Tips for choosing fat quarters (from someone who’s bundled 5,000)

fat quartersGot stacks of fat-quarter singles that you couldn’t resist at the store—and now you’re not sure what to do with them?

If you have fat quarters that aren’t in pre-bundled form, it can be challenging to figure out how to choose the right combination of colors, values, and prints and sew them into a quilt you’ll be proud to display. But in Me and My Sister Designs’ book 12-Pack Quilts, you’ll find smart tips for combining fat quarters, all from a bona fide professional fat-quarter bundler. Yes, they exist, and shop owner Julie Karasek’s earned that title! Barb and Mary of Me and My Sister Designs explain how 12-Pack Quilts was born:

Barbara Groves and Mary Jacobson“The idea for 12-Pack Quilts began at a quilt gathering where we heard shop owner Julie Karasek talk about the success of her quilt shop’s 12-pack program. The lecture planted the seeds of this book and we were under way before the event ended! Julie estimates her quilt shop, Patched Works in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, has bundled more than 5,000 fat-quarter 12-packs in the past few years. With that much experience, we consider Julie the expert when it comes to bundling fat-quarter 12-packs!”

Barb and Mary included a special Q & A with Julie in their book to find out how she chooses fat quarters for the popular bundles in her shop. Here are some of Julie’s words of wisdom from 12-Pack Quilts!

Barb: What advice do you give people on choosing 12 fat quarters for a quilt?

Julie KarasekJulie: Most importantly, you want some distinction between your 12-pack fabrics and your background fabric. So, if you’re using light gray for your background, don’t use a light gray tone on tone for one of your fat quarters. Likewise, if solid white is your background, don’t include a mostly white print among your fat quarters.

Think about the overall balance of colors you’re after. Generally, we split the color mix equally. If we have six colors, there are two different prints of each color in the pack. If there are four colors, there are three prints of each. If there are three colors, there are four prints of each, and so on. Most often, we try to keep an even balance of mediums and darks, assuming the background is going to be light. With a dark background, you’d want to pair medium and light fat quarters. If we’re working within one collection of fabrics, we also try not to repeat the same print (in different colorways) too much (no more than two or three times).

Designs from 12-Pack Quilts
Designs from
12-Pack Quilts

Mary: What’s a common mistake when it comes to assembling a 12-pack?

Julie: A rookie mistake is not paying attention to contrast. For example, choosing a beautiful, small-scale light print when your background is also light—there isn’t enough contrast. So be sure to lay your 12-pack of fat quarters atop your background fabric to see that they separate from one another.

If you include high-contrast lights and darks in your 12-pack, think about choosing a strong medium tone for the background. Or, if the pattern allows for high-contrast blocks, use two background fabrics and alternate your lights and darks to create positive/negative quilt blocks.

Caught in the Middle quilt
Caught in the Middle

Barb: What advice would you have for quilters looking to gain confidence in mixing colors for their 12-packs?

Julie: I usually start with “You dressed yourself this morning, so you’re able to do this.” More often than not, it comes back to what they’re wearing. Look at your shirt, your quilted purse; there’s a color palette that you like. And that’s often how we get started.

Bobbins quilt

A mix of 12 fat quarters that didn’t start life as one collection is one of my favorite kinds of 12-pack. Even if you’re cutting fat quarters from larger yardage cuts, the smaller you cut it, the better it might play with other fabrics you already own. We all bought the fabric in our stashes for a reason. So mixing them with other pieces is a perfect departure point for any 12-pack quilt. Dive in and get started!

Heart's Desire quilt
Heart’s Desire

12-Pack QuiltsWe hope you enjoyed Julie’s fat-quarter tips! Ready to head to your stash for a dozen perfectly picked fat quarters? Purchase 12-Pack Quilts and you can instantly download the eBook for free.

Do you have a knack for mixing fat quarters?

  • Nope—I stare at them, they stare at me, and that’s as far as it goes.
  • Sometimes—kind of hit or miss, but I’m getting better at it.
  • Yes—it’s one of my favorite parts of the quilting process!

Tell us your answer in the comments!







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