A fat quarter refers to a cut of fabric that is a quarter of a yard in area. It differs from a regular quarter of a yard by its shape. A regular quarter of a yard of fabric looks like a long skinny rectangle – 9 inches by 44/45 inches. A fat quarter is close to square in shape – 18 inches by 22 inches. Some quilters often prefer the fat quarter because they can use it to cut larger shapes. For example, if I need to cut a 10 inch square, a regular quarter of a yard would not work because it is only 9 inches wide. I would have to buy more material or ask for a fat quarter cut.
A quarter of a yard is another name for one fourth of a yard; one whole yard divided into four equal parts. Some quilters prefer fat quarters for projects. Instead of dividing the yard into four long strips, the fabric is split into four equal rectangles. One fat quarter measures 18″ by 22″. Most quilt shops will cut fat quarters at your request.
Most yardage stores sell “regular quarters”. Usually one quarter of a yard measures 9 inches (one yard – 36 inches divided by 4 equals 9) by 44/45 inches (width of the fabric).
Learn how a fat quarter is a different shape than a traditional quarter of a yard.
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TRANSCRIPT: Fat Quarter – Encyclopedia
I have here one yard of fabric. It’s 36 inches this way by, because this is like a cotton fabric, usually they are 44 to 45 inches across. If I were to have a fourth of a yard cut at the fabric shop, then they would cut me one fourth of 36, which is 36 divided by 4 which equals 9, so they would cut me 9 inches across, as in this piece, from here to here. It’s a little over 9, they cut a little extra. But 9 inches by 44 to 45 inches, so this is one fourth of a yard. Quilters like to use fat quarters. A fat quarter is also a quarter of a yard, but it is cut a little bit different from the traditional quarter of a yard. So let me fold this in half, and we now have one, two, three, four; we have four equal pieces of fabric. And each one of those pieces of fabric would be a fourth of a yard and they would look something like this. This is what’s called a fat quarter. It is 18 inches across by 20 to 22 ½ inches long. It’s still a quarter of a yard, it’s just cut differently. Quilters like to use a fat quarter because they like to cut out larger pieces. And if I had a traditional quarter of a yard, like this one, I would be unable to cut out a piece that I used for the background on this applique block. The background block was about 15 inches, 16 inches big. So I would not be able to get that out of a traditional quarter, but I can get it out of a fat quarter. So I can get larger pieces out of a fat quarter. The reason why I wouldn’t want a fat quarter is because at times I like to cut long strips and it’s much easier to cut long strips from the traditional quarter of a yard, than it is from the fat quarter. I would be cutting them over and over again and having to sew them at the seams. Also, most fabric stores will give you a traditional quarter of a yard, but they will not cut a fat quarter. Usually you have to order those special, or go to quilt shops.