewing borders onto you quilt, keep the border fabric on the top of your quilt when you sew. Laying the unsewn fabric on the quilt like this helps alleviate a stretch in your borders which your sewing machine forces on the fabric by the way that the feed dogs push your fabric through the sewing machine.

Crosswise grain

The crosswise grain (thread) is perpendicular to the selvage and has a small amount of give in the fabric.

The Bias

The bias is where the threads run at the 45 degree angle. Cutting fabric at this angle gives you the most stretch in your fabric. Experienced quilters try not to use too many bias-cut pieces within the quilt as it makes for a very stretchy quilt. Stretchy quilts are notorious for puckering when top stitched. If a quilt is too stretchy, a long arm quilter (the shop that does the top stitching for you) may actually turn down the job, as they do not want to be seen as the party responsible for all that puckering.

However, we do use the bias cut to make binding as it allows the fabric to be molded around the outside edge of the quilt.

As mentioned, the binding is the last piece of fabric attached to the quilt after it has been top stitched and trimmed… it is finishing the raw edges of the quilt — but we will get to all that another time.


2Standard Quilt Sizes

Of course, quilts come in many shapes and sizes. To make sure your quilt fits where you want it to, I have included a chart of quilt sizes below. Note that these sizes are according to Moda Fabrics, and authority I trust.


Mattress Size
Quilt Size
Comforter Size
Crib 27″ x 52″ 36″ x 60″ n/a
Twin 39″ x 75″ 63″ x 87″ 69″ x 90″
Full 54″ x 75″ 78″ x 87″ 84″ x 90″
Queen 60″ x 80″ 84″ x 92″ 90″ x 96″
King 76″ x 80″ 106″ x 98″ 104″ x 96″


3Acronyms frequently used in quilting

When you start to make quilts from patterns you will probably come across some quilting acronyms that you may not understand. For this purpose I will translate. 🙂

RST = Right Sides Together

WST = Wrong Sides Together

FQ = Fat Quarter

WOF = Width Of Fabric

BOM = Block Of Month

LAQ = Long Arm Quilter

FMQ = Free Motion Quilting

LOL = Wait, how did THAT get in this list?!

HST = Half Square Triangle  (I will teach how to make a half square triangle in another article)

WMD =  Not really a quilting acronym, however you may hear this from a child when you get so engrossed in a project and forget the time: “Where’s My Dinner?!” (Altogether now… “We can’t help it; it’s in our DNA! “)

Here is something else that you might aspire to get:

SABLE = Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy — or in other words, more fabric than you could possibly hope to use in your lifetime. (I actually love to use my fabric, but do think this is funny!)

Happy Quilting!

  1. CorinnaCorinna03-05-2013

    This one was really helpful for me especially the acronyms and quilt sizes. Being a beginner I had no idea what some of these were. When my friend told me there was something called a ‘fat quarter’, I laughed and said ‘WHAT.’ Lol.

    What I wailed find useful is the measurements of eg, FQ 🙂

    Love it. Look forward to the next tip 🙂

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