What is a Quilt?

Five and Dime Baby Quilt Pattern Review

There are always those moments when someone declares a regular run-of-the-mill blanket as a quilt. Gasp. And when that happens, somewhere in the world, a quilter looses her pins…and her husband’s heel inevitably finds it, and well…you get the idea. So please—get your facts straight—for the quilter’s husband’s sake! All joking aside, us quilters are very picky about exactly what counts as a quilt and what doesn’t… maybe even a little snobbish, but who can blame us? We have all poured hours and hundreds of dollars into a quilt that you’ve just demoted to blanket. I’m shuddering at the thought! Let’s get on with this post about what makes a quilt a quilt and what doesn’t.

Next time that you’re with a known quilter and see what you think might be a quilt in it’s natural habitat, go through this mental checklist before saying a word about what it is or from whence it came:


Wow—I know I’m really blowing some minds with this one. Quilts are always going to have been quilted. I know what you’re thinking: whew—slow down, Rachel! BUT give me a moment. I thought I’d start with the most simple things first. If a quilt doesn’t have visible topstitching that holds layers of fabric together (see “Layers Make Up a Quilt” below for more on that), it’s not a quilt. This includes wool, fleece, knit, and crochet blankets.

Modern Simple Throw Quilt

My Burst Throw Quilt is a modern quilt, but is quilted with a very traditional feather pattern.

Quilting can look very different from quilt to quilt. Some quilts have simple stripes or swirls, while others have intricate and custom quilting that is very detailed. There’s even a style of quilting done with pieces of yarn that make little knots to hold everything together.

Now, I told you there was more to this than the obvious! Some things are quilted that are not quilts! For example, Matelassé covers are often called quilts because they are indeed quilted. But to a quilter, it is a quilted piece of fabric, a Matelassénothing more. Please don’t offend us by calling a quilted piece of fabric a quilt. Bonus: we will be very impressed when you call it by it’s proper name!


Matlasse is lovely! One of my favorite ways to have a simple bed covering…but it’s not a quilt.

Layers Make Up a Quilt

Now, if your quilt has quilting, it probably has some layers. Typically, a quilt is made of up 3 layers: the top, the batting (you won’t typically see this part), and the backing. We often call this the quilt sandwich. Sometimes the batting is replaced by flannel or a lighter material for a cooler, more breathable quilt.

How to layer a Quilt

Quilts have 3 layers: a pieced top, a batting center, and a solid backing.

Now, you might ask, if a quilt has layers and quilting, does that mean that my down comforter is a quilt? Nope! The quilt in question has to meet all three of the criteria listed here: Quilting, Layers, and Piecing (and/or applique). Read on for the final piece of the puzzle!

Piecing & Applique

If your said quilt has passed tests #1 and 2, then this is the final question: look at the top. Is there more than one fabric incorporated? Can you see where they have been sewn together? If there is more than one fabric included in the design of the top and you can see where they have been sewn together, you’ve got yourself a quilt, my friend! There’s lots of ways to go about making a pieced top; hand piecing, machine piecing, applique, and paper piecing are just a few. If you don’t have more than one fabric, or the top is a single piece of fabric made to look like it’s pieced, you’ve got yourself a blanket… please don’t call it a quilt!

Val H2

My Building Blocks Baby Quilt has both piecing and applique on the quilt top. I love this version created by Val!

So there you have it. You’re sure to be grandmother’s favorite when you declare her latest creation by it’s proper name! All joking aside, it is nice to be appreciated for all the hard work that us quilters put into these things—it’s truly a labor of love & we want you to know it!

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