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Layer Cakes 101

What is a Layer Cake?

Buying quilt fabric as a novice quilter can be reasonably daunting. There's not only the measurements and accuracy of those measurements to consider there is, not least of all, the actual fabric itself. Will it match? How will the finished quilt design look in these fabrics?

As a new quilter, it’s not easy to answer these questions. Of course, one could just buy a quilt kit. Eventually, though, every quilter will want to purchase and select their own fabrics. To help take that intermediate step, there is precut quilting fabric.


There are four major types of precut fabric: jelly rolls, fat quarter bundles, charm packs and layer cakes. Of those, layer cake fabric bundles are extremely popular. There are a ton of layer cake quilt patterns specifically designed to be completed with a single bundle.


So, what are they?


Layer Cake” is actually a proprietary term used exclusively by Moda Fabrics. Officially, at least. It’s a lot like Kleenex: we say “Kleenex” when we mean “facial tissue” because the brand has become synonymous with the product. Layer Cakes are the same.


The more-commonly used name, which provides quite a bit more information about the product (but isn’t quite as fun), is a 10” stacker. Most companies use this term when they’re describing layer cakes, but they are the same thing. A few companies call them 10” charm packs--to distinguish them from the 5” version, of course.


In any event, they’re all the same thing: around 40 or so pieces of 10 inch squares, normally linked thematically somehow. Most often, Layer Cakes are pulled from a designer's fabric collection. Less commonly, they will be organized by another characteristic--so, for instance, a 10” stacker of cool or warm colors.


Layer cake fabric collections are really popular and they’re a great way to begin designing your first quilts. The fabrics are all designed to go well with each other, so beginning quilters can experiment with selecting their own fabrics without worrying about the final product clashing or looking odd.


There are also a number of quilt patterns designed exclusively for use with one (or two or three!) Layer Cakes. These make excellent beginner quilts. All one needs to do is select their layer cake(s), then focus on cutting and stitching their quilt together. Couldn’t be easier!


Our Favorite “Layer Cakes


Now for the fun part! I took the liberty of collecting some of my favorite Layer Cakes. It was, by no means, easy. I don’t see precuts I don’t like often, but I’ve narrowed it down to 10 layer cakes.


Without further ado, the list:


1. Tula’s True Colors - Tula Pink has a background is in design and a flair for modern designs inspired by Warholesque Pop Art. This Tula Pink charm pack is one of her more traditional collections, featuring tight geometric prints and bright, lush colors. I can’t help but be inspired by it!

Tula's True Colors
Tula's True Colors.

2. Calypso Batiks by Kate Spain - Kate Spain, another graphic designer turned quilter, is another one of my favorites. She’s quite a bit more traditional than Tula, but her color sense is amazing! It’s on full display in this batik stacker. With a combination of beautiful lush tone-on-tone colors and intricate patterns, these are some of my favorite batiks.

Calypso Batiks
Calypso Batiks

3. KT Favorites 2019, by Kansas Troubles Quilters - I’m not normally a huge fan of replica 19th century fabrics, but KT Favorites 2019 is a big exception! The collection features a rainbow of beautiful, small-print fabrics that would be perfect for a civil war quilt. I’m especially fond of the antique ivory fabrics in this collection.

KT Favorites layer cake
KT (Kansas Troubles) Favorite, 2019.

4. Canning Day by Corey Yoder - Canning Day is a fun, fabric replicating the bright pastels Depression-era quilters loved. It’s predominantly a floral print and incorporates both large scale and small scale prints. It’s really perfect for that grandma’s flower garden quilt you’ve been wanting to stitch together.

Canning Day.

5. Sunrise by Kaffe Fassett - Honestly, who doesn’t love Kaffe Fassett? We throw the term “bold colors” around quite a bit in this industry, but Kaffe is definitely worthy of the term. Another classically-trained artist, Fassett’s prints run the gamut of the rainbow and fit with his designs--which feature quite a bit of fussy cutting--really well.

Sunrise by Kaffe Fassett layer cake
Sunrise, from Kaffe Fassett.

6. Sarah’s Story by Betsy Chutchian - Betsy Chutchian is another quilter who focuses on 19th century replica fabrics and period-appropriate designs. Sarah’s Story is inspired by three quilts dating from the 1830s and 1840s. The fabrics are modelled after the ones used in those quilts, so it doesn’t get any more authentic than that! I love these prints, but I’m especially fond of “Bridle Path” and “Ripples.”

Sarah's Story, from Betsy Chutchian.

7. Sweet Baby Boy from Riley Blake - If you need to whip up a baby quilt for a newborn boy, then look no further! Sweet Baby Boy features beautiful chartreuse and, of course, baby blue. This could really make a great shower gift!

riley blake sweet boy layer cake
Sweet Baby Boy from Riley Blake.

8. Venetian Marble from Island Batiks - I’m not sure I know a quilter who doesn’t love batiks. They have all the great things about a solid and all the great things about a print rolled up into one. Venetian Marble is in a class of its own, though. These fabrics will provide some amazing texture to your quilts. I’m especially fond of the darker colors in this collection.

Venetian Marble from Island Batiks.

9. Moments by Minki Kim - This is such a fun collection. It runs the gamut of colors and prints: muted to vibrant, pastels, florals, illustration. Every time I look at this collection, I see something new and interesting.

Moments, from Minki Kim.

10. Blackwood Cottage by Kaye England - I love black and white collections and I love floral prints. So, obviously, I love Blackwood Cottage. This is a beautiful monochromatic collection that would make a stunning modern--or even traditional--quilt!

kaye england blackwood cottage layer cake
Blackwood Cottage by Kaye England.

Layer Cakes--ten inch stackers, charm packs, whatever you want to call them--are one of my favorite precuts. They’re great for shoring up your fabric stash or even designing a whole quilt top. They’re a good investment for the money and versatile enough to be used for almost any style of block!


Happy Stitchin’


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