What is a Fat Quarter?  Ultimate Guide for Quilters

Fabric pre-cuts are a staple for most quilters. Fat quarters are one of the most popular precut fabrics and are cut to measure 18″ x 21″. Read on to learn more about how they are cut, how they got their name, why they can be better than a standard quarter yard of fabric and for fat quarter friendly quilt patterns!

What Is a Fat Quarter?

A fat quarter (FQ) in quilting is a quarter yard of fabric but cut to be 18″ x 21″ instead of a typical long quarter yard cut which would measure 9″ x 42″.  It gets its name from the extra width of the fabric due to the way it is cut from a half-yard of fabric.

A standard quarter yard of fabric is cut the entire width of fabric (usually 42 inches). A fat quarter is a half yard of fabric cut in half width ways providing “fat” shape giving the fabric a wider length. While a typical quarter yard cut and FQ cut have the same number of total square inches, a fat quarter typically gives you more cutting options due to the different shape of the cut of fabric. 

Note, this is also true of fat eighths of fabric, which are cut a similar way but from the 1/4 yard of fabric vs. the 1/2 yard.

I’ve prepared the chart below to help you visualize the difference between these two different fabric cuts.  In the example below, you can see that if you are cutting 5 inch (5″) squares out of each cut of fabric, you’ll be able to get 8 from a 1/4-yard of fabric but 12 from the FQ.  If you scroll down a bit further, you can see a chart comparing the number of squares you can get from a regular quarter of a yard of fabric compared to a fat quarter.

What Can I Cut from a Fat Quarter?

If you’re wondering what you can cut from a fat quarter – you just need to keep in mind that a typical fat quarter is 18″ x 21″ as the starting point. There are a lot of different cuts you can make out of a FQ. I’ve prepared the chart below to help give you an idea of the different size squares you can cut from a FQ vs. a quarter-yard of fabric cut “normally”. The chart below assumes your fabric you’re cutting is a perfect 18″ x 21″ or 9″ x 42″ – if you have to trim down beyond that, some of these cuts won’t be possible.  It also assumes in some cases you’re cutting perfectly.

You’ll notice that if you’re cutting smaller squares there is a lesser impact of the two different cuts of fabric. But as the squares get larger, you really want a FQ over the 1/4 yard.

Why are Fat Quarters so Popular?

Fat quarters are popular for many reasons! They are often sold in fat quarter bundles which group together coordinating quilting fabrics (usually of the same line). This is a great way for people who are not very good at, or do not enjoy coordinating different fabrics for a quilt to plan a quilt. It helps take out some of the guesswork by providing a variety of fabrics that go together. Fat quarter bundles are often found in quilt shops, so they make for fun little souvenirs to add to your fabric stash when you’re traveling to different places and visiting their local quilt shops. While commonly sold in bundles, many quilt shops will cut fat quarters for you and may even have a little shelf where you can find pre-cut single fat quarters ready for purchase.

What Makes a Pattern Fat Quarter Friendly?

I personally define a fat quarter friendly quilt pattern as one that lists the number of fat quarters required for most fabrics within the pattern. However, in most some cases, yardage may be required for borders, bigger sections and of course, backing and binding. Keep in mind that most quilt patterns that are FQ friendly will require additional yardage.

Fat Quarter Quilting Patterns

There are SO MANY fat quarter patterns out there. Here are just a few I have found across the inter-webs via Facebook group recommendations and patterns I have saved/bought over the years. I have only made the Yellow Brick Road pattern and Bloem Quilt; the rest are quilts I have seen recommended by other quilters. Do you have a FQ friendly pattern you love? Comment below!

Free Fat Quarter Friendly Patterns

Chimney Gatherings is a free quilt pattern that uses 6 fat quarters but does require some additional yardage. This is a great pattern to practice your flying geese!

Rail Fence Ripple is a free quilt from AllPeopleQuilt. It uses 30 FQs along with some yardage to create the beautiful quilt!

All Blocked In is a free FQ quilt pattern – after you sign up with your email address. This quilt uses larger squares to create the quilt top. Due to the shapes in this quilt, there could be a lot of possibilities for fussy cutters or those trying to show off larger prints!

Paid Fat Quarter Friendly Patterns

Bloem by Libs Elliot is a great pattern for fat quarters if you choose the medium size. You can read more about my thoughts on this pattern here. The medium sizes require 7 FQs and additional yardage.

Bloem – Libs e

Yellow Brick Road is a great quilt pattern for fat quarters. This is one I have made (read about it here!) – twice, back in 2016. I think it is a great beginners quilt or for a quick baby quilt for a last-minute baby shower! Below is a photo of my two Yellow Brick Road quilts. I wish I took better pictures back then – these were both gifted.

Just 12 Fat Quarters quilt pattern by Taralee Quiltery is another great FQ friendly option, it is all in the name. If you have a print you really love or a bundle you’ve trying to figure out the perfect project for, this could be it!

Meadowland Quilt Pattern by Then Came June has recommended so many times, and it is easy to see why. This is such an amazing quilt that will show case your stash of fat quarters really well!

How Many Fat Quarters to Make a Quilt?

Just how many fat quarters do you need to make a quilt top? That will all depend on the size of the quilt, pattern and amount of fabric you plan to use. You can go anywhere from 6 to 30+! But with the plentiful amounts of fat quarter friendly patterns out there – with some searching you should be able to find exactly what you need!

Where to Buy Fat Quarters?

Every quilter will probably give you recommendations on where to buy fat quarter bundles. You’ll receiving advice for online shops, big box stores, fabric shops, local quilt shops and of course, their favorite online store. My advice is to shop where you can afford and has what you enjoy.

In the beginning of my sewing and quilting journey, I only bought pre-cut fabrics from Joann Fabric’s or Walmart. It was in my budget and buying pre-cuts that were bundled help me make fabric choices and was less overwhelming for me. They are also great for smaller sewing projects, including zip bags, which I love making!

Eventually, I branched out to my local quilt shop, and now I have a few online stores and local shops I enjoy. You may even be able to find pre-cut fabric, like FQs, at thrift shops. Below are a few of my favorite places to buy fabric for myself personally when I do shop online (these are not affiliate links, just places I enjoy). I am at a point in my journey where with each fabric purchase, I’m looking to support smaller businesses if possible. If you have a recommendation for me, please reach out!

  1. The Fat Quarter Shop
  2. Missouri Star Quilt Company
  3. SewcialStitch1998 – Etsy – I recently bought a fat quarter bundle and a half-yard bundle from this shop that sells on Etsy. They answered all my questions promptly and got my order out in the mall very quickly!

Wrap Up

When I visit a new quilt shop, I always look at their pre-cut fabrics (FQs, fat eighth bundles, jelly rolls, charm squares or charm packs, layer-cakes, etc.), quilt kits and wide back backing fabrics to see if they have something that I fall in love with for my next project. You never know when these items will come in handy for future projects. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on why FQs are better than your typical 1/4-yard cut for most projects.

Please comment below or find me on social media to connect. I’d love to hear about your favorite FQ patterns!

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