When buying fabric for making our first textile projects or experiments, we don’t usually buy a lot of material.
We usually go to shops and buy some cheap fabric scraps from the clearance basket and pick up a few irregular pieces of a fabric we don’t know.
When we get home, we try to make the most of those tiny, deformed pieces, but so much irregularity makes it difficult, so we end up buying fabric by the meter, which is more expensive.
Let’s find out how the fat quarter size can help us get the ideal amount of textile materials for our beginner projects!
How to buy fabric at the shop
There are several different ways you can acquire fabric, depending on the size, the type of material and how much you want.
You can buy:
- by the meter
- by the yard
- leftover scraps
- fat quarter or eighth
- The most traditional way may be to buy fabric by the yard or the meter. Depending on the size of the fabric bolt, you will get more or less fabric, as the shop assistant will always cut from side to side, and some bolts may be shorter.
That’s why, 1 meter long of fabric might be 2 meters wide, or 1.5 meters. It depends on every manufacturer, so keep this in mind every time you want to buy fabric.
- The second and most typical way to buy fabric if you are a newbie at textile crafts is buying scraps. You can usually find them at the entrance of the shop, inside a big basket. Depending on the shop, they might be priced based on weight, size, or piece.
Some places offer buying a kilo of scraps, and you choose which ones to include inside that kilo, and some others may sell it per piece, depending on the type of fabric and its size.
- The third option to buy fabrics is doing it by fat quarter.
What is a fat quarter?It’s the measure of a square-like piece of fabric that comes in a (quite) standard size. The size is not exactly standard as it may change from one bolt to another, but they are quite similar, and its advantage is still the same.
How big is a fat quarter?The surface of a fat quarter is almost the same as a quarter yard of fabric, but it differs in shaping. That’s where its name comes from! To measure this size, manufacturers mark a yard of fabric cut crosswise along the bolt. After that, they cut it in half lengthwise.
And then again, cut in half crosswise. That means that from a yard of fabric, you will get four fat quarter rectangles.
What is the fat quarter size and what are its benefits?
There are several differences between buying by the meter or yard or by fat quarters. Although, of course, the fabric is the same and may have the same uses, the size and proportion may allow you to make the best out of it.
First, when buying fabric by the meter or yard, as we said before, you are only calculating the length of the fabric you are buying. If you need to buy a square of fabric, you will probably more fabric than needed.
Imagine you need a 0.5 x 0.5 yards square, and imagine the bolt is 2 yards long. To get a 0.5 side, you still need to buy a 0.5 x 2 yards piece! So you have more than 1.5 yards of leftover fabric.
When buying a fat quarter, you first need to ask the attendant how much fabric in a fat quarter, as it may vary depending on the bolt, to ensure the size is just about right for your project.
Going back to the previous example, you might find a fat quarter size that is 0.5 yards long and only 0.60 wide. Perfect for your project!
Another benefit is that, if you are working on a project that doesn’t need a whole big piece of fabric, but several smaller pieces instead, buying a bunch of fat quarter pieces can be more practical, as they are precut at the store, probably with more precision and accuracy than you can achieve at home.
Besides, they are usually cut beforehand, so you may not even need to wait for the assistant to cut if for you, but simply get a pre-arranged bundle.
The third, but not least benefit of buying fat quarters instead of, for example, scraps, is that they are homogeneous.
When buying scraps, we might get pieces that are very long while thin, or even already cut pieces, with curved or irregular borders, which are harder to manage to buy the right sections you need.
When buying a fat quarter, you can easily line it along your table, draw and rearrange the shapes as many times as you want and then cut it, making sure you are making the most out of the fabric.
An interesting detail you can keep in mind is that you can not only buy by fat quarters, but also eighths. These are even smaller pieces of fabric (half a quarter), that of course will be cheaper, but still homogeneous for uniform cutting.
What to use fat quarters for?
One of the most common uses of fat quarters, especially when bought in bundles, is quilting. For this kind of project, crafters use many different pieces of fabric to create an intricate, symmetric design.
They can be as simple as sewing a fat quarter or eighth next to the other, with a squared pattern, or cutting them into zig-zag shapes, circles, or so.
To finish this article, keep in mind that this method is not popular in some countries.
For example, there is not an equivalent for this method in Spanish speaking countries, so make sure the shops where you usually buy know what the fat quarter size is.