Raise your hand if a pretty FQ bundle makes your heart skip a beat. OK now raise your hand if you enjoy cutting horribly creased and wrinkled fabric. No? Nobody? Me neither! That's why I filmed this quick video tutorial showing you the best way to prepare fat quarters for quilting.
Spoiler, it's not quickly throw them on your cutting table then slicing and dicing with your rotary cutter. Sorry! With this technique I suggest you take a bit more time and get each fat quarter nice and flat. It's not fast, but like most things in the quilt making process, it can be wonderfully cathartic and calming if you let it be.
So join me at your ironing board. Flip on your iron to high, and let's iron some fabric together!
The Best Way to Prepare Fat Quarters for Quilting
You May Also Like...
Why Ironing is so Important
FQs, or fat quarters, are a fun way to get lots of different kinds of fabric without purchasing yardage. They are perfect for quilters because many patterns are written for FQs specifically, helping you save on fabric waste and limiting scraps.
If you hop over to the Suzy Quilts pattern shop, you can actually filter quilt patterns by precuts. Check the Fat Quarter box and a long list of pattern options will appear.
FQs are especially hard to resist when they come in a pre-made bundle. Ooooh! My heart! When I see each fabric folded and stacked perfectly my creative juices start to flow. You know the feeling? The flip side of all that warm fuzziness is when I unfold each fabric and remember that to get such a neat stack of fabric, each one had to be folded, creating deep creases.
These deep fabric creases won't disappear without a fight, either. That's because fabric has a memory. Just like fabric remembers being stretched and folded onto a bolt, it also remembers being folded into a little square to stack in a fat quarter bundle. Because these bundles are often stacked with many fat quarters and held together with ribbon or even rubber bands, that extra pressure makes fat quarter creases extra hard to work out.
Cutting folded fat quarters without ironing decreases your accuracy, and can actually cause you to mess up the cutting enough that your fat quarter could be ruined. Ironing those fat quarters may be time consuming, but it's an important step!
Don't Pre-wash Precuts
I don't recommend pre-washing precut fabric because you can lose too much of it to fraying and shrinkage. Quilt patterns that are written for precuts assume that you have that exact amount of fabric. If you lose a couple inches on your FQ because of fraying from your washer and dryer, you may not have enough fabric. We don't want that to happen to you.
So yes, washing and drying fabric is a wonderful way to eliminate creases from store-bought folded fabric. Unfortunately, you just can't do that with fabrics smaller than a 1/2 yd.
Question: Can I mix pre-washed and unwashed fabrics in the same quilt?
Usually, yes you can. If you are quilting with all of the same substrate (like cotton), and mixing those pieces of washed and unwashed fabric around in the quilt top, it will shrink evenly throughout the quilt without causing any weird warping.
If you are mixing unwashed linen (or another substrate that shrinks and frays a lot) with pre-washed cotton, prepare for your quilt to look quite a bit different after it's been laundered. For more info on sewing with other substrates, check out our Fabric 101 tab.
Ironing vs. Pressing
If you're new to quilting, you've probably seen the term pressing instead of ironing in quilt patterns. Huh? It's just an iron, don't you use it the same all the time? Not in quilting!
It's no big deal if you mix up the words. (I do it all the time.) But ironing is what you do before cutting and piecing your fabrics. When ironing, you move your iron across fabric the same way you would iron clothes. Be sure not to pull too hard, apply too much pressure, or stay in the same place for too long as you're ironing. Each of those actions can cause damage to the fabric, like distorting the fibers or even causing scorches.
Pressing is a much more gentle action that you'll do after piecing fabric together. Instead of gliding the iron over the fabric, you'll set it down over a seam and hold it there for a few seconds. Then, lift your iron and set it down over the next area to press and hold it in place. Instead of a gliding action, you are pressing the iron down! This avoids any distortion of your freshly sewn seams.
In the post, How to Press Seams in a Quilt, I got over this difference in more detail. Here's a video from that post.
Ironing supplies are basic, but in case you're curious what I'm using, heres the list:
How to Iron a FQ
In just three simple steps those obnoxious creases will be a distant memory, for both you and your fat quarter.
Step 1: Wet the fabric
The steam function on your iron won't work here. You need to get it nice and damp so you can do Step 2. I suggest using a spray bottle of water. The key is to get the fabric damp, but not soaking wet.
Question: Can I use starch instead of water?
Yes, but I personally don't think starch is necessary in this situation. During the manufacturing process chemicals, like starch, are added to the fabric. One reason we pre-wash fabric is to get those chemicals off. Since we aren't pre-washing these fat quarters, they already have starch on them.
If you are using loosely woven fabric, like a yarn-dyed fabric or something with a bit of stretch, like flannel, you can use some starch. Just so you're not blowing through your starch stash (that stuff can be expensive!), water it down.
Step 2: Massage the fabric
Wad it up! Massage the moisture into the fibers of the fabric. If you are still seeing visible creases during this step, go back to Step 1 and spray it with more water.
Step 3: Iron the fabric
Glide over your now very wrinkled FQ with a hot iron. Assuming these FQs are quilting cotton, your iron can be on its hottest setting. Never rest your iron in one section for longer than a second. Since the fabric is so moist, it can easily scorch.
Cutting Ironed Fat Quarters
Once your fat quarter is perfectly flat, it's time to cut! You should either cut your fat quarters immediately after pressing so they do not get creased again, or leave them stored flat until you are ready to cut.
Did you find this tutorial helpful? Let us know in the comments!