Fat quarter is a measure of pre-cut fabrics you can buy from shops- it is considered as a quilter’s unit of measure for fabric; Fat quarter defines a fabric piece which is cut so that one yard of it is cut into 4 pieces; it can be said that it is a quarter yard of fabric cut into an almost square shape (rectangle ). Usually it is 18″ x 22″ in dimension.
Fabric bolts come in varying widths . Because of this fabric fat quarters also come in slightly different dimensions.
Two sides of a fat quarter will always be 18 inches ; which is half of a yard (as 1 yard = 36 inches ). The other two sides of the fat quarter will be half of the width of the fabric you have. This fabric pre-cuts are most useful for quilting, patchwork and applique.
How is a fat quarter cut ?
You do not have to cut fat quarters as these specialty precuts are available in showrooms as such – but even if you do not have fat quarter available at showrooms near you, you can cut the left over fabric in your stash in these dimensions so that they can be stored beautifully and efficiently.
In cutting a fat quarter one yard of the fabric is cut into half lengthwise first, and the two pieces you have are then cut into two pieces width wise.
Most of the printed cotton used in dressmaking and for quilting and applique are available in widths of 36 inch. So when you make a fat quarter with this fabric you get an ‘almost’ square shape which is very useful in quilting etc.
The next usual width of fabric is 45 inches. So 36 inch * 45 inch fabric is cut into two pieces by the center to two 18 inch * 45 inch. When this fabric is cut you get a fat quarter of size 22 1/2 inch x 18 inch.
You can further cut a fat quarter to two fat eights. 11 1/4 inch * 18 inch. In the same vein a fat half refers to a piece which is 18 inch * 45 inch
Why use a fat quarter cut fabric piece?
When a fabric is cut the regular way ie only across selvages if you want small yardages like say 1/4 of a yard you get thin narrow fabric pieces ( for example 9 inch * 45 inch piece of a 45 inch wide fabric) which cannot be properly used for anything useful. If the fabric is cut into fat quarters or fat halfs this almost square fabric piece can be used for a number of projects ( it will be a 22 1/2 * 18 inch piece )
If your fabric store has fat quarter pieces you can buy different fabric pieces instead of settling for a single fabric type.
When you make quilts a fat quarter is a blessing. You get so many different patterns; No more ‘not using that printed fabric because it is too expensive for my budget’. You can mix and match; if you manage to collect a number of fabric pieces in similar /complimentary colors or patterns you are all set to make a quilt on your own. For applique work a fat quarter collection can be very useful. A patch worked fabric also need a varied fat quarter collections.
How to use the fat quarters in sewing ?
As already said fat quarter stash is a great addition to your fabric collection. You get to use different types/patterns/designs of fabric – they can be used to make accents, embellish clothes by way of applique, make bows out of them, make clothing patches with them, use them to make contrasting pockets on your tops
One thing you have to realize is that the fat quarter cut piece you have is not pre-shrunk. So if you plan your design before taking into account the shrinking you are going to be in trouble. You can preshrunk the fat quarter piece by rinsing the piece after finishing the edges and drying it flat. Finish the edges before washing pre-cuts to prevent fraying.
With proper planning, the fat quarter piece can be cut into square pieces which can be effectively used in patchwork.
If you are into bag making or fabric collage work there are a million things you can do with the fat quarter pieces you have collected
Another advantage of having a fat quarter collection ( I have one and I can vouch for this) is a purely personal one – it is the pleasure every fabric hoarder gets looking at the stacks of fabric pieces and visualizing many many projects for days to come – nothing can beat this.