Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes & Charm Packs - oh my!
While the cover photo of a jelly roll looks like a lollipop and it sounds like some type of sweet treat, it’s actually a quilting term. Jelly rolls, layer cakes, and charm packs are great ways for a new quilter to dive into this great hobby as the manufacturer or quilt shop has done some of the intimidating work - gathering fabrics from the same collection and packaging it for sale, so the buyer doesn’t have to spend time or energy on deciding coordinating fabrics.
The term jelly roll was invented and trademarked by Moda Fabrics, but virtually all manufacturers package their fabrics in this way as well. It is a collection of quilting fabrics pre-cut into strips 2 ½ inches long by the width of the fabric (usually 42 inches) and while the number of fabrics vary, it is often 20 colours with 2 strips of each included.
A layer cake is a stack of 40 or 42 fabrics from a fabric line that have been cut into 10 inch squares. Having a larger piece of fabric to work with opens up some exciting design opportunities which couldn’t be achieved with strips alone.
A charm pack is another way fabrics can be pre-cut and it generally measures 5 inches by 5 inches. This is another way to get a sampling of all the prints in a fabric line or collection. In the photo above, the Hawaiian fabric was made into a pack by the store. They have cut the fabric and tied it up nicely to make a great gift for a sweet friend (Lynda!) to send someone (me!). Our mothers quilted together and we’ve shared a lifetime together so her thoughtfulness was doubly appreciated when this surprise came in the mail.
While it’s great to see these packaged products and learn more about them, it’s even better to see what quilters have done with them. We have two quilters who recently made quilt tops, Katie and Annette, and had us finish them.
Katie made this quilt for herself out of Batiks (a type of dyed fabric) and choose her favourite colours. The jelly roll gave her a variety yet kept it in the shades she liked. Finding a free pattern online from Jordan Fabrics called Tea Time, she downloaded it and got busy. For the back, she made different blocks and pieced as a strip between two sections of her backing fabric. For the binding, she chose the navy fabric that was in the jelly roll and used as an outer border. Normally the store carries the fabrics in the jelly roll on bolts as well so you can buy it by the yardage and this allowed Katie to buy fabric for her borders, back, and binding.
Annette wanted to bring her time spent in Hawaii home with her so she picked up a charm pack and made a throw. To keep with the floral feel, she chose a pattern that made her think of lattice. While the photo makes the “lattice” look as if it is just white fabric, there is a subtle leaf pattern to it which compliments the Hawaiian fabric. She made her back entirely of this patterned white fabric and bound the quilt with it also. How nice this will be to curl up with as the weather gets colder! It took us back to the islands while we worked on it and we weren’t even there with her!
The good news is the time saved by having the fabrics already grouped will give you time to try and decide which pattern you want to make. There are many (like A LOT!) of free instructions online. Do a Google search, browse Pinterest, or watch YouTube videos and you will begin to get a lot of ideas to use your jelly roll, layer cake, or charm pack. Whatever you decide, have fun!