How to quilt with fat quarters

Using fat quarters for your quilt

Fat Quarters

How to quilt with fat quarters is something all quilter need to understand. A fat quarter is a cut of fabric that measures 18 x 22 inches. Most quilting cotton fabric is 44 inches wide (width of fabric measured from selvedge to selvedge). A one yard cut then is 36 x 44 inches, half yard measures 18 x 44 inches and a quarter yard gives a cut 9 x 44 inches. A fat quarter measures the same amount of square inches as a “long” quarter yard cut –396 square inches each-. They are cut by slicing one half yard of fabric lengthwise into two halves.

Pros and Cons

What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a fat quarter versus buying a long quarter yard cut? Depending on the size of the pieces you need to cut to make a quilt block, you might be able to get more pieces from an eighteen by twenty two cut of fabric than you do from a nine by forty-four inch cut. To give an idea of the standard size square cut pieces needed for most quilt blocks that can be cut from the two sizes (provided the cuts are exactly the size stated above):

 

From a fat quarter                From a long quarter yard

2” squares = 99                    88

2.5” squares =56                  51

3” squares = 42                    42

3.5” squares = 30                 24

4” squares = 20                    22

4.5” squares = 16                 18

5” squares = 12                    8

5.5” squares = 12                 8

6” squares = 9                       7

6.5” squares = 6                   6

 

Depending on the pattern you have chosen, the fat quarter cut can be a better alternative than a long quarter yard.

Popularity of Fat Quaters

This cut of fabric has become increasingly popular in the last decade. There are patterns and books that focus on the fat quarter as the base for their quilts. Most fabric collections sold now offer the option to purchase the entire collection in fat quarter cuts. They are usually packaged neatly and attractively. It is a feasible way to own an entire fabric line for a fraction of the cost of purchasing an entire yard of each.

Many quilt shops offer ready cut fat quarters individually and in collections of coordinated prints that take the guesswork out of matching fabrics for a quilt. Themed collections (Christmas, Halloween, and such) are perfect for small seasonal quilting projects.

More Room for Error

Another advantage is that an 18 x 22 inch cut allows more of a large print to show than a long quarter cut. If you are “fussy cutting” motifs for quilts patterns such as “I Spy”, you might be able to get more cut pieces with the centered printed design needed. They are perfect for scrap quilts, since you will be able to get a variety of fabrics to achieve the scrappy look for a lot less than you would having to buy yardage. Many quilt makers collect them to add variety to their fabric stash. They are ideal to cut a few appliqué pieces.

Easier Cutting

Another advantage is the fact that you can easily cut longer strips from the true grain of the fabric from a fat quarter than you do from a long quarter cut. Fabric is woven with threads that run the width and the length of the fabric, called weft and warp. There is more tension in the warp, thus cuts of fabric running with the warp (straight fabric grain) are more stable and less likely to stretch.

Convenient

Adding these cuts to your fabric stash allows you to make small quilted projects without having to cut from your larger yardage fabric pieces. Purses, wallets, placemats, book covers and other small projects can be made with just a few small cuts of fabric. They are also handy to cut charms to trade. Five inches square is a very popular size for charms, and you can get more cuts from an 18”x 22” piece than you would from a 9” x 44”.

Short Shelf Life and Price

However, keep in mind that fabric collections have very short “shelf lives”. If you purchase a fat quarter and don’t use it straight away, chances are good that in a few months, you won’t be able to purchase additional yardage if you need it. In some cases, the convenience of the pre cut fabric means you will pay a little more than you would if you bought a long quarter yard cut from the bolt. Sometimes one can buy one-third yard cut for the same price. Depending on the quality of the cotton fabric, one can expect to pay two to four dollars per fat quarter. Sales are a smart way to add these cuts to your collection.

Fraying

Another disadvantage is that a fat quarter has three sides that fray when pre-washing in preparation for cutting pieces for a quilt. You might loose a little more fabric than you would when washing a long quarter yard. Hand washing and air drying them might prevent some of the fraying.

For more information on making a quilting block click here!

You can get this book at amazon:

 

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