Dimensions of a Fat Quarter: the Fat Quarter Size Explained

If you’re wondering what is the exact fat quarter size, read all about the dimensions of a fat quarter in our in-depth guide.

A fat quarter is one of the most common precut fabric sizes, usually measuring 18’’ x 21’’. Fat quarters are used in a variety of ways in quilting, making them one of the basic quilting supplies.

Also with the wealth of fat-quarter friendly quilt patterns out there it’s always a good idea to have some fat quarters on hand!

So whether you’re making your first quilt or your 100th, here is everything you need to know about the dimensions of a fat quarter.

What are the Dimensions of a Fat Quarter?

A fat quarter is a standard precut piece of fabric, typically measuring 18’’ x 21’’.

Fat quarters are cut from yardage (more on that in a bit) and the WOF (width of fabric) for quilting cotton ranges from 40’’ to 44’’.

This is why the fat quarter size also ranges in width. You might see fat quarters measuring from 18’’ x 20’’ up to 18’’ x 22’’.

Fat Quarter Size Explained

As mentioned, fat quarters are cut from fabric on bolts.

As the name suggests, a fat quarter is a quarter (or one-fourth) of a yard. But what makes the fat quarter special (or – fat) is how this quarter is cut.

Typically, when cutting yardage, you cut along the WOF. This yields four (long) quarter yards measuring 9’’ x 42’’ from one yard of fabric.

1 YARD = (4) 9’’ x 42’’ strips

Dimensions of a quarter yard

With a fat quarter, the yard is divided both vertically and horizontally. This yields four fat quarters measuring 18’’ x 21’’ from one yard of fabric.

1 YARD = (4) 18’’ x 21’’ rectangles

Dimensions of a fat quarter

Fat Quarters vs. ¼ Yard

The square inches you get in each piece are identical no matter how it’s cut. Whether you should use one or the other really depends on the project you’re working on.

Generally, the fat quarter size makes it more useful for a variety of quilting projects. So if you’re buying fabric without a specific project in mind, fat quarters are the way to go.

However, there are situations when ¼ yards is the better (and cheaper) option. If you’re making anything that requires long strips (for example, if you’re making binding or a project using the strip piecing technique), a ¼ yard would be your best bet.

How Many Squares Can You Cut From a Fat Quarter

The number of squares you can cut from a fat quarter depends on the size of squares you want to cut.

Generally, to calculate the number of squares you can cut from a fat quarter, you need to:

  1. Divide 18’’ by the size of the squares you want to cut (round the number down to the nearest whole number).
  2. Divide 21’’ by the size of the squares you want to cut (round the number down to the nearest whole number).
  3. Then, multiply the numbers you got to get the total number of squares.
Fat quarter size cut into squares

Here is an example: How many 5’’ squares from a fat quarter?

  1. 18’’ : 5’’ = 3.6 → round down to 3
  2. 21’’ : 5’’ = 4.2  → round down to 4
  3. 3 x 4 = 12

You can get 12 (twelve) 5’’ squares from a fat quarter.

Squares from a Fat Quarter Reference Sheet

In case you’re not a quilt math fan, we’ve got you back. Here is exactly how many squares you get from a fat quarter depending on the required square dimension.

The reference sheet assumes a fat quarter is 18’’ x 21’’.

Required square sizeNumber of squares from a FQ
1”378
1.5”168
2”90
2.5”56
3”42
3.5”30
4”20
4.5”16
5”1
5.5”9
6”9
6.5”6
7”6
7.5”4
8”4
8.5”4
9”4
9.5”2
10”2

How Many Strips Can You Cut From a Fat Quarter

If you want to cut fat quarters into strips, you have two options: cutting lengthwise and cutting crosswise.

If you’re dealing with a non-directional print, the direction of the cut boils down to what’s most effective (which direction yields the least waste). Keep in mind that although cutting crosswise might produce more strips, these strips are 3’’ shorter (compared to a lengthwise cut).

If you have a directional print, cut accordingly.

Generally, to calculate the number of strips you can cut from a fat quarter, you need to:

Divide 21’’ (or 18’’ if cutting crosswise) by the width of the strips you want to cut (and round the number down to the nearest whole number).

Fat quarter size cut into strips

Here is an example: How many 5’’ strips from a fat quarter?

Cutting lengthwise:
18’’ : 5’’ = 3.6 → round down to
You get 3 (three) strips measuring 5’’ x 21’’ from a fat quarter.

Cutting crosswise:
21’’ : 5’’ = 4.2 → round down to
You get 4 (four) strips measuring 5’’ x 18’’ from a fat quarter.

Strips from a Fat Quarter Reference Sheet

Again, we’ve put together a quick reference sheet for you to see how many strips you can get from a fat quarter. The reference sheet includes different dimensions and the direction of the cut.

The reference sheet assumes a fat quarter is 18’’ x 21’’.

Required strip widthNumber of strips from a FQ
Cutting lengthwise
Number of strips from a FQ
Cutting crosswise
1”1821
1.5”1214
2”910
2.5”78
3”67
3.5”56
4”45
4.5”44
5”34
5.5”33
6”33
6.5”23
7”23
7.5”22
8”22
8.5”22
9”22
9.5”12
10”12

How to Use Fat Quarters in Quilting

Fat quarters are very popular among quilters. Probably the main reason is that they allow you to buy smaller – but still usable – amounts of different prints and colors and really build up a great fabric stash.

Another great thing about fat quarters is that you can buy them in curated bundles. This means you can get a whole bunch of different prints and/or solids that you know will go together perfectly.

The Fat Quarter Shop has an amazing selection of all sorts of fat quarter bundles. But I’m warning you – they can be hard to resist!

The dimensions of a fat quarter work great for all sorts of projects. Here are some ways you can use them:

Fat Quarter Friendly Patterns

The most obvious is making a quilt using fat quarters. There’s an almost infinite amount of quilt patterns out there and many of them are written specifically for fat quarters. Baby quilt patterns are especially great to use with fat quarters, just because of their size.

Search for ‘fat quarter quilt patterns’ on Etsy or browse your favorite quilt pattern designer’s shop to see which are written with fat quarters in mind.

Very often, you’ll need to add some yardage for the background. In this case, make sure you think about the basic color theory principles for quilters to get a color scheme, coordinated with your fat quarters.

Small Quilting Projects with Fat Quarters

If you want a quick win or only have a couple of fat quarters on your hand, you can make a smaller quilting project.

We have more than 60 small quilting project ideas for you. The dimensions of a fat quarter make these cuts perfect to use in these types of projects.

Fat Quarters for Applique

If you like doing applique on your quilts, fat quarters are a great way to add some different prints and colors to your finished quilt.

The fat quarter size is just perfect for cutting out different applique shapes. So if applique is your thing, fat quarters are definitely a great option!

There you go, you now know all about the dimensions of a fat quarter. 

I always wonder, do you prefer working with fat quarters or yardage? I know the fat quarter size can be so much easier to work with than regular yardage, but I would love to hear what you think of it. Let us know in the comments below!

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