B1171 Fat Quarter Quickies 4ths.indd

12 Tips and Hints For Working With Precuts

Using precut fabrics can make quick work for piecing a quilt top, since so much of the cutting has already been done for you. But if you’re new to using precut fabrics, there are a few things that will be helpful for you to know.

  • Do you have left-over strips and shapes from your precut packs? Were there some fabrics that just didn’t appeal or weren’t required for your project? Piece them together to use on the back of your quilt. They’ll coordinate beautifully with the front of the quilt and even though they might only be part of what you need, they’ll help reduce the amount of fabric yardage you buy for the backing.
  • Run a sticky lint roller over the top and bottom of a jelly roll while it’s still rolled up. It will pick up many of the tiny threads and snippets from the fabric, reducing the fluff and fibres when you unroll the strips.Run a sticky lint roller over the top and bottom of a jelly roll while it’s still rolled up. It will pick up many of the tiny threads and snippets from the fabric, reducing the fluff and fibres when you unroll the strips.


  • If you’re hooked on making quilts from precuts, consider buying fat quarters of fabric. There is a huge number of patterns available for quilts made from fat quarters, but if you prefer making quilts using 5in squares or 2/2in strips, a fat quarter cuts up into these sizes quickly and easily. American designer Kathy Brown has even developed a specialist ruler to make the task quicker and easier and published a book of projects using fat quarters and smaller precut shapes. Kathy’s Brown’s book shows how to cut fat quarters efficiently so you can make quilts from any pattern for precuts. Carribbean Cooler (above) is one of the projects in the book.
  • Many quiltmakers love the look of scrappy quilts, but if you don’t have a large stash of fabric it can be very expensive to acquire a wide range of different colours and prints to create a scrappy-style project. Precuts are an economical way of giving yourself a wide range of different fabrics to use in one project. While many quiltmakers buy precuts because they love to work with a coordinated set of fabrics, it’s also perfectly feasible to make scrappy quilts from precuts. Buy them from a variety of different ranges and mix them up in the one quilt.
  • Do your family and friends struggle to buy you birthday and Christmas gifts that you love? Precuts are the answer. Direct them to your local patchwork shop — be it a bricks-and-mortar store or an online retailer — and suggest they buy you a precut. There are precuts to suit all budgets and, of course, in all manner of colours and styles. They have the pleasure of shopping in confidence and you receive the perfect gift for a quiltmaker. Talk about win/win!
  • Measure your precuts before you start working with them. This is especially important if you are combining precuts produced by different fabric companies. You’ll probably find a slight variation in size — just as you would if different quiltmakers had cut fabric for you. Trim your strips, squares and shapes to a common size to ensure accuracy as you make your quilt.If you’re introducing someone to patchwork, consider teaching them to quilt using precuts. That way they’ll get to the fun sewing part quickly and not get bogged down on the preparatory cutting. Their confidence will grow and they’ll see results much sooner.
  • Bali Pops are sets of 2/2in strips of Hoffman Bali batiks cut across the width of the fabric. Many batiks don’t have a clearly discernible right and wrong side, unlike most other quilters’ cotton fabrics. So how do you tell which is the right side of the strip and which is the wrong side? Some people look at the clarity of the printed design and use the side that has the sharper outlines as the right side. But if colour is important to your project, use the side that suits your needs better. The good news is that it doesn’t really matter. After all, it’s the same fabric and if you can’t see any difference between one side and the other, no one who studies your quilt will be able to either.
  • Precuts aren’t just for patchwork. Layer cakes and charm squares are perfect for increasing variety in appliqué projects too.
  • Do not pre-wash precuts. Even if you always pre-wash yardage, make an exception for precuts. It’s almost inevitable that washing, soaking or rinsing your precuts will cause them to fray, ravel, shrink and/or become distorted. After your quilt is finished, wash it using a “colour catcher” in the machine; these are readily available from the laundry aisle of your local supermarket. They catch any dye that might be released from the fabric and prevent it from bleeding onto other parts of your quilt.
  • Do precuts seem expensive? In Australia, jelly rolls, for example, typically sell for between $40 and $55. A jelly joll has 40 strips, 2/2in x width of fabric: that’s the equivalent of 2.5m (100in) of fabric. So you’d need to buy yardage for $16 per metre or less to source it more cheaply than a $40 jelly roll. If the jelly roll sells for $50, you’d need to buy yardage for $20 per metre or less. That is possible, of course, if you shop around — although perhaps not for the very latest fabric ranges. But how much yardage will you need to buy to give yourself the range and variety of fabrics for your project? How much time will you spend selecting all the different fabrics you need? And then pre-washing, ironing and cutting them before you start sewing? How much fabric will be unused after your project is finished? Depending on your needs, precuts might be very good value indeed.
  • Occasionally you might find that fabrics in your precut pack have been cut crookedly or off-grain. Return them to the shop where you bought them and also let the fabric company know. Precuts are typically cut by computerised machinery so they should be accurate and consistent, but errors do occur. They can’t be rectified, however, unless customers provide feedback.
  • If you want to store left-over strips from a jelly roll rolled up rather than flat, a tall paper cupcake or muffin case conveniently stores several and looks cute on your bookshelf.