December 14, 2011

Algebra is for REAL

Warning: This post will bring back those almost forgotten math memories...

So, maybe I'm a nerd, but I get excited when I encounter real life math problems - especially if that real life math problem isn't related to family finances :-) I get excited because it gives me a chance to flex my critical-thinking-algebra-solving muscles and prove -- to myself -- that I've still got it.

If you hate math, you can stop reading here, BUT... if you're up for a brain teaser, keep reading.

A few weeks ago, I bought some fleece fabric that was on sale. I had no project plan at the time, I just liked the print. After removing the selvage, the purchased fabric measured 58" x 59".

The print was perfect for the baby blanket fleece quillow gift I wanted to make for my newest nephew. Except, the fabric was WAY too big for a baby blanket. I needed to trim it down to size.

Because I'm frugal like that, and didn't want to waste any fabric, I decided to make two blankets - one for my nephew and one for a friend - from my 58x59 inch fabric. That sounds simple enough, but here's the catch, not only did I need to cut two baby sized blankets, but I also needed to cut two rectangles of fabric for the matching pockets, that the blankets will fold into.

Before I continue, it might help if I describe the final product. The quillow is a quilt, or in this case, a fleece blanket, that folds up into a pocket, becoming a pillow. (Maybe I should rename this the fleece blillow.) This particular sized quillow folds into fourths lengthwise and then into thirds widthwise before tucking into the pocket which is sewn onto the back of the blanket. See image below.

So from my 58x59" piece of fabric, I need to cut two small blankets and have enough remaining fabric for the two matching pockets. The pocket size needs to be one fourth the blanket length plus two inches  by one third the width plus two inches. The question is, how big of a blanket can I cut to maximize size while reserving enough fabric for making the pocket? (Hints will be given following the images below.)

The shaded area is where the pocket will be sewn on.
Due to the fabric grain and print direction, the pocket cut from remnant z must remain in the same directional orientation.
(Hints given after images.)
My problem solving diagram.

Finished product

y = 59"
x + z = y
1/4 x + 2" = z

Solve for x.


  1. x = 45.6!

    (Ok, I teach pre-algebra and algebra 1, so I BETTER have gotten that right!)
    I love a good math problem on a Thursday; nice job using the most of your fabric, I'm super impressed!

  2. Well done Amy! Your comment made my day!