Anatomy of a Quilt

This was first published in 2000 (21+ years ago)! And it still applies to quilts today. I called it The Anatomy of a Quilt, because - well - we talk about the body parts of a quilt! I included this in my first book and was subsequently published a few more times in Quilt Magazine. Enjoy!


Here are some words to go along with what you see in the image above:

Anatomy of A Quilt©

by Debby Kratovil


A lot more than quilt blocks make up a quilt. All quilts are composed of many different elements which are all vital. Not all quilts contain the same elements but have a mix and match of the items we illustrate here. Most quilts have a common set of ingredients necessary to call it a quilt. We will begin with those.


  • Appliqué Block - A background piece of fabric with designs of smaller pieces of fabric stitched onto it, either by hand or machine sewing. These create a design which many times is curved (flowers, leaves, landscape).
  • Alternate Block - Either pieced, appliquéd, or plain fabric. This is positioned between your main blocks.
  • Block On Point - Any square block that is rotated 45 degrees so it stands on one of the four points of the square unit. This is usually set with four triangles to square it up again.
  • Backing - The fabric which covers the back side of your quilt. It may be one large piece or several pieced together.
  • Batting - The inside layer of a quilt which is sandwiched between the quilt top and its backing. Various fiber contents are available: cotton, polyester, poly-cotton, wool, silk, etc.
  • Binding - A fabric strip stitched to the outside raw edges of the quilt layers. It can be either a straight or a bias piece of fabric.
  • Border - One or more frames around the main body of a quilt. Not all quilts have a border, while some have several of varying widths. These frame the body of the quilt. Borders can be made from pieced units, fabric with appliqué designs, or just whole cloth.
  • Corner Square - A square of plain fabric or composed of pieced fabrics which joins two adjacent border strips.
  • Hanging Sleeve - A tube of fabric attached to the top of the back of the quilt for the purpose of accommodating a rod for hanging the quilt on a wall.
  • Horizontal Set - Blocks arranged so that they are oriented either across in rows (horizontal) or down in rows (vertically).
  • Mitered Corner - The joining of two pieces of fabric at a 90 degree angle. This is where three seams come together to form a “y” intersection.
  • Pieced Block - Various shapes of fabric (squares, triangles, etc) stitched together into a larger unit. These form a design and can also be stitched by hand or machine.
  • Quilt Top - The upper part of a quilt layer that is composed of designs either pieced blocks, appliqué blocks, a combination of the two, or a whole cloth. It can have sashings, borders, or any other variety of units as shown in our diagram.
  • Sashing Strip - Sometimes called a lattice strip, this is a fabric strip which separates blocks and rows of blocks.
  • Setting Square - Similar to the Corner Square, this is a fabric square (either plain, pieced, or even appliquéd) that joins two sashing units together.
  • Straight Cut Border - Four border strips stitched to the quilt top, first sewing two of the sides. Then the other two sides (top and bottom) are stitched in place. The adjoining borders meet at a right angle.

I'm sure I've overlooked something. A lot has changed since 2000, but these basic bits of information apply to most quilts today.


  1. This is so good really for anyone but especially for those learning to quilt or just living with a quilter! Ex. My SIL


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