Scanning the list of materials for your next project tutorial, you suddenly come across a term or two that causes you to stop and scratch your head: Fat Quarters, Charm Packs, Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes, Honey Buns. Have you accidentally clicked from a sewing site to a recipe site? All these items sound just delicious, but what the heck do they have to do with sewing? They're the names for various types of fabric pre-cuts. And though not edible, they are great time and money savers.
Pre-cut bundles of fabrics have long been a favorite of quilters; but recently, all kinds of sewers, including the home décor aficionados here at Sew4Home, have become fans. Pre-cuts shorten your cutting time and give you an affordable way to purchase an entire collection of fabric without breaking the bank. We turned to Jocelyn Lai, one of our friends from FatQuarterShop.com, to help us prepare a guide to the wonderful world of pre-cuts.
Fat Quarters are a quilter's best fabric friend. They measure 18" x 22", were the first specialty cut on the market, and are still the most common. What makes it 'fat'? A traditional ¼ yard of fabric is cut from selvedge to selvedge (bolt end to bolt end), which gives you a piece measuring approximately 9" x 44", depending on the width of fabric you are working with. The majority of quilting-weight fabrics are 44" wide. This long and narrow traditional cut isn't very flexible in terms of the shapes you can cut from it. The 18" x 22" Fat Quarter gives you a squarer shape with the same amount of fabric, but a much better format from which to cut smaller squares, rectangles and/or triangles. It is actually a full quarter of a single yard of fabric (36" x 44"). It you divide a 36" x 44" piece into four equal pieces, each one will be 18" x 22". Quite a few fabric companies now offer Fat Quarter Bundles, which contain Fat Quarters of every print in a collection.
In the quilting world, a Charm is a 5" x 5" square of fabric. These are the smallest of the pre-cuts, and depending on the fabric company, each Charm Pack usually contains at least one of each print in the line. Moda Fabrics (the industry leader when it comes to inventing new pre-cuts) puts forty-two pieces in their Charm Packs, so there are usually duplicates and triplicates of some prints. Charm squares are great for easy patchwork quilts. You can sew them up without slicing and dicing and - voila , quilt top done! Charm Packs are the least expensive pre-cut on the market, and like Fat Quarters, are very common from nearly all the fabric manufacturers.
Here's an example of a baby quilt made with Moda Wonderland by MoMo Charm Parks. This photo is from Fat Quarter Shop's Customer Gallery Flickr Group, used with the permission of Nichole Pyle.
Moda Fabrics coined the term Jelly Roll for their cute, round fabric treats. A Jelly Roll has forty 2½" x 44" strips of fabric (cut from selvedge to selvedge). These forty strips are layered, rolled up and tied with a bow. Jelly Roll strips can be used to achieve many fun, scrappy effects. Try sewing several strips together along the length, slicing them into 2" sections, and mixing up the sub-cuts as an easy patchwork method. Or, start with a 2" square cut and keep adding strips along the sides for a log cabin effect. The possibilities are plentiful! A few other fabric companies have followed suit, offering 2½" strips under other names, such as Free Spirit Fabric's Design Rolls, which include twenty-four 2½" x 44" strips.
Here's an example of an interesting quilt design done with Moda Wonderland by MoMo Jello Rolls. This photo is from Fat Quarter Shop's Customer Gallery Flickr Group, used with the permission of Lara's Theme.
A Layer Cake is like a super-sized Charm Pack! A Charm Pack contains 5" x 5" squares; it's big brother the Layer Cake (another pre-cut dreamed up by Moda Fabric) is made up of 10" x 10" cuts of fabric. This gives you a lot of fabric to play with, especially for larger-scale prints. If you need to cut shapes for appliqué or create squares of different sizes, Layer Cakes are your best bet. Moda's Layer Cakes contain forty-two pieces. A few other fabric companies are beginning to offer 10" x 10" squares as well under other names, such as Robert Kaufman Fabrics, who calls their forty-piece sets simply "10 Inch Squares."
If the Layer Cake is the Charm Pack's big brother, the Honey Bun is the Jelly Roll's little sister. The Honey Bun (again, a Moda Fabric creation) is made up of forty 1½" x 44" strips. Sewn up, using a ¼" seam allowance, these strips finish at 1" wide for some very cute and intricate effects.
That's just a quick overview of the most popular pre-cuts on the market. A BIG thanks to Fat Quarter Shop and Jocelyn Lai for helping us 'cut through' the confusion. For more details and information about these, and other less common pre-cuts, like Fat-Eights and Turnovers, check out Fat Quarter Shop's Online Guide to Specialty Cuts.
Here are some exisiting Sew4Home project tutorials that have used pre-cuts. We have more pre-cut projects planned for the coming months.