Patchwork and Fat Quarters


Am I the only one who thinks  “Fat Quarters” sounds like a punch line?  Luckily for us sewists, that ‘s not the case.  A fat quarter is a panel of fabric measuring 18″ x 22.” They’re available at JoAnn Fabrics, ACMoore, and other fine retail establishments for $1.99–and often on sale for $ .99.  And two of them will just about cover the straps and lining for one of my patchwork bags.

The pink and green bag above would be perfect for carrying sunscreen, a book and maybe a drink down to the beach. All the 4″ squares were cut from various fat quarters–some left over from other projects–as were the bias tape, straps and lining.  (With an Olfa rotary cutter and mat, a girl can do just about anything)

I constructed this bag in rows of three.  Note that for this particular row, the seams will be pressed to  the left.

Sewing a row of patchwork squares
Sewing a row of patchwork squares

With patchwork squares, nesting the seams is key.  This just means you press the seams for each row of squares in alternate directions, so that the seams will “nest” and lie flat, instead of creating added bulk.

One side of patchwork bag, with nested seams
Wrong side of patchwork bag, with nested seams

Here are the  straps and lining. I was pleased with how the patterns blend together, because I used similar colors.


These five rows of 3 1/2″ fat-quarter squares became yet another bag.

purple bag
purple bag

While I cut the binding from a fat quarter, it wasn’t the same pattern as the other purple squares.  Similar colors make everything blend.



Making bias tape from fat quarters is easy. One quarter yields about 4 yards of 1-inch bias tape, and the smaller size makes cutting easy.

Bias tape making: Clover and Rowenta at work!


Although I usually leave my bags open at the top, my friend Zaida would never carry a bag she couldn’t close.  (She was born and raised in Brooklyn, which sort of explains it all. But I digress.)  This posed a special challenge; but of course, I was up to the task.  As a disclaimer, I must point out that although the squares are from a charm pack,  I constructed the lining from two fat quarters.

Zaida's bag
Zaida’s bag

Sewing without a pattern, I was definitely out of my element.  Still, I knew I could make this work.  So, once the outside of the bag and lining were ready, I measured their finished length and cut four strips, 1 1/2″ wide.  I sewed the zipper to the strips first, and then attached it to the inside before I added the bias binding on top.

Sewing bias trim and zipper
Sewing bias trim and zipper

Here’s a view of the zipper, as seen from above.

Zaida's Zipper!
Zaida’s Zipper!

And the fat-quarter lining looks just right!


For this smaller bag, which I made from scraps from my friend Susan’s apron, I purchased a set of bag handles, and constructed a buttonhole tab. Each square is 4 inches.

Attaching the tab
Attaching the tab

Again, only the lining on this bag was made from fat quarters.

Lining View
Lining View

Closed, the green and purple bag is colorful and quirky.  For the topstitching, I used #44 on my Bernina 240, with Gutermann embroidery thread.


For this last bag, I used handles from JoAnn’s and cut 3-inch squares from two fat quarters.  Each side has 4 rows of 5. Using #46 on my Bernina with embroidery thread, I topstitched in a coordinating yellow.


With a few small decorative touches–voila!–a very cute little bag!

Yellow patchwork bag
Yellow patchwork bag

And here is the lining, made out of fabric leftover from one of my many aprons:

Inside view
Inside view

Each bag is uniquely colorful.  For embellishment, I used applique, ball fringe, decorative top stitching, buttons, and ribbon roses–whatever I thought would appeal to my friends.  (Remember to add any decoration to the front and back panels before sewing the two sides of your bag together.) Choosing fat quarters from my stash meant I had a wide selection of colors and patterns. Don’t worry too much about matching patterns.  No one will scrutinize your bag with a magnifying glass and berate you for using the “wrong” fabric. In patchwork, nothing is ever wrong. When in doubt, remember that keeping your fabrics in the same color family is pleasing to the eye.


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