The Quilter's New Math
March 13, 2008
One of the least fun chores for quilters is to cut fabric. We search for shortcuts. Designers develop specialized tools and techniques to reduce sewing time. Fabric manufacturers have taken note of their customers’ desire to reduce cutting time
In the beginning, there was charms. A charm is a 5 inch square of fabric. Charm quilts are traditionally a quilt made up one quilt block pattern and no fabric repeats itself in the quilt. It is sometimes known as the beggar quilt because quilters would beg friends for fabric scraps to have enough variety in their finished quilts. Common charm quilt patterns are the pyramid, hexagon, polygon and apple core. Grandmother’s Garden based on the hexagon and Thousand Pyramids based on the triangle are two examples of a charm quilt. Quilters have expanded the use of charms as convenient squares to reduce cutting time. You can make a block based on squares beginning with a four patch block. You may also change the size by cutting rectangles or triangles from your charm. Enterprising designers have created patterns based on charm packs from purses to quilt patterns. A charm pack containing 36 pieces will equal approximately ½ yard of fabric.
Another popular cut is the fat quarter. A fat quarter is a cut of fabric that is 18” x 20”. Fat quarters offer a nice size from which to cut multiple pieces. These are great for scrappy looking quilts. Two fat quarters equal ½ yard. The fat eighth is a kissing cousin of the fat quarter. It measures 9” x 20”. Four fat eighths equal ½ yard.
Of course, one cannot forget the fat back. What is a fat back? A fat back is a cotton fabric which measures at least 108” wide. Before the introduction of the fat back, quilters had to piece the quilt back to have a size large enough to finish their quilt. What a pain!
A more recent innovation is the jelly roll. A jelly roll is a collection of fabrics based on strips which measure 2 ½” wide by 42” long. Can you imagine the cutting time that saves? There are now quilts designed around the 2 ½“strips. “Strip Happy” is one of those books. Strips can be sewn together and recut as desired. Three strips equal ¼ yard.
The most recent development is the cake layer. A cake layer is a 10” square cut of fabric. Four charm squares would equal 1 cake layer. Imagine combining cake layers, charms and jelly rolls into a quilt. A quilter would be able to reduce cutting time significantly. The accuracy of these cuts would be a boon to beginners unsure of their cutting skills. I guess quilters can have their cake and eat it too!
P.S. I have designed a quilt pattern called "HAVE IT YOU WAY" which incorporates one jelly roll and cake layers. Quilt top picture will be posted this weekend. Perfect for the beginner.
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