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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