What is a ‘fat quarter’?

Clouds and Smoke cover picture.JPG

I have just published a new quilt pattern, designed specifically for anyone wanting to make their very first quilt. It’s called ‘Clouds and Smoke’ because the original is made in creams and greys. I was so happy to find the beautiful stone building pictured above for the cover photo-shoot, with its rich mix of greys.

The quilt is a nice, straightforward design, using squares.  The final quilt can be square (usable as a lap-quilt or throw or as a play-mat) or an oblong (usable as a lap-quilt or throw or a cot-quilt for a baby over 12 months). Diagrams are given for both shapes. You can complete the quilt top with six ‘fat quarters’ – three of cream or cream print and three of grey or grey print.

A ‘fat quarter’ is a phrase much bandied-about among quilters but which I had never heard before I returned to doing patchwork and quilting in the last few years. A ‘fat quarter’ looks like this:what is a fat quarter.jpg

Things can get a bit complicated, however, because of the difference between imperial and metric measurements.

American quilters stick to imperial, so they will buy lengths of fabric in yards, and will think of the width as 42″. So, following the diagram above, a fat quarter will be 21″ wide and 18″ long – a quarter of the area of one yard.

Quilters from the British Isles, especially younger quilters, will be used to using metric, and will buy lengths of fabric in metres and will think of the fabric width as 107cm. So, following the diagram above, a fat quarter will be 53.5cm wide and 50cm long – a quarter of the area of one metre.

The ‘metric’ quilters will get a slightly bigger piece of fabric, because a metre is longer than a yard.

The reason that this particular piece is called a ‘fat’ quarter, is that it has a chunky, almost square shape. If you went into a fabric shop that used imperial measurements and just asked for a ‘quarter of a yard’ you would get a strip cut across the roll, so it would measure 42″ all the way across the width, but only be 9″ long. The shape of the ‘fat quarter’ gives quilters more scope (even though the actual area is exactly the same).

So, as a beginner, you need to know how your fabric shop sells fabric (by the yard? by the metre?). If you are buying fat quarters in a pack, it is worth looking closely at the packaging to see how big those particular fat quarters are.

I’m teaching a ‘Make your First Quilt’ group at the moment, which is very satisfying, but each time I do it, I am reminded of how many different skills are involved in making a quilt. You need to already know how to use a sewing machine to stitch a straight line, but the pattern covers all the other techniques you need to learn. There are useful hints and tips alongside careful step-by-step instructions, each with its own colour photo:

2 measuring up a block.JPG

You can learn how to cut out, stitch together, layer up, add quilting and bind your quilt. Machine quilting is covered and so is and hand quilting:


You can find the ‘Clouds and Smoke’ pattern by clicking here.

Clouds and Smoke, cot quilt, lap quilt, cover, by Amanda Jane Textiles

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Thank you for reading my blog. Quilt patterns are here, Fabrics are here, Classes are here

Published by Amanda Jane Textiles

I am an artist, designer and maker living in Ramsgate, UK

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