What is a Fat Quarter?

This post is for anyone out there who has heard or seen the title “Fat Quarter” and wondered what the heck it was, but felt too sheepish to ask. (No worries – I was once one of you! And there are way more of us out there than want to admit it. So I’m here as your secret friend to get you in on the down low.) This post was updated in 2019 with extra clarification and photos.


Craft stores and quilt stores both carry pre-cut pieces of yardage called Fat Quarters.  Usually they’re folded nicely as individual pieces or tied up together into pretty coordinating bundles. But what are they and why are they so popular?

What is a Fat Quarter?

A Fat Quarter is a quarter of a yard of fabric, but it is cut in a different shape than a regular quarter yard of fabric.  When cutting a quarter yard of fabric off the bolt, you are getting a piece 9″ wide x the width of the fabric (around 42″-43″.) Four of these cuts, create a yard.  


A Fat Quarter is a piece of fabric cut 18″ off the end of the bolt, and then cut in half on the fold.  Four of these put together still make up 1 yard of fabric.  Imagine a piece of paper cut into four equal horizontal strips compared to a piece cut once horizontally and once vertically to get four equal square-ish pieces.


One is not better than the other but one size might be more useful depending on the pieces needed for a particular pattern. For example, if you are using a pattern with strip piecing, or you want to cut a binding from that fabric, a regular quarter of a yard would be preferable because you would get longer strips and have less piecing to do. Also, say you want to cut a bunch of 4 1/2″ squares.  You will get 18 squares from a regular quarter of a yard, but you will only get 16 squares from a FQ.

But a Fat Quarter shape comes in handy for other projects where you don’t need the long skinny length, like a little Easy Fat Quarter Bag, Drawstring bag, or something where you need a larger shape like the circles on this Monogram quilt.

So there you go.  Now you can consume fabric with confidence.

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  • Reply
    Pati @ A Crafty Escape
    July 22, 2010 at 6:09 am

    I am taking my first quilting class next week and was looking over the supplies list wondering about this just yesterday! Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Denise :)
    July 22, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Great job, taking on this alarming question! (And you're right — we all wondered at one point or another!) 🙂

  • Reply
    Quilt Hollow
    July 22, 2010 at 7:42 am

    …and here I thought it was a body part! Hee!!

  • Reply
    July 23, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Thanks. Over here in Holland we use different measures, so all talking about yards and inches is abacadabra for me anyway.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Thanks for clearing that up, I know the term &quot;fat quarter&quot; and have bought &quot;fat quarters&quot; but your explanation has lifted the clouds! <br /><br />Very helpful and useful, thanks again.<br /><br />Fi

  • Reply
    July 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Nice! Sometimes the basics are so refreshing.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    My husband can&#39;t ever remember the right name and always calls them &quot;fat chubs.&quot; It&#39;s funny the first few times. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    As a newbie, THANK YOU! All I know about quilting material terminology is that it makes me hungry! Jelly rolls! Honey buns! :o)

  • Reply
    Gmama Jane
    November 25, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    You have finally SHOWN me the difference in the two. Seeing both side by side allowed me to see the difference and which one to choose for different projects.<br />Thanks<br />Gmama Jane

  • Reply
    June 9, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply
    cristina maria
    January 26, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Olá Amy!<br />Demorei um pouco para entender como usar as medidas americanas. aqui no Brasil usamos o metro ao comprarmos tecidos. E para entender tenho uma régua com a qual posso seguir as medidas dos tutorias.<br />Obrigada pela explicação!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2014 at 5:06 am

    Amy.<br />How many jelly rolls make a quilt? When you buy a fat quarter how many make a quilt?<br /><br />mbk

    • Reply
      amy smart
      March 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      Depends on the pattern, how many seams, if you&#39;re adding additional yardage, etc. I would say you could make a throw/twin using two jelly rolls probably. As for Fat Quarters, there is a pattern called Turning Twenty (http://www.amazon.com/Turning-Twenty-Tricia-Cribbs/dp/B000GQQYFIa0) that is a large throw/small twin made from Twenty FQ&#39;s. Most larger quilts probably require around 25 FQ&

  • Reply
    Easy Fat Quarter Bag Tutorial - Diary of a Quilter - a quilt blog
    October 17, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    […] bag uses the equivalent of one Fat Quarter + 1/8th of a yard (or scraps) for the handle. (You could also use sturdy ribbon as […]

  • Reply
    Easy Fat Quarter Drawstring Bag Tutorial - Diary of a Quilter - a quilt blog
    April 17, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    […] creative sewing projects, perfect for light summer sewing, all using one of those fabric staples: Fat Quarters. (Are you wondering what is a Fat Quarter? This will explain!) Fat Quarters are such a great way […]

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