A couple of things that became clear to me:
1) Why quilters talk about stashing in fat quarters and half yards (but never plain quarter yards)--It is extremely difficult to have enough fabric for a good repeating pattern using such a thin strip. In a half yard, you can make your own fat quarter, and fat quarters make for better (read: bigger) scrap pieces when you're finished. If you find a fat quarter you like, buy it. If you find a bolt of fabric that you like, buy the half-yard, make your own fat quarter and save yourself the heartache of reworking your pattern to fit the fabric you have.
2) Why quilters don't prewash-- If you've worked out your fabric based on yardage and know you have enough to make it work, it is incredibly disheartening to prewash and see those calculations go out the window because of shrinkage. I'm wondering, though, why that shrinking isn't an issue in a finished quilt. Any ideas? I lost up to two inches on a couple of my pieces.
All of this learning isn't the reason that I've made so much headway on my napkins and not on my quilt, but it certainly makes the project that will be finished in fewer steps a little more appealing.