Little Bits Quilting Bee | talking pre-cut fabric

by kath_red on 06/02/2012

in Little Bits Quilting Bee, Quilting, Sewing+Fabric

Throughout February I will be featuring quilts from my book Little Bits Quilting Bee (published by Chronicle late last year). Because designer fabric is often only in print for one season it can be difficult for quilt designers and authors to choose fabrics that will be still available when the book or pattern is published; so to help you out I will be offering advice and alternate fabric choices for many of the quilts in my book. You’ll also need a copy of my book to make the quilts – and they are available in all good book shops and online too.

What is pre-cut fabric?

Pre-cut fabrics are a series of co-ordinating fabrics — usually from a single collecton — especially cut and packaged by the manufacturer. Using these pre-cuts has a few benefits:

  • 1. You get a whole bunch of different fabrics at once – making it easy to build up your stash. You can use them together in one quilt or mix them with other fabrics from your stash too.
  • 2. Coordinating fabrics and colours for a quilt is easier.
  • 3. The packs are cut into handy pieces allowing you to whip up  a quilt very easily and quickly.

Do I need to pre-wash pre-cut fabric?

Pre-cut fabrics are a little difficult to pre-wash, because the pieces are so small they get tangled up in the wash and are time consuming to iron. I usually don’t worry about pre-washing my pre-cuts – however there are a couple of exceptions:

  • 1. You should pre-wash hand dyes and batiks as the colours are likely to run.
  • 2. You should pre-wash dark colours – especially red, purple and navy as these are more likely to run.
  • 3. You should pre-wash reds especially if you are using them with lighter colours.

If you didn’t pre-wash your fabric before making the quilt and you are worried the colours might run (especially if you have a white background) — all is not lost, there are a few things you can still do to ensure the colours in your quilt do not run the first time you wash:

  • 1. Wash your quilt in cold water on a gentle cycle and throw in some colour catchers to soak up any dye that might come out.
  • 2. Wash your quilt in cold water with vinegar – the vinegar will set any colours that are likely to run.
  • 3. Use a product such as synthrapol in the wash, this special detergent is used to remove unattached excess dye.

In my book Little Bits Quilting Bee, I use four different types of pre-cuts to create the 20 unique quilts: Fat Quarters, Charm Squares, Jelly Rolls and Layer Cakes.

Fat quarters:

Fat Quarters are the most widely available and used pre-cut fabric. A fat quarter is literally a 1/4 of a yard of fabric, but it is not cut selvedge to selvedge it is cut by cutting half a yard of fabric in half widthways. Fat quarters are generally 18 inches by 22 inches. Most fabric companies offer Fat Quarter bundles, which contain every print in a collection.

Charm Squares:

A charm square is a 5 x 5 inch square of fabric, and are great for easy patchwork quilts. Charm packs are made up of about 40 pieces of  5 inch squares and are equal to approx 3/4 of a yard of fabric.

Jelly Rolls:

Jelly Rolls are a Moda invention, but are available under other names from different fabric manufacturers: Bali pops, Design rolls, Strip-tease buns, Sushi Rolls, and Roll-ups are just some of the names these are sometimes called. They usually contain forty strips (well 40-44 strips — but check before buying how many are included as different manufacturers offer different amounts of strips) and are a standard 2 ½ inches wide. These are perfect for binding and sashing but are also great in any strip type quilt design.

Layer Cakes:

Layer cakes are 10 inch square packs of fabrics, containing usually 40 squares. The total fabric yardage is about 3 1/2 yards. Layer cakes are fun to use because they are so versatile, you can use them as they are and they make for a quick and easy quilt, but you can also cut them into squares and triangles or use them for applique too. Various fabric companies, as well as Moda, offer these 10 inch square packs under other names, but the amount of squares in a pack may vary.

All images are copyright John Paul Urizar who did a great job on the photography in the book. 


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sally February 6, 2012 at 10:50 am

This is going to be fun! I love your book!


2 Robin February 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I just took out this book yesterday–I am excited to see what you highlight!


3 Fabric Wench February 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I agree with your tips about pre-washing pre-cuts, except…using vinegar to prevent dye runs only works with wool, silk and nylon, and only in conjunction with heat. It is useless for cottons and the fiber-reactive dyes used to print them. If you would like to learn more, visit the top hand dyeing website on the internet run by Paula Burch, a scientist who also hand dyes. She has extensive information on the topic., or for the use of vinegar as a dye fixative,


4 Jowyn Jenson February 12, 2012 at 12:02 am

Thanks for the tips on pre-washing. Previous to your tips I never pre-washed pre-cuts. Will from now on using your tips.


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