I remember when I was first starting out, I couldn’t keep the different fabric cuts straight. I quickly became accustomed to reading “Fat Quarter” and “Half Yard,” but I never really stopped to think about what that meant.
Even now, when I am designing quilts, the first thing I do at the top of the page is write out the measurements of the fabric cuts needed for the quilt. For example, if the quilt is going to use “yardage,” I’ll write out the dimensions of a yard and half yard on the top of every page in my quilt sketchbook. If the quilt is a “Fat Quarter” quilt, I’ll write down the dimensions of a Fat Quarter.
I’m pretty much confessing that despite my years of sewing, the measurements still haven’t sunk in, and I have to refer to the numbers while I’m working. I’d really love to save you all the trouble of having to do this yourself, so I’m going to write all of the measurements out here for you.
One more thing before you read on. I’m also going to include a FREE printable that has all of the measurements listed out for you, including diagrams for all of you visual learners. If you don’t want to print it out, you can just save it to your phone or tablet for quick and easy referencing while you work. Easy Peasy!
Bolt of Fabric – Once the fabric is printed, it is wound onto a bolt to prepare for distribution. Bolts are half of a yard long, so before the fabric is wound onto the bolt, it is folded in half selvage to selvage.
- Each bolt typically contains 10-15 yards of fabric, but this varies by manufacturer, and when the winding stops. So if you buy a bolt of fabric and you are supposed to be getting 15 yards of fabric, you may end up with 14, you may get lucky and receive 16.
- When a fabric company receives fabric, they usually store them on the bolt, and then will cut the fabric to order. If you order a yard, they will simply unwind the bolt and cut off a bit more than 36″ to send to you. If you order a 1/2 yard, they will do the same and cut accordingly.
- Most fabric stores sell their fabric in 1/2 yard cuts or larger.
“WOF” – WOF is a quilting term that you need to remember. It stands for “width of fabric.” This term is important because all fabrics are not created equal.
- The measurement from selvage to selvage can vary from fabric to fabric as much as 2 inches!
- Typically, fabrics within the same fabric line, or those coming from the same fabric company, are usually the same width.
- There are instances, however, where this is not the case! Whenever you are purchasing fabric for a specific pattern, be sure to check the width to make sure that you have enough to make the cuts specified!
Selvage – This is the edge of the fabric. It is a denser, finished edge that keeps the weave of the fabric from unraveling.
- When you buy are yard or a half yard of fabric, you will have a selvage on each edge of the fabric because the cut is made from selvage to selvage.
- Whenever you have a “fat” cut, you will have only one selvage. This is because the fabric started as a yard, was cut in half lengthwise to create a half a yard, and then cut widthwise one or more times.
“Fat” Cuts – These cuts are more “specialty” cuts and you will typically find them bundled together.
- In order to make this cut, first a yard cut is made selvage to selvage to remove the yard from the bolt. Then the yard is cut 2 more times, once selvage to selvage and then those two pieces are cut width wise. When these pieces are all laid out together, they look like a 4-Square Court.
- When a regular 1/4 yard cut is made, it is 3 cuts selvage to selvage creating 4 skinny pieces. This can be see in the top image in the diagram above.
- The same cutting technique used to cut Fat Quarters and 1/4 yard cuts also applies to Fat Eighths and 1/8 yard cuts.
Below I have listed the standard fabric cut measurements. Remember when you are ordering fabric, that *sometimes* fabric shops will give you a little bit of extra fabric, but this is not always guaranteed. If you are making a pattern that specifically states that the listed requirements are cutting it close and you won’t have extra fabric, then I recommend that you order extra. Don’t even think twice about this. Just do it, especially if the store allows you to add on an extra 1/8th or 1/4 yard. Think about it this way:
- Meg has been thinking about making her first quilt. Ok, “thinking about it” is an understatement. Meg just had her first baby, and ever since she was 6 months pregnant and planning the nursery, she has been pinning images of beautiful quilts. She thought, “I could totally do that!” and started to compare sewing machines. She even went as far as putting a machine into her Amazon cart! The day she brought her beautiful baby home from the hospital, she was delighted to see that the sewing machine had been purchased for her as a gift from her family. Her husband had even set it up for her! It was just sitting there, ready for its first project. Meg found a pattern, ordered her materials, and while she waiting for her fabric arrive, she contemplated when she would find the time to work on the project. She thought, “I can do this! I don’t have to do it all at once. It is going to be a process, and even if I just get a little bit done here and there, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.” So a week or so later, her sweet little babe was down for a nap and she decided to make her first cut into her fabric. Which she completely botched because the ruler slipped and she almost cut off her finger. She stopped the bleeding and decided a little flesh wound wasn’t going to stop her from her big and beautiful dream of quilt making. She picked up her rotary cutter and was ready to make her “real” first cut only to realize that her “fake” first cut trimmed off 1 3/4″ of extra fabric at a crazy wonky angle and she no longer had enough material to move forward with the pattern. Her sweet baby then started crying, and Meg put down her rotary cutter wondering if she’d ever pick it up again.
This is a sad sad story that I completely made up to prove a point. To Meg, time is precious. Even though she is willing to put in the time and effort to making a beautiful quilt, and is looking forward to the process of its creation, her fabric mishap threw a serious wrench in her plans. Now imagine the above story, but with a little bit of a different ending…
- Meg has been thinking about making her first quilt…
- … a week or so later, her sweet little babe was down for a nap and she decided to make her first cut into her fabric. Which she completely botched because the ruler slipped and she almost cut off her finger. She stopped the bleeding and decided a little flesh wound wasn’t going to stop her from her big and beautiful dream of quilt making. She picked up her rotary cutter and was ready to make her “real” first cut only to realize that her “fake” first cut trimmed off 1 3/4″ of extra fabric at a crazy wonky angle. After reading through the pattern and measuring her fabric, she realized that in a moment of brilliance she had ordered a little bit of extra fabric and would still be able to move forward despite the mistake!! Her sweet baby started to cry, and Meg put down her rotary cutter, ready to try again as soon as she had the chance.
Things ended well for “Presence-of-Mind-Meg-Who-Just-Had-a-Baby.” Even though that sewing session ended early, she was not completely discouraged and was looking forward to trying again. Moral of the story is:
- Only ordering just as much as you need can be disastrous. There are a whole bunch of things that could go wrong (reading the pattern incorrectly, slipping ruler, dropping your rotary blade and splitting your fabric, pre-washing and having your fabric shrink more than expected), leaving you with too little fabric to carry on.
- Ordering a bit more will slightly increase the cost of the project, but will give you enough fabric to persevere through unexpected challenges, and will ideally leave you with some scraps that you can save for your next quilt!
When you are ready to order your fabric for your project, be sure to read your pattern closely to see if the designer has recommended buying a specific type of cut. The handy chart below lists the standard cuts of fabric that are typically used in sewing and quilting patterns.
- One Yard – 36″ x WOF
- 1/2 Yard – 18″ x WOF
- 1/4 Yard – 9″ x WOF
- 1/8 Yard – 4 1/2″ x WOF
- Fat Quarter – 18″ x 22″
- Fat Eighth – 11″ x 18″
Let me know if you have any questions, or if there are any other terms that you have been wondering about!
Thank you so much for visiting my blog! Please feel free to download a copy of the Standard Fabric Cuts Guide by clicking the image above or using the link RIGHT HERE!
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