Buying Fabric – A Guide to Speciality Cuts of Fabric

Posted in quiltingSewing

Have you ever been shopping for fabric and wondered what on earth a Fat Quarter was? I remember a time when I did and I walked straight on by in complete fearful ignorance! I look back on those early days and wonder about all of the delicious fabric I didn’t buy (probably a good thing looking at my stash)

If you are new to patchwork and quilting or are traditionally a dressmaker then you may not be aware of the terms used with regards to pre-cut fabrics. With this in mind I thought I would pull together a guide to help you along the way!

I have some explanations for you for each of the types of cut, along with some diagrams and measurements. The measurements are rounded as best I can! I have based all diagrams on standard quilting weight cottons that are normally 44″/112cm wide

Why Buy Pre-cuts

Traditionally pre-cuts are bought by those that are working on patchwork and quilting projects, however they can also be super useful for dressmakers, bag makers and those of us making items for the home.

When buying a pre-cut you are essentially buying smaller amounts of fabric whilst maximising useable surface area. Just think how much more useful a square of fabric is than a long thin strip.

If you’re a bag maker or a dressmaker then consider buying pre-cuts to enhance your projects. You could use fancy prints for a patch pocket, the lining of a pocket on a dress or a bag, binding an edge or armhole or as a fancy facing. There are so many ways to add a little pop of colour to whatever you are making. Don’t walk past those pre-cuts just because you are not a quilter!

Pre-Cut Fabric Sizes :: A Guide

By the Metre or Yard

Traditionally fabric is sold by the metre (metric system) or by the yard (imperial system).

This is where the fabric is pulled off the bolt and a linear metre or yard is measured and cut across the width of the fabric.

Fabric Buying Guide_Full and Half Cuts Full and Half Cuts

It is worth noting that a yard measures 36″ or 91.44cm. This is obviously just under a metre and will impact on the size of both Fat Quarters and Fat Eighths (see below)

Fat Quarter vs Quarter of a Metre/Yard

A Fat Quarter and a Quarter of a Metre/Yard (cut from the same piece of fabric) will be the same total area of fabric but the important difference are the dimensions of the cut.

Fabric Buying Guide Fat Quarters

A quarter of a metre/yard is a quarter of the length cut directly across the width of the fabric, whereas a Fat Quarter is where the metre/yard is cut into four pieces in a window pane like fashion.

Fat Eighths

A Fat Eighth is where a Fat Quarter is cut in half.

Note that a Fat Eighth can be cut from a Fat Quarter vertically or horizontally.

Fat Eighths are frequently sold in bundles and are a less expensive way of buying small amounts of several prints in a fabric line

Fabric Buying Guide Fat Eighths

Pre-Cut Squares

There are three common pre-cut square sizes that you will find when shopping for fabric:

  • Layer Cake – 10″ x 10″
  • Charm Squares – 5″ x 5″
  • Mini Charm Squares – 2.5″ x 2.5″

You can see them in the diagram in relation to the size of a (metric) Fat Quarter as a guide.

You normally get 42 squares in a pack. Always check before buying.

Fabric Buying Guide Squares

Jelly Rolls

Jelly Roll is the term coined by Moda, but it has become a little ubiquitous in the same way that Hoover has become a somewhat generic term for a vacuum cleaner. You will also see the term Design Roll or Strip Roll used.

Strips are cut across the width of the fabric and 2.5″ wide.

You normally buy a set of 40 strips that are from the same collection of fabrics, which is equivalent to 2 1/2m of fabric. Again, make sure you check before you buy!

I hope that my guide has been useful for you and you feel better armed for when you are next in your local fabric shop or buying online! Drop me a line if you have any other questions about fabric sizes.

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