Fat Quarter Bundles: A Love/Hate Relationship And What To Do About It

Lazies, If your stash is anything like mine, you’ve got some fat quarters lying around looking for something to do. I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for fat quarter bundles (FQBs). I’m not as wild about free-range fat quarters – the bins of singles who haven’t found friends and I have to do the coordinating myself. Remember ‘Lazy’ – it’s not my motto, it’s my disposition.

I like when someone picks fat quarters for me and wraps them in a pretty ribbon. From three fat quarters to forty – I start salivating when I see the ribbon, tying them up into pretty packages.

FQBs – you had me at the bow! 

The Summer Tote (Lazy Girl Designs #LGD122) can be made with 9 fat quarters.
View back of pattern for details.

Now, as for these bundles, they are all neat and pretty, folded with those raw edges hidden and tidy. They tease me with just a sliver of flash and color at the nicely folded edge of that powerhouse little stack of scrumptiousness. I told you, I’ve got it bad.

In my opinion, FQBs are not supposed to be a long-term commitment. Don’t you agree? Buy ’em, use ’em, move on. But I rarely do that. My FQBs sit around like room decorations and become part of my studio.

They seem to multiply like Tribbles from Star Trek. (Image from http://www.trekfrontier.com/) Do you think Kirk would have had a soft spot for FQBs?

Invariably, when I do get the courage to untie that ribbon (be still my heart) and explore the contents of the FQB – I’m stumped. The fabrics look great in the bundle, but when they are all open and in front of me, sometimes they don’t seem to go together nearly as well.

It’s usually one of two things: the scale/visual strength of the prints, or two different color ways being bundled with one feature fabric.

This just happened over the weekend with a bundle of ten black/gold batik fabrics. Six looked good as a group, the other four looked nice as their own group. Some fabrics leaned toward a limey-green version of gold (interesting indeed), the others leaned toward a rich sunflower gold.

So, how do you use groupings like these? I’ll use the six for the outside of a bag project and the group of four for the inside. I already know they look good together in general, so by coordinating the different parts of the project so the sub-grouping work only with themselves, I’ll make the most of this FQB. The inside will look good by itself, the outside will be coordinated, and the view into the bag will visually bring both groups together. It’s like doing two separate, but related, projects.

I’ll probably have leftovers. And if I do, I’ll make a small coordinating accessory, perhaps switching the groups from inside to out and vice versa.

matrix-summer-tote.jpg matrix-summer-tote-side-view.jpg
Example: I used four fat quarter from the ‘Matrix’ line from Benartex for the outside.
I love how the fabrics from the front and back come together at the side seams.

On a slightly different note, what if the the strongest, most striking print ends up in the smallest group after sorting that FQB and you don’t have enough for the outside where you want to use it. For the Summer Tote bag below, I had a group of three fabrics that worked well for the outside of the bag, but I needed four fat quarters. Yes, others went with the collection from a color standpoint. But, the Summer Tote uses large cuts from fat quarters, so I try to pick fabrics that will balance each other over those large feature areas when the bag is complete.

I needed one more fat quarter of the stripe to make it work. I wanted the horsies on the front cover of the Summer Tote bag below. So, I split the striped fabric and put a little on the front and a little on the back of the project.

To do so, take fabric from a remaining fat quarter and piece it to the stripe where it won’t show. For instance, the back cover can easily be pieced on the lower half where it will be covered by the back pocket. Sneaky! That stripe on the back looks like it’s one piece. Oh, you expect it to go on, but perhaps there is a hidden surprise down there. And made from a coordinating fabric, it will make a nice design detail.

laurel-burch-summer-tote.jpg laurel-burch-summer-tote-side-view.jpg
Here I three fabrics for the outside of the bag. I used four fat quarters for the lining and inner pockets.
This fabric is by Laurel Burch for Clothworks.

Use as many of the rest of the FQB on the interior of the bag to get the most visual diversity possible. It’s great to look inside your bag and see all the other fabrics from that FQB having a party in there with your belongings. It makes for an interesting interior and visually balances your project. Don’t think ‘Oh, it’s on the inside – no one will ever see it there’. You will. Every time you open your bag, assuming you close it, you’ll be met with a visual delight that compliments the outside of your bag.

Lazies, untie those FQBs and make something! And if the ribbon is fabulous, use it as a decoration for your zipper pull. Hey, if it looked good tying all those fabrics together – consider it a coordinate and put it to work for you!


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12 Responses to “Fat Quarter Bundles: A Love/Hate Relationship And What To Do About It”

  1. Kathleen — July 2, 2007 @ 6:50 pm

    okay, I give. I’ve heard of thin dimes but what’s “fat quarters”? I’m guessing this is some kind of highly stylized print fabric? Is it “fat” on taste, color or print? Or it makes you look fat when you wear it? Oh I get, it fat means something …like Fabulous, Attractive Textiles…total duh huh. Oh well, never claimed to be hip to the latest. I think I have some, a rayon. Very busy like these but I like it.

    I am lost on the tying up thing tho. Fabric bondage?
    – – – – –
    Hi Kathleen!

