Know Sew: Fat Quarter

The basket of fat quarters at Make It Sew

If you have spent any time in a fabric shop, you may have noticed an area with smallish pieces of material called “fat quarters.” Although the term sounds Mardi Gras-related—the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday?—it actually has its foundation in math. Imagine a standard bolt of cloth that’s 44″ wide. If you were to buy a quarter yard of fabric cut the usual way, you would end up with a long strip of fabric measuring 9″ x 44″, right?

But that’s not the only way to do it! Instead, imagine cutting a half yard, i.e. 18″, of the fabric, and then cutting that piece in half horizontally at its midpoint. What you end up with is a squarish piece of fabric measuring 18″ by 22″, which is, in fact, still a quarter yard, just differently proportioned. Rather than a long thin strip, you wind up with a “fat quarter.” Get it?

Now, not all fat quarters are exactly the same. For instance, if the original fabric were 60″ wide, the resulting fat quarter would be 18″ x 30″. If the fabric were 35″ wide, the fat quarter would be 18″ x 17.5″, and so on.

What are fat quarters good for? Well, quilters love them because they are easy to cut into a variety of sizes and shapes for piecing together designs. They also work well for creating appliqués. But sometimes a fat quarter is all the fabric you need for a standard sewing project, such as making a passport pouch, oven mitt, or glasses case! Google “fat quarter projects,” and you will wind up with more ideas than there are Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans. When it comes to quarters, fat is where it’s at!

Check out this lined pencil case that Accacia made from a couple fat quarters!

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