What is a Jelly Roll?
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a new quilter’s face cloud in confusion after hearing someone at their local quilt shop use the term “Jelly Roll.” This article aims to help those new quilters anxiously looking around for the tray of sweets at the quilt shop.
In this case, a Jelly Roll has nothing to do with doughnuts (unfortunately). When quilters use the term, they’re most likely referring to Jelly Roll fabric, a popular way to bundle pre-cut fabrics. Please allow me to introduce you to the exciting, multi-dimensional world of the Jelly Roll!
A Jelly Roll (which has many names, but more on that later) typically consists of fabric pieces 2.5 inches wide and the width of a bolt of fabric long. That normally winds up being around 44 inches. The package includes around 40 strips of fabric, but individual textile manufacturers will include different numbers of each fabric pattern. Moda offers 2 strips of one print while Free Spirit offers 4, for example.
The reason that there are so many terms for this particular type of pre-cut bundle is because “Jelly Roll” is trademarked by Moda Fabrics. This means that other companies have to use a different term--and they certainly do that. But much like how we in the southern United States refer to all soft drinks as “Coke,” quilters typically use the term Jelly Roll instead of another manufacturer's name.
Fabric companies, and your local quilt shops and online quilting supply retailers, refer to these products by a variety of other, proprietary names: Design Rolls, Strip Packs, Rollie Pollies, Pre-Cut Strips. Despite the abundance of names, they all refer to the same style of product: 40, 2.5 inch strips bundled and sold together.
There is one exception: Honey Buns. Honey Buns, another pre-cut fabric bundle conceived by Moda, are a lot like Jelly Rolls, but instead of 2.5 inches, they’re 1.5 inches wide. They’re almost exactly alike except for that one difference!
Now that we know what Jelly Rolls by any name are, and we’re not too hungry, we can move on to the good stuff.
Why Jelly Rolls?
The biggest reason people choose to use Jelly Rolls--and precuts generally--is that half the work of choosing complimentary fabrics is done for you! Most Jelly Rolls are packaged as part of a theme, typically from a single designer’s collection. Jelly Rolls (Design Rolls, Strip Packs, whatever) are tremendously appealing because the fabrics are guaranteed to look good together!
They also don’t need to be cut. Granted, quilters may further cut the strips, but they already come in a really convenient size for a variety of applications. One cut half-square triangles? Check. Strips? Check (obviously). Jelly Rolls are really versatile and, especially if you’re in a hurry to finish a holiday, birthday or shower gift, they can make the difference!
What to do with Jelly Rolls
If you haven’t yet delved into the exciting world of Jelly Roll quilts, then you are missing out! These projects are available for all experience levels of quilters. They’re a fun way to try something new, and they always look amazing!
Here are some examples we love:
From Atkinson Designs, we have the beginner level project Rockin' Rail Fence. This specific project makes use of one specific type of 2.5 inch strip, Hoffman Jingle Pops, but you can use any roll you'd like!
As we enter the holiday season, this fast and simple pattern not only offers a great project for a beginner but a fun, quick, and easy project to someone looking for festive inspiration to quickly complete before Christmas.
Two more themed 2.5 inch strip projects we love are Ombre Flower Bouquet, which uses Moda Fabrics’ Ombre Bloom Jelly Roll, and Summer Swag Pattern by Krista Moser from The Quilted Life. While we often feature Summer Swag as a patriotic summer project, changing the Jelly Rolls will dramatically change the finished quilt!
Strip Packs, Jelly Rolls, & More!
You can find almost any type of fabric packaged as a Jelly Roll: reproduction fabric lines like Moda’s Le Beau Papillon, child-themed fabrics like Chloe and Friends from Riley Blake--anything your heart desires! Every company is a little bit different, though, so here’s the details about how each of them approach this precut:
Moda Fabrics' Jelly Roll is the flagship representative of the traditionally-packaged Jelly Roll. The fabrics are swirled into a perfectly neat roll that allows customers to easily and quickly look at all the fabrics included in the bundle. They usually contain 40 assorted pieces from a single collection, typically two of each.
Island Batiks organizes their 2.5 inch strips, which they call “Strip Packs,” differently: they’re a rectangular shape, but they’re still l beautifully arranged and simple to evaluate. Island Batik Strip Packs are a great way to save yourself the time you would otherwise spend matching batiks.
For a more traditional approach to naming their 2.5 inch strips, we have Riley Blake Designs’ Rolie Polies. The packaging of a Riley Blake Designs' Rolie Polie is very similar to that of a Moda Jelly Roll. We can’t get enough of those Jelly Roll swirls!
Lastly, Free Spirit’s Design Rolls deserves a mention. These Design Rolls are really similar to other manufacturers’ packages, but they feature four of each fabric in the collection. Kaffe Fassett and Tula Pink fans can find the precuts of their dreams with the chance to get a little of every line in one bundle!
Whether today was an introduction into the large and varied world of fabric precuts, or whether you came looking for clarification or inspiration, I hope you came away with a greater appreciation for the art and thought that goes into making these gorgeous bundles.
So head over to your local quilt shop and look at some precuts or Jelly Roll quilt patterns today!