What is Fat Quarter Stash Quilting
Why Quilt with Fat Quarters
Fat quarter stash quilting is my go-to for nearly every quilt I make. My method brings as many different fabrics as possible together into a cohesive design that’s filled with colors and patterns for the perfect quilt design. But lets first understand how important fat quarters are in quilting.
Fat Quarters revolutionized quilting. They started popping up in the 80’s. Once discovered, they exploded into every quilter’s fabric stash. Some of us even reserved a special place just for fat quarters. Today, fat quarters are the backbone of many different quilting styles.
Fat quarters are incredibly practical. Quilters love lots of different fabric, but shops don’t want to cut 9” fabric strips all day. The new fat quarter made everyone happy!
Download your 3 Free FQ Conversion Templates to turn your Fat Quarters into Jelly Rolls, Charms and Layer Cakes!
What is a Fat Quarter of Quilting Fabric
A quarter yard of fabric is 9” x 44”. While it’s a very cost-effective piece of fabric, the narrow size limits its use for quilting. An unnamed quilting genius changed everything!
It was probably a frugal quilter who wanted to mix up some fabrics together in her new quilt. But her best friend who worked at the local quilt shop complained about all those customers who wanted smaller pieces of fabric. Did you know some quilt shops wouldn’t cut fabric smaller than ½ yard cuts? They actually posted signs in their shops. Who can blame them! It was lots of work for little return. Besides, most shops were still using scissors to cut yardage!
At their local quilt guild meeting, our quilting friends not only solved our fabric dilemma, but they also changed quilting forever! They did all that simply by changing the way fabric was cut. I remember seeing my first fat quarter bundle. It took my breath away! All those beautiful fabrics were folded and tied together into an array of fabric bliss.
Now, fat quarters are a staple in every quilter’s fabric stash. Smaller fabric pieces result in lower cost. It also means more four times the fabric variety for what we used to pay for a single yard. This simple change in selling fabric has led to a plethora of fabric size options, which also led to the fabulous fabric collections bundled up today.
Definition of a Fat Quarter in Quilting
What Size is a Fat Quarter
So, what is a fat quarter? Think of a single yard of fabric that is cut into four equally sized pieces. Instead of the traditional 9” x 44” quarter yard strip, a fat quarter measures 18” x 22”. While still the same amount of fabric, the size is so much more practical to use. Larger blocks of fabric may now be cut using fat quarters. This allows an opportunity to showcase favorite fabrics or do a bit of fussy cutting for the perfect pieces.
What Are Fat Quarters in Quilting?
Collecting Fat Quarter Bundles
Who doesn’t love collecting fat quarter bundles? Collecting fabric led to my fat quarter stash quilting style. My fat quarter stash once hit over 1,000 pieces. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances, but more on that later. When I realized my fat quarters had reached astronomical proportions, I made a commitment. I promised myself to only make quilts with the fabric in my possession. Considering that exceeded over 300 yards of beautiful fabric to work with, I was ready to take on the challenge. So, began my stash quilting which has completely changed how I approach quilt projects. Selecting yardage from my favorite stash fabrics is always a delight. Now, mixing in a wide assortment of fat quarters adds such visible interest. The patterns I use are very simplified, giving my fabrics prime space to shine.
My Fat Quarter Stash Quilting Began
What, No Quilting Fabric? Fortunate to have the opportunity to live, work and quilt on a tropical island for 15 years, I had plenty of time to create quilts. With the ocean colors as my inspiration, I’ve used just about every shade of blue & green in my quilts. It was a beautiful place to quilt. On the other hand, living remotely has a multitude of limitations. In my case, not having a shopping mall or theater wasn’t a problem, but finding quilting fabric was impossible.
I had just recently discovered batik fabrics and wanted more. While buying yards and yards of fabric wasn’t in my budget, I could afford $20 a month to purchase a new selection of six batik fat quarters. Who knew you could join a fabric club? That was quite innovative 25 years ago. It became such an exciting moment to find a new fabric pack in the mail box. Each was opened lovingly to display a beautiful selection of batik fat quarters. When a fabric arrived that I absolutely loved, I would immediately order yardage for a future project. This was my introduction to online shopping and I’ve never looked back. And it continued for years.
Today, I still buy batik fat quarter bundles in a monthly club (aff link). Not only are these the newest fabrics available, but they are also priced at a great discount. Getting a monthly fat quarter bundle in the mail always excites me. Surprisingly the price hasn’t changed much, either.
How Do You Use a Fat Quarter in Quilting
How To Quilt with Fat Quarters
First, let’s talk about our wonderful fat quarter obsession. My fat quarters were stored in a clear, plastic bin so they were always visible. As more fabric arrived filling the bin, I bought another until it too, became full. At least 250 fat quarters fit into one bin. That’s over 60 yards of fabric in each. When a new fat quarter collection arrived, the big decision was whether to group them together or divide them by color family into different bins. When my stash was bulging out of four bins, I knew I had to act. I committed to no more fabric purchases until I used what I had.
Fat-Quarters Changed My Quilting Style
Here was a fabulous challenge. It really shook up my quilting style, too. Now, when I needed two yards of green fabric, I could pull out eight fat quarters from my green bin. Yes, I used scraps from previous projects, but I also used lots of fat quarters, too. The diversity in fabric choices gave each quilt a lot of color and movement, along with a cohesive design.
