What are the Main Parts of a Quilt?

So you have decided to learn to quilt and need to learn basic information. Some good questions would be: What are the main parts of a quilt? What type of quilting do I want to do? What does it mean to quilt? What do I need for tools so that I can quilt? Is there classes I can take or can I learn online?

I plan to cover all these questions on this site, one step at a time. The first question is a good one, so we will cover some basic information in this lesson.

Definition of a Quilt

The usual definition of quilt is a bedcover made of two layers of cloth filled with padding and held in place by tying or stitched with designs. So in this definition they are talking about three separate layers: a top layer of cloth and a bottom layer of cloth with some sort of padding in between the layers This is often called a sandwich.

Nowadays, a ‘quilt’ can be on a table runner, a place mat, a bedrunner, a Christmas tree skirt, a cushion or anything else you can think of that has top and bottom cloths with padding in between, and is quilted (stitched with designs or tied).

When I think of a quilt, I usually think of a patchwork quilt. That is the type of quilting I do and enjoy doing. It is, as my husband likes to say, taking perfectly good cloth, cutting it into tiny pieces and then sewing it back together again. To him it sounds crazy, but to the many million women and men who patchwork quilt, this is a very enjoyable hobby. This method is usually only done to the quilt top, but there can be exceptions to the rule.

Other quilters quilt whole-cloth quilts. A whole-cloth quilt is made with a whole piece of cloth for the top layer with the emphasis being on the stitching design that is used to hold the quilt together. Sometimes the stitching is very intricate and will make a very beautiful design.

Quilt Top

The quilt top is what is usually displayed face-up on a bed to show off the fine patchwork and the quilting (stitching) the quilter has done. Or the quilt top may only be displaying the quilting (stitching) someone has done on a whole-cloth quilt. It is where most of the focus is centered on and is what the quilt is displaying for a design.

Most modern quilt tops are made out of quality cotton fabric, though silk, satin, linen and a polyester blend can be used. A satin or a linen would more likely be used on a whole-cloth quilt.


The batting is what is put between the two layers of cloth. In the past, sometimes old blankets, sheets, or parts of old woolen clothing were joined together as the padding inside the quilt. In years gone by, that might have been all that the homemaker had at the time. Why waste a blanket or a sheet that had holes in it? Instead, she would repair the holes and use it as a filler in a quilt. It created a new purpose for old used items. And it gave ‘heaviness’ to the quilt for warmth.

Nowadays, the modern quilter usually uses batting. It can be cotton, wool or polyester. It can come in huge rolls in the Quilt shop and a length is cut off for the customer to use in their quilt. Or it can come bagged in twin, queen or king sizes ready to be used.

The batting is often quite thin, though is still creates warmth. A hand quilter would prefer a thinner batting to make it easier to put the needle through all layers. A machine-quilter, either with a domestic machine or a long-arm machine, might decide to use a thicker layer of batting to help create more ‘loft’ to the finished project.


The backing is the bottom layer of the quilt.  For that reason, the backing can be a whole cloth, two lengths sewn together, or sometimes even material patched together to help use up fabric left over from the project. But some backings can be as creative as the front and can serve as a second choice on how to display the quilt. Quite often, the backing can be a flannel material for comforting warmth.


When all parts are assembled together, it is called Sandwiching. The quilting that is done keeps the layers from shifting. A binding is then put around the edges. The last step is putting a label on the quilt to give the history of the quilt. This will include the quilt maker, the quilter, the date finished, and sometimes a name for the quilt and who it is made for.