Quilting Fabric Terms

QuiltNotes Learning Center

Last Updated December 05, 2017

Quiltmakers often choose cotton quilting fabric.  New quiltmakers should understand some fabric terminology.  In this article we explore 5 fabric terms. Learning these terms helps avoid frustrating and costly mistakes.


First we look at a bolt. A bolt is a cardboard tube or flat plank. Fabric manufacturers roll long lengths of fabric onto the bolt to sell to stores and other manufacturers.  The 16 second video below is from Hoffman Fabrics.  It shows fabric loading onto a bolt.

Width of Fabric (WOF)

Second, we look at Width of Fabric. Width of fabric is the distance between the selvage edges of fabric. WOF is width of fabric.


The tightly woven area of fabric along both edges of the lengthwise grain.

Directional Quilting Fabric

Depending on the design, fabric can be directional or non-directional. Directional fabric is best viewed from one direction. The four images that follow are from the Jungle Jamboree Collection by Kanvas Studio from Benertex Fabrics.

First we have Little Lions, a non-directional fabric. The lions appear to be tossed into the air. The lions can be viewed from any direction.

non-directional fabric from Benertex
Next we have a directional fabric, Mini Jungle Animals. Some quiltmakers want this print to go in the same direction in the quilt.  If this fabric is used in the border, the sides are cut lengthwise and the top /bottom are cut across.

directional quilting fabric by Benertex
Stripes can be directional or non-directional. Quiltmakers can cut and sew striped fabric in any direction.  The quiltmaker chooses the direction. These images show horizontal and vertical stripes.

horizontal stripe quilting fabric from Benertex      vertical stripe quilting fabric from Benertex

In summary of what we just learned, the next video gives a good description.

Video demonstrating width of fabric, selvage and directional fabric.

Usable Fabric Width

Finally we look at usable fabric width. Quilting fabric is about 44-45″ wide. This includes the selvages. The fabric between the selvages is the usable fabric width. If the selvage is wide, the usable width will be smaller. If the fabric shrinks after washing, the width will be smaller.

Video demonstrating the usable fabric width.

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