Fabric Precuts and Their Place in Quilting


Whether you are a new or experienced quilter, you have probably heard the term "precuts." So what are precuts? Simply put, they are pieces of fabric that have been cut into specific sizes for a particular purpose. Precuts have become very popular in the quilt world because they are an excellent way to save time and money while still allowing for creative expression in your quilt projects.

In this post, we will explore some of the most common sizes of pre-cuts. The largest and most popular of these is the Fat Quarter, which comes from a half-yard cut of fabric off the bolt (18" wide) and is then cut at the fold line as it sits on the bolt to be a "fat" quarter yard (18" x 22"). These differ from a straight quarter yard of fabric off the bolt (9" x 44"). Four fat quarters equal one yard of fabric, making them great when you need a piece of fabric wider than 9" but don't require a full half-yard of fabric. They are especially popular among those who applique or make small projects.

The next popular size is called a Jelly Roll, which contains 2.5" x 44" strips of fabric. The actual Jelly Roll usually has 40 total strips and is from a specific collection of a fabric line. Other companies also produce 2.5" x 44" strips in a "roll," but they cannot legally use the term jelly roll, just as Kleenex is a facial tissue, not all facial tissues are Kleenex. These strips are perfect for strip quilts, log cabin quilts, multi-fabric sashing, borders, binding, and, of course, for building a quilter's fabric collection.

Up next are the very popular Charm Packs, which are 5" x 5" squares. They are great for beginner quilters because they are ready to put side by side to create a quilt top of squares. They are usually a mixture of prints from a collection or just a single color. Charm Packs are often exchanged between quilters to help increase their fabric collections of prints. Mini Charms are the smaller sister of Charm Packs, and they are 2.5" x 2.5" squares of fabric (40 pieces). Great for those smaller projects or just piecing to create a large block to add to a quilt to create an accent by the contrast in size.

Larger Charm Packs are known as Layer Cakes, which are 10" x 10" squares of fabric (40 pieces). They are also great for variety and a quick way to assemble a quilt top. Although the term "Layer Cake" is a branded name from Moda fabrics, other 10" x 10" fabric packs from other companies may have different names. Moda fabrics also came up with the term "Honey Buns," which are 1.5" x 44" strips of fabric (40 pieces). They are perfect for when you need narrower strips for piecing.

The advantage of using precuts is that you get a large variety of prints, and secondly, you save time in cutting your fabrics. If you work with 2.5" as your size, then you are ready to open and sew! If you love making sampler blocks, then fat quarter bundles may be your favorite!

However, I do offer a word of caution. Precuts are done by manufacturers in large warehouses, so there may be times when the cut size is not exactly correct or straight (in rolls). Exercise caution when you first open and test the measurements. There are steps you can take to deal with slight differences, so feel free to ask me.

Just a note, while Moda uses sweet food terms like Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes, Honey Buns, Bluebird Quilts prefers to use its own terms. For example, Color Twigs consist of 21 strips measuring 2.5” x 44” in a long package, while Tree Knots include 30 or more 2.5” x 44” strips in a roll. Additionally, Color Branches come in packages of 40 10” x 10” squares that are rolled and packaged for your convenience. As you can see, Bluebird likes to stay in the trees with their terminology!

So, there you have it fellow quilters! Precuts are a wonderful option to add variety to your quilting projects and unleash your creativity. By using precuts, you'll save cutting time, and be able to sew more. Additionally, be sure to look for patterns in books, magazines, and our store that work well with precuts.

Wishing you a day filled with color, variety, and happy stitching!

Bluebird Janet