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5 tips for sewing with jelly rolls

5 tips for sewing with jelly rolls

by Christine Baker

Happy New Year!! Last month on QUILTsocial I experimented with different ways to use WonderFil’s Eleganza threads and this week I’m going to use them again to make a few Valentine-themed projects! I got out the threads from last month and looked around my sewing room for some fabrics to match them. I happened to buy a ‘little bit’ of fabric when Nellie and I went to Quilt Market in October and one of the mini jelly roll packs that I bought looked like it would match perfectly!! So today we’ll get started on our first project – a table runner – and I’ll share 5 tips for sewing with jelly rolls.

A jelly roll with the co-ordinating Eleganza threads

A jelly roll with the co-ordinating Eleganza threads

What is a jelly roll?

Technically the term ‘jelly roll’ originated with Moda Fabrics, but almost all of the fabric companies now make these same types of packages but use different names. Northcott’s version for their Stonehenge line is called a Stone Roll. Jelly rolls usually consist of 40-42 strips fabric from one fabric line. Each of the strips are cut 2½” x the width of the fabric – usually 44”. The beauty of the jelly roll is that you can get a little bit of each fabric from a line without breaking the bank. AND you can use the strips as is (without much sub-cutting) or you can cut them to make much more complex blocks.

5 Tips for sewing with jelly rolls

  1. DON’T pre-wash the strips!!! If you do, you’ll have a huge mess of loose threads and extreme wrinkles. Some manufactures recommend steam ironing the strips before using them.
  2. Some jelly rolls come with a pinked edge. These jelly rolls will leave a LOT of lint on your clothes, in your machine and on your other fabrics. Before you unroll these jelly rolls, use a lint roller on each cut side to eliminate as much loose lint as possible.
  3. Before you start sewing, check the width of the strips to make sure that they are truly 2½” wide. If the edges of your strips are pinked, the width of the strip is from the top of the pinked points on each side of the strip, but double-check just to make sure.
  4. If you want to make a large quilt you’ll probably need two jelly roll packages, so make sure you buy both at the same time or you may be stuck making a baby quilt.
  5. Most quilters use 2½” wide strips to make binding so save the unused strips from your jelly rolls to make scrappy binding.

Strip piecing

On Wednesday, we’re going to talk about the different ways that you can use strip piecing in your quilts because jelly rolls are GREAT for strip piecing. Strip-piecing usually consists of sewing long strips of fabric together, usually width-of-fabric strips, and then rotary cutting across the strips to create smaller, uniform units that are already pieced.

In my August of 2015 QUILTsocial post I gave 3 top tips for perfect strip piecing and these tips apply to use jelly rolls as well.

Picking the strips for the table runner

Jelly rolls usually have a wide range in colors and this one was no different.

 The jelly roll fanned out to look at all of the fabrics

The jelly roll fanned out to look at all of the fabrics

The first thing I did was to pick out 5 strips to make the strip set for the center of the table runner. I intentionally didn’t select any of the ones that were light in color because I want to use a light color as an inner border on my table runner.

The five rose colored strips picked to make the blocks

Five strips picked to make the blocks

I’m going to have a pieced outside border so before sewing the strips together I cut four 2½” squares from each strip. I also selected 5 additional strips and cut four 2½” squares from each of them. I need a total of 40 squares for the outside border.

Four 2½″ squares are cut from the end of the each of the strips

2½″ squares are cut from the ends of the strips

The five strips for the blocks can now be sewn together. I follow my strip piecing tips and sew each consecutive strip from the opposite end. The strips are each pressed after they’re sewn and the total strip set should measure 10½” across. If yours doesn’t measure 10½” then you’ll need to adjust your ¼” seam accordingly.

The finished strip set should measure 10½″ across

The finished strip set should measure 10½″ across

Now that the strip set is sewn, tomorrow we can sub-cut it into our blocks. Tomorrow we’ll talk about split rail fence blocks and finish assembling the table runner top. Like most quilters, I love buying jelly rolls and other pre-cuts and it’s always nice to finally use them to make a project. I hope today you’ve learned something and will find my 5 tips for sewing with jelly rolls useful.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

Go to part 2: 5 ways to use rail fence blocks



Becky February 20, 2017 - 10:19 pm

I learned the hard way that precuts aren’t always accurate. Wish I had read these tips first.

MaryBeth January 16, 2017 - 6:17 am

Looking forward to this series. Your fabrics are very pretty.


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