How to Make a Patchwork Quilt: Tips for Using Jelly Rolls – Quilting Daily

I know quilters who enjoy piecing quilts and quilters who enjoy free-motion stitching quilts. But I don’t know too many whose favorite part of quilting is cutting the fabric–especially if they’re preparing to make a large patchwork quilt. Cutting takes a long time and it can be back-breaking work.

“Unexpected Treasure” patchwork quilt pattern
using jelly rolls, by Lisa Chin.

Pre-cut fabric packs like jelly rolls have made this aspect of quilting easier–and who doesn’t love to see those colorful fabric patterns all rolled up together?

You can make a patchwork quilt with jelly rolls simply by strip quilting, literally stitching the strips together. Or, you can cut them up and rearrange the pieces into patchwork patterns like herringbone, chevron, or log cabin. Many quilters like to alternate the pre-cut jelly roll fabric with a neutral shade, such as white, giving the quilts a modern look.

Jelly rolls are so easy to use, you hardly need much advice. But there are a few points to consider before using jelly rolls to make a patchwork quilt. Contemporary quilter Lisa Chin (who blogs at has used jelly rolls extensively, and offers the following tips and tricks:

Jelly Roll Tips by Lisa Chin

1. A jelly roll is usually 40 strips of 2.5″ x 44″ fabric from one fabric line. Roll sizes can vary by manufacturer. Two jelly rolls from the same line can have variations; don’t count on them being exactly the same.

2. Do NOT wash the strips unless you are ready to deal with lots of loose threads and extreme ironing. Some manufactures do recommend steam ironing the strips before using to align the fibers.

patchwork pattern with jelly rolls lisa chin
Lisa alternated jelly roll strips with white fabric to
create this striking patchwork quilt design.

3. Use a lint roller on each cut side of the jelly roll before unrolling to eliminate as much loose lint as possible. There is a LOT of lint due to the pinking of the strips.

4. When you unroll the fabric check the width of the strip from pinked edge to pinked edge to determine where your ¼” seam will hit. Most of the time you will be measuring a ¼” in from the top of the pinked points.

5. Jelly rolls are convenient to use and are a great way to get a small selection of a complete line of fabric. There are also solid color jelly rolls available that are great to use for sashing and binding. There are a lot of patterns available made specifically for use with a jelly roll.

Lisa’s quilt Unexpected Treasure, made with jelly rolls, appeared in the 2012 issue of International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene. You can now purchase this patchwork quilt pattern, along with other quilt and patchwork project patterns from that issue of Quilt Scene.

P.S. Do you use pre-cuts? Why or why not? Leave your comments below.

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