What a "Fat Quarter" and "Fat Half" Are

These are descriptions of the way fabric is cut from a bolt.

Suppose you have fabric that is 50" wide. There will be selvages on both sides. A selvage is a non-raveling edge which is formed during the weaving process.

When the shop cuts the fabric, the scissors will go from selvage-to-selvage.

If you buy an entire yard, you will have two selvages on your piece, as well as two cut ends (the cut the owner just made plus the cut the owner made selling to the previous customer). The size of a yard-cut will be 50" w x 36" h. There will be 36" between the two cut ends and 50" from selvage to selvage.

If you want a half yard of fabric, there are two ways to get it: a regular cut and a "fat" cut.

If the shop measures off half a yard (18") beyond the cut made from the bolt for the previous customer, you'll get a piece that has two selvages and is 18" long between the two cuts. If the fabric is 50" wide, as in the first example, your half-yard cut will be 50" w x 18" h. This is a rather skinny rectangle. Great for bellpulls and small projects, of course, but not for a large project.

A "fat" cut (called a "fat half" in this example) is when a full yard is cut off the bolt, and then this piece is cut halfway between the selvages. Now your piece has only one selvage and is 25" w x 36" h. This is more nearly square and is a more useable shape and size for a large piece of needlework.

In both cases, your fabric has 900 square inches (50 x 18).

There is also such a thing as a "fat quarter." You guessed it. The "fat half is cut in half. Which way the cut goes is important! It must go from the selvage toward where the other selvage would have been.

In our example above, a fat quarter piece is 25" w x 18" h.

A regular quarter-yard cut would be 50" w x 9" h. Again, the square inches are the same: 450; exactly what you would expect because 450 is half of 900.

Your shop should set a price per square inch. A fat quarter or fat half should not be more expensive than a regular quarter-yard or half-yard.

copyright 1999, Martha Beth Lewis
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