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Taking the mystery out of precuts

by Christine Baker

This week on QUILTsocial, I’m using the Dreamweaver XE from Brother to make some really cute blocks using charm squares.

If you’re fairly new to the quilting world, you may wonder what a charm square is – well, it’s one of the many quilting fabric precuts that you can buy.

Precuts are just like they sound…fabric that has been “precut” into shapes ready for you to sew. They are cut from an entire line of fabric so that all of the fabrics coordinate with each other, but the different fabric companies call their precuts different names which can be confusing if you’re new to these little gems, so today I’ll talk about the different names and take the mystery out of precuts.

The Dreamweaver XE

The Dreamweaver XE

In May I had the opportunity to go to International Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon and came home with my suitcase packed full of fabric! Here’s an assortment of precuts in different sizes that I bought from a variety of manufacturers.

Quilt Market is the wholesale market where fabric companies, wholesalers, magazines, thread companies, pattern designs and authors display their new items. Quilt shop owners go to purchase new products for their stores.

Quilt Festival is the retail market and is not to be missed! If you get the chance to go, I highly recommend it!!



As you can see from the photo, there are lots of different ways to buy precuts! Let’s go over the main ones and what different manufacturers may call their versions.

Fat quarters

A fat quarter is a quarter yard or metre of fabric cut so that it is short and “fat” instead of long and narrow (across the width of fabric). As a result the piece of fabric measures approximately 18″ x 20″. There are tons of books and patterns that have been written using fat quarters because quilters find them irresistible!! You can buy them individually or in a bundle. Northcott sells fat quarters of their Stonehenge fabrics in bundles called “Stone Rolls”. Most manufacturers use the same name for their precuts that are 18″ x 20″.

Stone rolls

Stone rolls

Here’s one of my patterns that uses a Stone Roll of Stonehenge fabrics, but could easily be adapted to use any assortment of fat quarters.

Opposites Attract | Fairfield Road Designs

Also available for instant pattern download on Craftsy!

Jelly rolls

Jelly rolls are 2½” x the width of fabric strips. There are typically 42 strips in each pack. The term ‘Jelly Roll’ came from Moda as they were one of the first manufacturers to package precuts in this size. As with fat quarters there are a multitude of patterns and books devoted to sewing with 2½” strips!

Packages of 2½” strips from other manufacturers may be called: Rolie Polies, Maple Rolls, Roll Ups, Pixie-Strips, Bali Snaps or Stone strips.

Jelly rolls

Jelly rolls

My Cornerstones pattern shown below uses one pack of Northcott Stone Strips along with two other fabrics for borders. I made it in a few different colorways and have loved every one!

Cornerstones | Fairfield Road Designs

A jelly-roll quilt pattern.

Layer cakes

Layer cakes are made up of 40 – 42 10″ x 10″ squares fabric and once again the term ‘layer cake’ was originated by Moda. They are almost as flexible to use as a fat quarter. You can sew them together right out of the wrapper or cut them up into smaller pieces. Packages of 10″ squares are also known as: 10″ Stackers, Maple Cakes, 10 Squares, Bali Crackers, Patty Cakes and the Northcott version ’tile packs’ as shown below.

Tile pack

Tile pack

A super fast and easy quilt pattern using 10″ squares is our ‘Sliced Tiles’ shown below:

Sliced Tiles | Upper Canada Quiltworks on Craftsy

A super fast and easy quilt layer cake quilt pattern.

Charm packs

A charm pack is made up of 5″ x 5″ squares of fabric. Usually, there are 42 charms in each pack, and since most fabric lines don’t have that many different fabrics in one line, there may be 2 or 3 of the same color print in each pack!

Charm packs are fun for making small projects like baby quilts and bags. Packages of 5″ squares are also known as: 5″ Stackers, Maple Squares, Charm Square, Charm Roll (20pcs), Bali Snaps and ‘Chip packs’ as shown below from Northcott fabrics.

A Chip Pack

A Chip Pack

In addition to all of these options, there are also ‘Honey Buns’ which are 1½” x 44″ strips of fabric packaged in a roll, ‘Turnovers’ which are a pack of half-square triangles, ‘Honeycombs’ which are hexagons, and fat-eighths which are half the size of a fat-quarter. Really, the options are amazing!!

So now that we’re all on the same page with regards to precuts, tomorrow, we’ll get started on my charm pack project. The Dreamweaver XE will be busy sewing up some snowball and nine-patch blocks this week!

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

Go to part 2: How to make a snowball block from a 5″ charm square

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Amy Caldwell August 22, 2018 - 10:30 am

Really enjoying this series. Precuts are my fave and always looking for new techniques for using them. Thank you

Christine Baker August 22, 2018 - 7:35 pm

Me too Amy! Pre-cuts are quilter’s candy for sure!

Sheila August 22, 2018 - 8:54 am

I always wondered about all the different names. Thanks for the great info.

Christine Baker August 22, 2018 - 7:38 pm

Thanks Sheila! I’m glad you found the article helpful.

NancyB from Many Laa August 21, 2018 - 12:39 am

Good article -i love precuts but never know what to do with them!

Christine Baker August 22, 2018 - 7:43 pm

Thanks Nancy! Pre-cuts are one of my favs too!

barbara woods August 20, 2018 - 8:34 pm

great machine and fabric

Christine Baker August 22, 2018 - 7:44 pm

It sure is a great machine Barbara! I’m having lots of fun with it!


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