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What is the minimum number of fat quarters I need for a quilt top?

Often I find myself purchasing a fat quarter bundle and then designing a quilt that fits the amount of fabric I have to work with.

I don’t like to have a lot of scrap fabric left over so I try to make the biggest quilt that the bundle I purchased allows for. Different bundles come with different amounts of fabric.

I made myself a little cheat sheet so that I can estimated what size quilt I’m going for based on how many fabrics are in my fat quarter bundle.

This cheat sheet assumes that you use the fat quarters whole with 1/4 seam allowance. It’s not a realistic way to make a quilt as it doesn’t account for selvedges. It’s just a place to start estimating from.

• You’re probably going to want to cut up your fat quarters into smaller pieces. Every time you cut you need a little bit more fabric to account for additional seam allowance.
• There might be fabrics you don’t like or might not want to use as much of.
• If you don’t have enough fat quarters for the quilt top you want to make, mix in some coordinating solids or neutrals. Half prints from a fat quarter bundle + half white is one of my favorite fabric combos.
• If you’ve got more fat quarters than you need for the quilt top you want to make, you can work extras into the backing or binding.

Notice that Queen and Full size need the same number of fat quarters. Places like Pottery Barn usually don’t even differentiate between the two sizes.

I’d like to do the math

Here’s what you need to know to get started:

• What size battings are available to you. I’ve got a cheat sheet for that here.
• How much overage you want around the edge of your quilt top when you sandwich it with the batting and backing. I like 2 inches on each edge, 4 inches total for the width and 4 inches total for the length.
• The size of a fat quarter. I used 22 inches wide, 18 inches long, and a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You could knock that down to 20 by 16 if you want to play it on the safe side with seam allowances.

Here’s how to do the math:

1. Width of the batting – your overage = A
2. Length of the batting – your overage = B
3. A / (width of your fat quarter – 2x seam allowance)
4. round your answer to 3 up to the next whole number and call that C
5. B / (length of your fat quarter – 2x seam allowance)
6. round your answer to 5 up to the next whole number and call that D
7. C * D = the total number of fat quarters you need at a minimum

How to use this chart

The numbers across the top represent the direction of your fat quarter that measures 22 inches (the width of your fabric).

The numbers down the right side represent the direction of your fat quarter that measures 18 inches (the length of your fabric).

Pick the column that represents how wide you want your cut piece to be (don’t forget seam allowance) and pick the row that represents how long or tall you want your piece to be. The number where that column and row intersect is the maximum number of that size piece you can cut from one fat quarter.

This chart makes a few assumptions that you’ll need to account for:

1. You want to cut pieces that measure whole inches in both directions. If you need to cut pieces that are 6 and a quarter inches and you want to use this chart, round up to 7.
2. You can use every last inch of your fat quarter. Your fat quarter might have a selvedge that knocks an inch or two off the width or it might not be cut quite straight. Measure twice, cut once.
3. You’re going to mess up while you’re cutting. It happens. Make sure the number of squares or rectangles you can cut is a little bit higher than the number you absolutely need at a minimum.

I’d like to do the math

Here’s what you need to know to get started:

• How wide is your fabric? A typical fat quarter is going to be 22 inches. You may lose some for selvedge or wonky cutting.
• How long is your fabric? A typical fat quarter is going to be 18 inches. You may lose some for wonky cutting.
• What size pieces do you want to cut? How wide? How long? Make sure you add half an inch in each direction for seam allowance.

Here’s how to do the math:

2. round that number down and we’ll call that answer A
4. round that number down and we’ll call that answer B
5. A * B = how many pieces you can cut

How to press seams open without using an iron

My son, Luke, is currently 18 months old. He’s running around and grabbing everything. One of the things that has been holding me back from quilting the most since he’s been born is the fear that he’s going to grab the hot iron.

This simple how to is for you if you want to be able to press open a small seam without getting up from your sewing area and without heat.

1. Sew your two patches together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. No backstitching.
2. Open your unit and lay it right sides down on a firm surface. I use my computer desk which has a glass top.
3. Get yourself a Clover Finger Presser. Run it over the open seam on a firm surface and it presses really crisply.
4. Press your seam open back and forth and get all the way to each end. This will get it really crisp.
5. Turn it over and admire your work from the right side.

I know a lot of people talk about pressing the seam closed with the heat to set the stitches before pressing the seam open and that’s great, I love that idea, but if I’m not going to be able to press at all because I’m worried about having the iron out, I’d rather use this no heat technique.

I also don’t think you’ll get as crisp of a press if you press to the side instead of open but I prefer pressing open anyway.

ps. If you’ve got a small child and you’re looking to press larger areas and really do need that hot iron, I recommend putting up a baby gate and ironing on the other side.