Guide to Quilting: What are Precuts?

As a beginning quilter, the sheer amount of fabric available can be overwhelming. How does one choose which prints to use for any given project? A simple way to take the guesswork out of selecting fabric is precuts quilting fabric!

What are precuts?

Precuts are multiple prints from a single fabric collection cut to a specific size and bundled together. There are several standard sizes, and some companies even have differing names for those sizes, but they all fall into one of a few types: fat quarters, jelly rolls, layer cakes, and charm packs. Major fabric companies like Moda, Ruby Star Society, Riley Blake, and Free Spirit Fabrics all produce these readymade bundles of their collections.

Precuts are a natural fit for beginners. They come pre-coordinated and are designed to work together harmoniously. It’s not hard to make a knockout quilt even from a very simple pattern when using precuts. As an added bonus, their size reduces the amount of cutting required to make a quilt.

Besties Fat Quarter Bundle by Tula Pink

Fat Quarters

When cutting a traditional quarter yard of fabric, you end up with a piece that measures nine inches by the width of the fabric. A fat quarter is the same amount of fabric, but it is cut differently to accommodate larger pieces for quilting. Picture a half yard of fabric, then cut it in two at the center fold. The resulting pieces measure 18 inches by 22 inches, and each is a fat quarter.

There’s a clear benefit to not having to try to cut all of your larger pieces out of a strip only nine inches wide, but why else are fat quarters the gold standard of precuts? First, buying a fat quarter bundle of a fabric collection is an easy way to get a usable amount of a variety of prints all at once. If you’re not sure exactly what pattern you’ll be using when you start quilting, this is especially helpful. On the other hand, they’re not overly large, so you can experiment, trying new fabrics and prints without committing to yards and yards of fabric. Fat quarter bundles also make great stash builders for the budding (or established!) quilter. Additionally, as the popularity of precuts grew over time, pattern designers began writing patterns specifically with fat quarters in mind.

You can find several of these patterns at Old Spool, like The Elena Quilt by Kitchen Table Quilting, the Fat Quarter Dash Quilt by Quilty Love, and the Nightingale Quilt by Lo and Behold. You can get the prints needed to make these striking statement quilts in one fell swoop with a fat quarter bundle.

Many fabric companies offer free patterns for precuts. This Flower Power Quilt by Free Spirit Fabrics combines piecing and applique from fat quarters into a quilt that blooms like a garden in spring.

Mars Design Roll by Kaffe Fasset

Jelly Rolls

Of course, fat quarters aren’t the only precuts available. Jelly rolls (also known as Design Rolls, 2.5” Rolls, and Rolie Polies, among other aliases) are a group of fabrics cut into strips that are two and a half inches by the width of the fabric. This size lends itself well to a technique called strip piecing that is a great place to start with quilting.

This beginner friendly method involves sewing strips together across the width of the fabric to create a strip set. The strip set is then sub cut into smaller pieced units for blocks. These units can vary in length and orientation, creating visual interest in the finished quilt. You’ll be amazed by the variety of looks that can be achieved with the extremely straightforward technique of strip piecing. Because there’s no need to cut out tiny pieces to begin and piecing is streamlined, this approach also saves a significant amount of time.

Alternatively, strips from jelly rolls are also a perfect size for binding a finished quilt – no cutting required! Simply sew strips together end to end until the total length is slightly greater than the sum of the quilt’s four sides. Then follow the steps to press and attach the scrappy strip binding to your quilt.

Lucky Log Cabins by Quilty Love, Striped Delight by Villa Rosa Designs, and The Luna Quilt by Kitchen Table Quilting are some of our favorite patterns in the shop that can be made with jelly rolls. 

Squared Up by Moda is a free pattern that showcases forty different prints from a jelly roll.

Stay Gold 10” Layer Cake by Ruby Star Society

Layer Cakes

Moving from strips to squares, our next featured precut is the layer cake – also known as a Stacker. This delicious sounding parcel is simple: it contains ten inch squares of coordinating fabric. Zip Tease by Villa Rosa and Star Pop Quilt by Quilty Love can both be made with layer cakes. 

Ruby Star Society’s aptly named Moon Cake Quilt turns pairs of prints from a layer cake into a bold and dynamic design.

Tiny Frights Charm Pack by Ruby Star Society

Charm Packs & Mini Charm Packs

Charm packs are even smaller than layer cakes at five inches square. And tinier still are mini charm packs, at only two and a half inches square. You might be wondering what could be made from squares of that size, and the answer is: plenty! Whip up this Aubri Quilted Tote, or a gorgeous Gilda Quilt by Villa Rosa. 

Free project Mason Jar Quilt by Ruby Star Society is written for charm packs, and The Colors of Moda Zipper Pouch uses a mini charm pack.

Consider Precuts for Your Next Quilt Project!

Whether you’re a beginner embarking on your first quilt project or an experienced quilt pro, precuts can be a shortcut to success. Pick a fabric collection that speaks to you and pair it with a precut friendly quilt pattern to bring your vision to life.

If you’re looking for a helping hand on your quilting journey, consider one of Old Spool Sewing’s quilting classes. Later this month we’ll be hosting a Log Cabin Quilted Pillow course for beginners. Our April to May Your First Quilt: Beginner 5 Week Course is currently sold out, but keep your eyes peeled for the next one on the schedule. This time around we are making the fat quarter friendly Yellow Brick Road quilt, but the pattern changes each time the course is held. After five weeks, you will leave with your very own finished quilt – and a serious sense of accomplishment!

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