With my chosen focal fabric selected and spread out, I begin to add fat quarters in color groups that I liked. While sorting and trying out various pieces, a color scheme would start to develop. From that point my quilt began taking shape. This is still how I decide which color direction I’m headed. Anything that seems to work with my initial fabric choice stays on the pile. Quite simply, when the combination brings a smile and makes me feel good, then I know I’m ready. It really is that simple.
Batik Fat Quarter Quilts
Batik Fat Quarters Provide Variety
Fat quarters are small enough to justify buying a few, yet large enough to impact a pieced quilt. They can provide a beautiful shaded array of your focal color or be blenders that bring all your colors together. Fat quarters also offer an economical way to purchase fabric in new colors or patterns to try something different or provide some great variations in a large quilt. Whatever your reason is to purchase fat quarters, don’t forget to use them and enjoy the beauty they will bring to your quilts.
Initially, there were a couple quilt patterns that worked well for me. Even though I repeated the quilt construction the same way, every quilt looked very different. I was excited. Now I had a seemingly endless supply of batik fabric just waiting to be quilted. I sewed for a few years without buying more fabric, other than an occasional must have piece here and there.
My Batik Fat Quarter Stash Quilting Changed
If you’ve been quilting for a while, you can see the evolution of your quilts over time. Maybe your color palette changed, or your patterns are more distinctive. My early quilts were made with a specific color scheme and a single fabric for each color. That’s when new fabric was purchased for every quilt. Out of necessity, I had to modify my yardage selections to the batik fat quarters I had on hand. Now I chose fat quarters within the same color families. These fat quarter groups generally included a multitude of prints and patterns standing in for a single color in my quilt. It worked wonderfully, and I love the results! There’s so much to see when looking at one of my stash quilts, it’s like playing ‘I Spy’.
Try to always mix it up a bit. Rather than using only one fabric for a specific color in your quilt project, gather up a group of fat quarters that can be used together for that single color instead. This one step changed everything about how I saw quilting.
Use Your Fat Quarter Stash
Use the fat quarters you already have. The idea of a stash quilt is to use what’s on hand. But also, be willing to try something new. Change up your choices. If you’re selecting a group of red fabrics, use some with splashes of other colors that will draw attention. This is especially effective if those ‘splashes’ are also found in other fabrics within your quilt. When I began using batik fat quarters to make up the yardage for each color in my quilts, the transformation was astounding. Instead of using 1-2 yards of a single fabric, I now could use 4-8 fat quarters. This range of fabrics added so much more color and interest to the overall design. Try it and see what I mean.
Take an Objective Look
Always take a moment to step back from your project and look at it objectively. What can you do to add a bit of creativity and make it more individual to represent who you are as the creator? In my case, using what I had was a necessity. It was also a fabulous opportunity that changed everything about how I quilted. I still have those bins, though they hold much less fabric today. Yet, I am never short of fat quarters for my next project.
Now twenty-five years later I’m still working on dwindling down my batik stash fabrics. It has been an amazing journey of discovery as I’ve experimented with color schemes I might otherwise have ignored. I’ve made hundreds of quilts and wall hangings. It’s been a gratifying opportunity to gift what I love to those I love.
Fat Quarter Conversions into Precut Quilting Fabric
New Fat Quarter Stash Treasures
The beauty of fat quarter stash quilting is the diversity of fabrics you can use. While fat quarters are fabulous, the ‘Bakery Shop’ of precuts available today is amazing. Precuts are a perfect way to sample new colors and prints. They let you venture into quilting territory you might otherwise bypass. Gather up a couple precuts that catch your eye and find a way to add them to your next creation. You can easily take a bold leap because you’re only using small quantities. But what an impact they can make. It’s such fun to change things up, especially with these pretty little jewels.
My latest style of fat quarter stash quilting with batiks tends to be made with lots of smaller pieces, most under 5” square. Assembling larger pieced blocks is a very creative process. My goal is to bring in lots of color that directs your eye from point to point. Fat quarters and precuts are a perfect solution for that very reason. They are already cut into smaller, compatible sizes that piece together easily. They’ve been perfect to incorporate into my modern fat quarter quilting with batiks. So much so, that I’m converting some of my fat quarters into precut sizes. I already trim up my scrap pile into usable sizes, now add precuts and the choices are limitless.
Batik Fat Quarter Stash Quilting is Still My FAVORITE!
Fat quarters are such a perfect size for so many projects that I can’t cut them all up. Those that will be used for smaller piecing are converted into precuts. The rest remains intact. There are a couple template variations I use to convert my fat quarters into precuts, depending on size preferences. Also, I like to keep some larger cuts on hand, as they can easily be trimmed down later when they are needed. If you’re interested in converting some of your fat quarters into precuts, download the templates included in this post. There are also two templates for converting just half of your fat quarter, so you can keep some larger pieces of your favorites.
I hope you enjoy trying some innovative fabric choices in you next projects. It’s such fun to stumble into something new and creative. The options become endless and you can barely harness your excitement. Don’t let those opportunities pass by without taking note. Literally, take notes. Write down your ideas for a future project. One day you’ll read it and all the energy will return with a new project in mind. Let your quilting take you in new directions and enjoy the adventure!
Find More Quilting Inspiration Here:
- How to Cut a Fat Quarter for Quilting
- What Are Low Volume Quilts and Fabrics
- Modern Fat Quarter Quilting
- How to Make a Crib Size Rag Quilt
- How to Make A Quilt for Free