    Fat quarters are quarter yard cuts of fabric, but the dimensions are not traditional. They are popular in quilt shops. Rather than a 9″ cut, selvage to selvage, a fat quarter is an 18″ cut from selvage to the middle of the fabric. So, it’s more of a square cut than a rectangular cut.

    Then, enter the fat quarter bundles. Fat quarters are folded into little rectangles a bit larger than the palm of your hand. All the raw edges are folded to the inside. Quilt shops will bundles a collection of cuts and tie them in a stack with a pretty ribbon.  Little gifty stacks of fabric.


  2. Sue — July 2, 2007 @ 9:44 pm

    Fat Quarters!! Ah, the bane of my life!! I love them dearly, but also get caught
    out when I unfold them! I spent this morning at a quilt shop – if heaven exists, then it’s a quilt fabric shop – there were rows upon rows of fat quarters. I’m trying to make a rainbow quilt for my daughter with flannel fabrics, and the best way to buy these is in fat quarters! I think I’m mad, however, it will be done, hopefully in this lifetime!!! And yes, my bundle of FQs was wrapped with a ribbon. Who’s bondage is it really?!??

  3. Lorraine Courtney — July 2, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

    Hi Joan,
    I agree!! Fat quarters are rather addictive, especially the new and modern fabrics I saw on display at the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair last weekend. It was wonderful walking through the stalls and seeing the variety in colour and designs in fabric on display.
    I also picked up the Gracie and Chelsea Tote bag patterns from the Punch with Judy stall. Looking forward to making them in my new found FQ friends.
    Best regards
    Sydney AUST

  4. Lish — July 3, 2007 @ 9:42 am

    Once upon a time I looked around my sewing pit and said to myself “self…you have way too much yardage in here! You need to go on an SRP (stash reduction program)” myself agreed but after the first week the shakes began…. Then the nausea……oh dear… What to do!!

    Well I headed off to my nearest LQS to pet the bolts and hope that would calm the quivers….it worked somewhat…petting the soft cotton did wonders for my disposition but how could I leave there without a bag?? Then I saw it… The Fat Quarter tables!! Oh yeah!!

    Here was the perfect solution… It would take care of my need to touch, feel, and play with fabric and not be in violation of the SRP no yardage rule! This was wonderful…the sky was blue and the birds were singing….soon I had a box full of the colorful beauties…they looked so pretty nestled together in their little box…….and since I was on a mission to use up yardage….I could just keep them and look at them and love them and not have to snip into them….all went well…for awhile…….and then it happened…somehow a studly fat quarter wandered in to the FQ box and now they are everywhere!!

    Last count I had 400 fat quarters! Lol…the yardage has gone down….a bit….but the boxes of pretty little beauties ( and one mighty stud) have grown. It’s still difficult to part with them….since they represent the last 18 x 22″ piece of that perfect fabric……but with all those wonderful lazygirl patterns…the job is easier…a couple of fats…a runaround bag pattern and a cuppa coffee and I’m a happy camper!! And now that we have yoyo makers…. I think that stash will go down quickly!!

    Lol that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

  5. Elsi — July 27, 2007 @ 5:46 pm

    “She who dies with the most fabric wins!”


  6. Myra — August 6, 2007 @ 10:14 am

    Would this make a good diaper bag?
    – – – – –
    Hi Myra,

    This would be a great diaper bag!


  7. Linda Stewart — January 14, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

    I too am addicted to and love fat quarters. At Christmas time I received from a long distance friend, 4 Christmas fat quarters folded up to make a tree and tied with a red ribbon. I don’t know if I can ever bear to take them apart it is so cute!! I’d love to send her fat quarters tied up like a heart at Valentine’s. Has anyone seen a heart or have a pattern/instructions….or does anyone want to take on the challenge ??!!

    Thanks !

  8. Lori — November 3, 2008 @ 10:36 pm

    I want to sew. And thought fat quarters would be a good idea to start up with. However, I have been searching the web, trying to find a quick, easy pattern. I don’t really care what I make with them Apron, table runner, clutch, tote, pillow case. I just need help with a pattern. PLEASE help me. 5 fabrics. Two are big patterns, two are nuetral fillers and one is in the middle of these two. Help a girl out that desperaetly needs a hobby. Thank you

  9. Kathy — April 18, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

    I am looking for the Hills fab and the tan tonal fabric put out by clothworks for the happy camper series of fabrics can anyone out there help me?

  10. Amy — May 6, 2009 @ 10:41 am

    Just wanted to respond to Kathy. She was looking for the Happy Camper fabrics from Clothworks. I found mine at: quiltfabriccloseouts.com

    Hope this helps.

  11. julie — September 29, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

    The nicest thing I have ever seen was FQs folded origami style into roses! How would you ever unfold them?! But if you can figure out how to do it, it would be ideal for a gift

  12. Charlene — June 2, 2015 @ 1:18 pm

    Love the summer tote, however, I wasn’t been to review pattern. Can you tell me how I can get a copy of pattern?