I’ve always thought that buying fabric remnants was a smart move. After all, spending less money to obtain more product is generally a good deal, isn’t it? When there is less than one yard remaining on the bolt—or the store would like to make room for newer inventory—the last of the fabric may be sold “as is,” still on the bolt. Or it may be cut into smaller pieces and sold as remnants.
In recent years the “fat quarter” has become popular. A fat quarter is one-quarter of a yard—1/4 of 36 inches equals 9 inches. What can you do with 9 inches of fabric? You can cut out quilt squares or doll clothes. However, a fat quarter should be called a “skinny quarter.” The width of most fabric is generally 44 inches; but the width of a fat quarter is cut in half to approximately 22 inches.
(Please note: A smart and knowledgeable woman corrected me about fat quarters.; you can read this correction in the Comments Section. I seemed to have calculated them incorrectly, and I will explain how they’re measured exactly in another post. Thank you, Linda.)
Why would someone buy a fat quarter or piece of fabric that is 9 inches x 18 inches?
I usually buy 1/2 a yard at a time for doll clothes ; I also buy remnants and fat quarters.
Doll clothes can be sewn with very little fabric. Several quilt squares can be cut from 9 x 22 inches.
Instead of buying one yard of the same fabric, you could conceivably cut up one yard into 8 fat quarters. Let’s say you pay $1.50 for one fat quarter. Because a fat quarter in only 1/2 yard wide, a whole yard of fat quarters (8 of them) would cost:
$ 1.50 x 8 = $12.40
These figures aren’t too dismal if the original price of the fabric was $12 a yard. This isn’t an unusual price for cotton, but cotton can be closer to $7 or $5. Joann Stores has fabric at $10 or more, but you can usually buy it at 40 percent off. Fabric at Joann Stores is often on sale, and there is ALWAYS a Joann’s coupon for 40 percent, or even 50 percent.
I have often purchased remnants, but now that I’ve been sewing consistently for a couple of years, I’ve come to pay closer attention to the prices and the quality of these remnants.
Since I don’t work at a fabric store, I don’t know how fabric is chosen for fat quarters. These are often found in a stack or bin underneath the matching bolts of quilting fabrics. I’m guessing that the stores find selling these fat quarters profitable; they are also convenient for quilt makers buy.
Although I have purchased fat quarters, I have more experience with remnants. I’m motivated to write about buying fabric because I’ve recently found flaws or stains on my remnants that were not revealed until I unfolded or unrolled my piece of fabric. I’ve also been more careful to calculate the price per yard after making some disappointing purchases. I once picked up a 1/4-yard remnant that had been marked down from $2.10 to $1.88. What a good deal, I thought, until looked at the original price per yard, which was $4.99.
I’ve also noticed that fabric is often cut crooked, and a crooked line is more noticeable when the piece of fabric is small. The edges should line up when you fold the fabric. Whenever I buy fabric I watch while the store clerk cuts it. Obviously, I’m unable to watch when I buy something that is cut ahead of time.
I think that buying fat quarters or remnants can be fun. Doll clothes can be made with surprisingly little fabric. I enjoy combing two or more prints . I usually include polka dots. I thought I was careful when buying fabric. The green polka dot cotton that is toward the left bottom of the above photo was a remnant, and as I was rolling it up, I noticed flaws that make some of these dots look like a Pac Man. I probably have plenty of fabric. I could have done without the green.
In the future I plan to take my own advice and quit buying remnants unless I absolutely love the fabric. There is probably less risk in buying fat quarters because it is cut up as a money-making device that saves the customer’s time.
Back in “the day” when I made my own clothes, fabric was relatively cheap. This can still be true for the smart and patient shopper who looks for sales prices and good deals. My advice is to pay attention to the quality of the fabric, and do the math.