Homemade Holiday: Jelly Roll Rug

Dec 13, 2021

Blog Tutorial Written By: Nancy Scott of Masterpiece Quilting


I always struggle to find functional yet attractive rugs that match our décor.  Our walls are painted blue-gray and we have medium brown hardwood floors and way too many pieces of antique furniture, so I tend to think that would be easy to match but most ready-made rugs have a whole host of other colors that I’m not interested in.  With the jelly roll rug, I have the option of selecting fabrics that match my colors and my style and then easily creating my own rug. 


It’s super easy and a lot fun to make a Jelly Roll rug.   I’m using Bosal’s Katahdin On-A-Roll 100% Organic Cotton blend precut 2-1/2” batting strip and a package of 40 precut 2-1/2” fabric strips from Island Batik.


The first step is to join the precut fabric strips into one long strip.  Using a diagonal seam (just like when you are joining binding strips), stitch all the strips together, trim to approximately ¼” seam allowance and press all seam allowances open.


One of the most challenging aspects of making a jelly roll rug isn’t the actual making of it, rather it is managing the quantity of fabric and batting so it doesn’t get tangled and in your way while you are making the rug.


The easiest way to handle the long fabric strip is to fan-fold it into a bundle that you can loosely secure at both ends.   If you have a preference on which end of the fabric is in the center of your rug, start folding the fabric with that end on the bottom so the fabric color that is on the outside of the finished rug will be at the top of the bundle.


Making the Fabric & Batting Tube

Beginning with the end of the fabric strip that will become the outside of your rug, lay the batting strip on the wrong side of the fabric strip.

Gently fold and finger press the strips together lengthwise for about 6”.  Using your cutting grid and rotary cutter cut the folded, layered strip at an angle beginning ½” from the folded end and tapering to full width by 6”.


Open the folded strips and trim the narrow end of the batting ½” from the end.

Fold the fabric back over the batting to encase the batting end.

Refold the raw edges on both sides of the layered batting and fabric strip to the center with both raw edges touching.  Fold the layered strip in half lengthwise again so all raw edges are enclosed.   I found clips were a great way to hold the folded strip together.

Now we are ready to start stitching!

Next move the batting roll and the fan-folded long fabric bundle to your sewing table.  The instructions suggest placing the fabric on the floor so it can feed up to your machine.  I know I’m not the only one with extra “4-legged helpers” in their sewing rooms.  To keep my Corgi from being tempted by the fabric bundle, I put it in a vintage enamel bowl which worked great.

Position the folded fabric under your presser foot with the single folded edge to the left and the double folded edge to the right.  Start stitching the tapered end very close to the double folded edge and then as you approach the full width of the strip, transition your stitching to 1/8” – ¼” from the double folded edge.  Note: I’m using a contrasting thread to make it easier to see in the photos.  A matching thread or variegated thread would be my first choices.

The goal is to make sure you stitch through ALL layers, keeping any raw edges tucked into the center of the fold while keeping the double folded edges even.  I found folding and clipping the layered strip at regular intervals made it much easier.


I’ll be honest, even for an experienced quilter, the process felt a little awkward at first until I made a few adjustments that gave me greater success.

  • I was struggling with getting my machine to stitch correctly on the tapered end so I flipped the strip around and started roughly 6” from the end and stitched out to the end. This worked beautifully.  I then flipped the strip the correct way and re-started from where I began the first time.
  • I was experiencing skipped stitches so I changed my needle, adjusted the stitch length longer to 3.0 mm and also adjusted the pressure on my presser foot.
  • I was able to adjust the needle position which allowed me to align the double folded edge with the inner edge of my presser foot and easily maintain a scant ¼” seam.

Every sewing machine is a different, so make adjustments as needed to get the results you want. 


Making the Coil / Ball

As you are stitching the layered strip, start rolling the resulting tube into a ball. 

The ball doesn’t have to be perfect but it does need to be wrapped so the tube stays flat and doesn’t twist.  If there are an extra set of hands available as you are sewing, I found it helpful to have someone else wrapping the tubing on the opposite side of my machine as I stitched. 

As you approach the end of the fabric strip.  Trim the selvedge off the fabric strip and trim the batting ½” shorter.  Using the same method for starting the strip, turn the fabric end over, encasing the batting and then continue stitching the folding tube with the final end being blunt.

Zig-Zagging the Tube to make the Rug

After assembling the tube, we are ready to assemble the rug!

Measure 17” from the blunt end of the long tube and place a pin. 

Fold the tube over at the pin placement so the double folded edges of the tube are on the left side and the single folded edges are to the right. 

Using a wide zig-zag stitch, start stitching at the pin placement, backing stitching to secure, and continue joining the two tubes together.   I started with a 5.5 mm wide x 2.0 mm long zig-zag.  Make adjustments as needed to ensure that you catching ALL the thick layers of the tube while keeping the tubes straight and flat.

At the end, make a hard pivot wrapping the tube around the blunt end.  Yes, there will need to be a few pleats and gathers to accomplish this.  Don’t worry – when the rug is finished, you will never see them!

Continue zig-zagging down the long straight section and repeat the process of hard pivoting around the opposite end.   As the rug grows in size, the hard pivots will be replaced with more of an easing-around-the-curve movement.

To keep my fabric ball from becoming a distraction for my 4-legged studio mate, I plopped it in the same bowl I had used previously.  This allowed the fabric to flow evenly as I was sewing.

As your rug grows in size, you will need to support it so it doesn’t curl or wave.

If your sewing machine is set into a sewing cabinet with a large table, you are good to go.

I work with my machine set on top of my desk with an extension table on the machine.  As the rug got larger than my extension table and started to droop over the edges, I got creative and used a strategically placed box and some bolts of fabric to rest the rug on.  Don’t be afraid to get creative to expand your work area.  If the boxes hadn’t been the ideal height and handy to grab, some under-bed sweater totes were next on my go-to list. 

Continue the round and round zig-zagging to attach the tube onto the center of the rug.  As my rug got larger, I found I could increase the speed of the machine and also increase my stitch length a bit.   With my fingers, I worked to butt the two edges together perfectly as they went under the presser foot.  This helped keep the rug flat as I was sewing it.

If your rug does start to curl as you are stitching, stop and press the area flat again using a starch-alternative.  If pressing doesn’t get things under control, rip back to the section where it became unruly and stitch again.

When you reach the end of the tube, tuck the tapered end under the edge of the rug and continue zig-zagging over it to have a smooth outer edge. 

Here is what my finished rug looks like.  I arranged the fabric strips by color so the rug would have a color blocked effected.

And like always, Ruby had to give her “paw of approval” on the project. It’s the perfect size for her to take an afternoon nap!