Beginners guide to fabric pre-cuts

If you’re new to quilting, you might be a little confused by some of the strange (but yummy) terms used to describe some of the pre-cut fabric you can buy. So this is a quick tutorial for you to de-mystify these terms.

First of all we have the very popular FAT QUARTER – sometimes just shown as FQ in some patterns. A fat quarters is a quarter yard of fabric, but instead of being cut in a strip across the width of the bolt, giving you a piece 9 x 42 inches, it’s from cutting a whole yard in fourths. So each fat quarter is half the width of the bolt x half the width of the yard, or 21 x 18 inches. You’ll have only one selvage since your fabric is only half as wide as the yard.

Next is a LAYER CAKE (this is where the yummy names start). A layer cake is a stack of squares with each square being just about 10 inches. These are generally cut with pinking shears to reduce the unravelling on the edges. A layer cake stack usually contains all the fabrics in a collection and most of the time is 30 to 40 pieces total. Sometimes you get 2 or 3 pieces of the same fabric in a stack, it all depends on how many different fabrics make up a collection. You can also get layer cakes of all solids. A few of these are pretty handy to have in your stash.

CHARMS, or CHARM PACKS are little stacks of 5 inch squares. These also contain one or more of every fabric in a collection. They’re incredibly handy if you want to make a simple quilt in a hurry with no cutting and measuring. Just sew some of these little squares together. This is also a pretty inexpensive way to have a look at all the fabrics in a collection. Kind of like a collection sampler.

Next are the JELLY ROLLS – another very handy kind of precuts to have in your stash. We have a whole drawer full of these. Jelly rolls are 2-1/2 inch strips cut the width of the fabric, or about 42 inches long, selvage to selvage. These rolls also tend to contain all the fabrics in a collection. If you have 2 or 3 of the same jelly roll, you might find them very useful for borders and even some binding. There is also a larger jelly roll – 6 inches wide instead of 2-1/2 inches wide, and running the width of the fabric. I don’t see these as often as I’d like, which is why I don’t have any samples around to take a picture of.

Last are the HONEY BUNS. Very similar to the jelly rolls in that they are also cut selvage to selvage, but the honey buns are only 1-1/2 inches wide. They’re useful for sashing and quilt-as-you-go projects. You may need to have more than one jelly roll to get enough of specific strips for a project. They do save a lot of cutting if you need a lot of different narrow strips for a project.

And that’s about it for the pre-cuts. My favorites are the fat quarters, what are yours?