How to sew with Jelly Rolls: 4 smart strip-piecing tips

Quilts from Start with StripsGot Jelly Rolls? Great! Hesitant to unroll them? You’re not alone!

Best-selling author Susan Ache (pronounced “AH-kee”) has a passion for strippy quilts, and in her book Start with Strips, Jelly Rolls take center stage—those rolls of 2½"-wide strips from a coordinated fabric collection. Her quilts expand WAY beyond the typical Jelly Roll quilts you may have seen—they’re the kind of quilts you *make* and then *make sure* they get handed down from generation to generation. But that’s just the look of her quilts; you’ll be surprised at how Susan’s simple sewing tricks can turn strips from so-so into sensational.

You’ll find lots of ideas for turning up the WOW factor in the Jelly Roll blocks that Susan makes. But one of her favorite things to do might surprise you: she loves to mix up strips from different Jelly Rolls.

WHAT?!? You can do that?!

Why yes, you can!

Susan explains just how—and why—she mixes Jelly Rolls in her book. She also shares some basic tips for working with those precut bundles of strips, and today we’re sharing a few of them with you! So if you’ve been wondering what to do with your Jelly Rolls, take it from Susan—this is the perfect time to unfurl them.


Susan AcheReady Your Jelly Rolls

Excerpted from Start with Strips by Susan Ache

I sort all my fabric scraps by color. That goes for Jelly Rolls, too. That way, when I want to make a scrappy quilt with a limited color palette, I can find all of the orange or green or turquoise strips I need, without having to thumb through individually bundled Jelly Rolls.

As you’ll see in the project instructions from Start with Strips, I sometimes call for a certain number of strips of each color. That doesn’t mean they all have to come from the same Jelly Roll. You can mix and match the greens or reds or aquas from multiple Jelly Rolls to make your own custom scrap mix. It’s easy. And fun. And a new way of thinking. Here are some more guidelines I like to follow when working with these precut strips with pinked edges.

ELIMINATE THE FUZZ.

Before strip piecing with Jelly Roll strips, I take them one at a time, folded from selvage to selvage, and measure to make sure each strip is 2½" wide. Then ever-so-carefully I lay my ruler on top and trim off the fuzzy edges with my rotary cutter. Brush the bits of fabric lint into the wastebasket, and then you only have to deal with that once—not every time you pick up your blocks.

USE A COLLAPSIBLE DRYING RACK.

When working on a project with tons of strips, draping them over a collapsible drying rack is an excellent way to corral them. They’ll all be visible and at the ready, rather than piled up and wrinkled.

HOLD ’EM STEADY.

When joining long strips, hold the strips together firmly in front of and behind the needle. Do not pull or stretch them; simply holding them firmly will prevent puckered stitches or bowed strip sets.

HAVE FUN!

Somebody once asked me what my best weekend smelled like. The first thing that came to mind was suntan lotion and salty beach air. I have realized that most of the time, the colors I quilt with remind me of being at the beach or on an island. I love a quilt that mushes colors all together while creating a soft, gently used look at the same time. Whatever your preferred color scheme, I hope you’ll consider mixing and matching precuts. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results, and in the end, you’ll have a custom-blended scrap quilt to show for it!


With Susan’s smart tips (we love the drying-rack one!), you’re ready to roll. Take a look at just a few of the quilts you can create with the Jelly Rolls you have—or want to have:

Airboats quilt
Airboats. Susan says, “This quilt isn’t about matching colors, but rather it’s about the contrast in values. Each block takes three fabrics, so figure out how many total fabrics you have to work with; then simply divide them into groups of three.”

Beach Reading quilt
Beach Reading. Susan says, “When it comes to text prints, don’t be afraid to cut them up and turn them every which way in a quilt design. Here they’re used as the background, where they look fabulous and act as a foil for the solids, the stars of the show.”

Cherry Orchard quilt
Cherry Orchard. Susan says, “Looking for a great seasonal project? This quilt is it! Choose two colors and a background and you could make this for any holiday or time of year. Black, orange, and gray for Halloween; rust, avocado, and gold for fall—or simply choose your favorite color scheme and enjoy this beauty all year long.”

See 10 more quilts from Start with Strips >>>

Have you strip pieced with Jelly Rolls?

  • I’m new to strip piecing with Jelly Rolls.
  • I’ve sewn a Jelly Roll strip here and there.
  • I’ve been stripping with Jelly Rolls for quite a while now!

Tell us in the comments!

Browse more books for strippy sewing:

The Big Book of Strip Quilts Scrap-Basket Beauties Striking Strip Quilts


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