What is a Fat Quarter of Fabric?

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A fat quarter is a cut of fabric that is 18” x 21”. This cut of fabric is popular among quilters because large pieces can be cut from a fat quarter, unlike a regular quarter-yard strip of fabric.

Fat quarters are often sold individually packaged or in coordinating bundles. In fact, some quilt shops have built their businesses on selling curated fat quarter bundles. Curated fat quarter bundles are a great way to get cohesive fabric in a quantity that is usable for many designs and sizes of quilt patterns.

My favorite places to shop for fat quarter bundles are Etsy and Fat Quarter Shop.

How Big is a Fat Quarter?

A fat quarter is 18” x 21”, although the width can vary depending on the width of the fabric. Quilting cotton widths can range from 40” to 44”, which means the width of a fat quarter can range from 20″ – 22″.

Why is it Called a Fat Quarter?

The name “fat quarter” is a bit strange, but it is a great description when you break down the meaning.

A fat quarter is a quarter yard of fabric, but instead of being cut into a long thin strip, it’s cut into a “fat” rectangle. Put the two together, and you have a fat quarter. It is a silly name, but it’s accurate!

Fat Quarter vs 1/4 Yard

A fat quarter is equal to ¼ yard in the sense that they both are the same amount of fabric. The difference is the way they are cut.

A fat quarter is cut into an 18” x 21” rectangle, and a typical ¼ yard cut is 9” x 42”.

There are pros and cons to both cuts! If you want a more affordable option and don’t need a piece of fabric wider than 9”, then a typical ¼ yard cut is perfect.

If you want to cut larger pieces from the fabric, then a fat quarter is best. 

graphic showing a quarter yard 9" x 42" compared to a fat quarter 18" x 21".

Why Do Quilters Use Fat Quarters?

Fat quarters are a popular cut of fabric among quilters because the shape allows for cutting large pieces of fabric.

With a typical ¼ yard cut of fabric, a piece can only be 9” tall. With a fat quarter, that number doubles. Because of the fat quarter’s generous size, there are a ton of quilt patterns that are designed with fat quarters in mind. These patterns are otherwise known as “fat quarter friendly” quilt patterns. Fat quarters are versatile and for that reason, they remain a favorite.

Another perk is that they are typically offered in bundles. It’s an easy way to get coordinating pieces of fabric to use on a project. Between the fat quarter bundles and fat quarter quilt patterns, it’s easy to see that quilters love their fat quarters!

How Many Fat Quarters Are in a Yard?

There are 4 fat quarters in one yard of fabric. To get the 4 fat quarters, one yard of fabric is cut vertically and horizontally to get four identical rectangle cuts of fabric.

What Size is a Fat Quarter in Inches?

A fat quarter is 18” x 21”.

graphic of a fat quarter with 18" x 21" labels.

What Size is a Fat Quarter in Centimeters?

A fat quarter is 45.72 cm x 53.34 cm.

fat quarter graphic with size labeled in centimeters.

Should Fat Quarters be Pre-Washed?

Generally speaking, precut fabric should not be pre-washed. Washing small pieces of fabric can cause them to distort and unravel. Not to mention they may shrink, which might mean you won’t have enough fabric to make your quilt! 

A common reason that quilters choose to prewash their fabric is to prevent the colors from bleeding after the quilt is fully assembled. If you use high-quality quilting cotton and use dye-trapping sheets when you wash your quilts, you shouldn’t have this issue. But I know color bleeding is no joke and some quilters religiously pre-wash all of their fabric.

If you must pre-wash, here are a couple of tips:

  • Use a garment bag to keep your fat quarters contained. This will reduce the amount of movement in the wash and will help the fabric stay untangled and fray less.
  • Washing can cause the raw edges of the fabric to unravel. Consider serging the edges or doing a zig-zag stitch to help reduce the fray.

Check out this post if you want more information on how to prevent your quilt from bleeding!

Why are Fat Quarters so Expensive?

Fat quarters are typically more expensive than regular ¼ yard cuts of fabric. This can be attributed to the extra manpower it takes to cut and package the fabric.

Some quilters find the extra cost worth it. The curated bundles and ease of ” grabbing and going” at the fabric shop instead of waiting in line at the cutting counter are big selling points.

Other quilters may prefer to cut their own fat quarters from yardage or work out the quilt math using ¼ yard cuts of fabric instead.

I hope this helped clear things up! Head over to my Beginner’s Precut Guide if you’re interested in learning about more quilting fabric precuts.

xo, Hailey

Other Posts You May Like:
A Beginner’s Guide to Precut Quilting Fabric
How Many Squares in a Yard + Cheat Sheet
How Many 5 Inch Squares Do I Need to Make a Quilt?
How Many 10 Inch Squares Do I Need to Make a Quilt?
Simple Quilt Size Guidelines and a Printable Chart

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