When did you buy your first fat quarter? Do you still have it in your stash? And what is a fat quarter, anyway?
According to quilt historian Barbara Brackman, fat quarters—or one-fourth of a yard of fabric that’s been cut into quadrants roughly 20” x 18” rather than four pieces 9” x width of fabric—started appearing on quilt shop shelves sometime in the mid-1980s. She notes that they may have been referred to by names such as quilter’s samples before that time, which tells us a little about how they came into being in the first place: they were impulse buys. They’re small and inexpensive relative to buying yardage, and they’re already cut so you don’t even have to lug a bolt up to the cutting table. So easy!
Perhaps you’ve accumulated fat quarters through exchanges with guild members, or by being the big winner after a round of Left Center Right at a retreat. Sometimes fat quarters for swaps and game prizes are organized around a theme, but just as often the selection is all over the board in terms of style, print and color.
It doesn’t take long for many quilters to end up with a bunch of random fat quarters in their collections and have to face the question of “Now what?” They’re too big to be considered scraps, but not large enough to be considered yardage. How does one put them to use in a satisfying way?
The thing about a single fat quarter is that it’s hard to treat it as “precious”—there’s just not enough there for it to be the focus fabric in anything but the smallest of projects. If it came as part of a bundle from a collection, then it has brothers and sisters that should all play nicely together when used to make a quilt.
But pulling together disparate fat quarters can result in patchwork just as stunning for a few reasons:
- You’re more inclined to use them according to color and value, which are the backbones of good quilt design, and not according to any single fabrics wow factor.
- They allow you to create a scrappy look that’s as controlled or as unrestrained as you want.
- Their uniform size makes it easier and faster for you to cut your patches than working with actual scraps of varying dimensions.
There is no shortage of great patterns for fat quarter quilts these days. Because the focus of our current Workshop Wednesday series is on making quilts in time for holiday giving, below are some video tutorials followed by suggestions of patterns and products that might help jump start your productivity this season.
Just what is a fat quarter, anyway? Let Mary Fons explain in a Quilty episode that’s free to view.
This episode of Quilty (below) is a good primer on different cuts of fabric found in quilt shops and how to look for what you need.
When you’ve not got much time, but do have a pile of coordinating fat quarters that are just crying out to be used, Quilt Monkey Katy Jones has an ideal quick quilt for you. You can find the full episode at our shop.
This throw quilt is in the McCalls Quick Quilts October/November 2017 issue. The pattern calls for 20 assorted fat quarters plus gray solid yardage.
Various pink prints from Cotton + Steel; Keepsake Quilting currently has a pack of 40 fat quarters on sale for only $49.99, which averages out to $5/yard (price subject to change).
This bargello-style crib quilt is also in the McCalls Quick Quilts October/November 2017 issue. The pattern calls for only 9 fat quarters to make the entire top.
This bed quilt was featured on the cover of McCalls Quick Quilts August/September 2017 issue. Its composed entirely of large triangle-squares, and though the pattern wasn’t written for fat quarters, it can be made with 14 assorted neutral cream and gray fat quarters, 9 assorted yellow and gold fat quarters, 8 assorted red fat quarters and yardage of a black print.
Gently Down the Stream
This small modern lap quilt or toddler quilt was featured on the cover of Quilters Newsletters Best Fat Quarter Quilts 2014 (shown on the right side of the image). The entire issue containing 25 patterns is available as a digital download, and is currently on sale for only $2.00 (price subject to change). The pattern calls for 12 assorted fat quarters and yardage of a white solid.
Rainbow Batiks bundle of 12 fat quarters
Whirling Daisies This 60” x 60” pieced and appliquéd throw quilt by Nancy Mahoney appeared in Quilters Newsletters Best Fat Quarter Quilts 2012 special issue; the digital download containing 27 patterns is also on sale for only $2.00 (price subject to change). The pattern calls for 8 black tone-on-tone fat quarters, 8 assorted bright fat quarters, 1 yellow fat quarter and 2 green fat quarters, as well as yardage of a white print for the background.
Kaffe Fasset bundle of 12 fat quarters
FreeSpirits True Colors collection bundle of 22 fat quarters, currently on sale for 40% off, which averages to $7.60/yard (price subject to change)