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


76 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I haven’t done very much jelly roll sewing, but I do have a few waiting in the wings!

    —Jane on November 19, 2018
  • I have never owned a jelly roll! But I would love to get one one day in blues! My colours! I find them so pricey!

    —Judy on November 19, 2018
  • I have done a few, but have many rolls to make up quilts with.

    —Linda Gidos on November 19, 2018
  • I bought a jelly roll because I thought it was pretty. Haven’t opened it or sewn with it yet

    —Lois on November 19, 2018
  • I have sew a jelly roll strip here and there

    A. Bouwman on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve only been brave enough to use two jelly rolls for quilts. Otherwise, they stay their pretty selves all tightly wrapped and on a shelf.

    —DanyseF on November 19, 2018
  • I have started to sew 1 jelly roll quilt.
    Need to finish it now because it is Christmas themed!

    —jetta on November 19, 2018
  • Love your tips, thank you! Sometimes mine are wavy, so haven’t liked sewing with strips. I do know not to use steam when pressing, that has helped a lot. Also to sew shorter strips together when you can.

    Barb H. on November 19, 2018
  • Yes I’ve sewn a jelly roll. I like the tip to cut off the fuzzy edges. I think that will help with accuracy.

    —Rita Long on November 19, 2018
  • I have sewn a few jelly roll strip quilts. The idea of using a folding rack is great. I save the fuzz/small trim pieces in clear mason jars to make "quilt jelly" that I love to place on the window sills.

    —Regina Harris on November 19, 2018
  • Still haven’t bought a jelly roll. No room in the closet or drawers.

    —SandyMay on November 19, 2018
  • I have jelly rolls but I have no idea how to use them. I should get this book!

    —Barb Walsh on November 19, 2018
  • I have had limited use of jelly rolls thus far – mostly because I have felt constricted in what I’m able to do with them? I think I could really use this book in my life to fix that dilemma!

    —Robin on November 19, 2018
  • i have been stripping with jelly rolls for quite some time.

    —Kathy Adams on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve only used once but I love all these quilts!! Will have to give these a try.

    —Jody Randall on November 19, 2018
  • I have sewed a few quilts with jelly rolls but always used one roll, never mixing rolls. I like the idea of combining the rolls.

    —Pat Terry on November 19, 2018
  • I ‘be sewn a Jelly Roll strip here and there, but would like to use some of Susan Ache’s tips for making unique quilts.

    —J Stamm on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve made a few quilts using jelly rolls, but it’s still hard to open them!

    —Verna A. on November 19, 2018
  • I have made a dozen quilts from jelly rolls, three of them were quick jelly roll race quilts. The others were more complicated patterns. I especially like patterns that combine charm squares and jelly rolls.

    —Nelda Mohr on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve used a couple of them and would like to use more. So convenient!

    —Linda Lee Ahn on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve seen a few jelly rolls

    —Mary on November 19, 2018
  • I love Jelly Rolls and have acquired a good stash of them. Now I need good ideas and patterns to use them when I (finally) retire next year! Thanks so much.

    —Laurel Smith on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve been working with jelly rolls a lot over the past several months preparing a program for my quilt group.

    —Rochelle Summers on November 19, 2018
  • I use jelly rolls frequently, but I have to admit I never thought of taking them apart and sorting them by color. That opes up a new world of possibilities.

    —Maria L Zook on November 19, 2018
  • I have a number of jelly rolls because I loved the colors. I haven’t made any of them up yet because I haven’t found the "perfect" pattern. I really need Susan’s book!

    —Ann West on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve been stripping for years.

    —Fran Claassens on November 19, 2018
  • Sewn a few jelly rolls but would love to do more!

    —Rilla Burnham on November 19, 2018
  • Love the idea of jelly rolls. Have one or two. Even opened them to fan them out and look, but have yet to use one!

    —Mary on November 19, 2018
  • I used a jelly roll of batiks to make a braid quilt. So quick and easy! Thanks for the tips.

    —Linda Harper on November 19, 2018
  • I have a gazillion jelly rolls and have never really tried to make anything with them so I’m super happy to see all of the hints and the new book. The drying rack is something I use all the time for drying delicate items, but never thought of using it to keep my strips nice and neat after pressing them. Too easy I guess, but thank you so much.

    —Betty Grove on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve been stripping with Jelly Rolls for quite a while now! I have had some that were less than 2 1/2 inches or had an elbow in the middle. That’s frustrating and hard to work with, so I haven’t worked with any lately.

    —Judy Chastain on November 19, 2018
  • I love jelly rolls. I am always looking for easy patterns for charity quilts so this is great.

    —Christi on November 19, 2018
  • I have a couple of jelly rolls. I keep bouncing around trying to decide what to quilt. Love the tips.

    —carol on November 19, 2018
  • I can’t bear to open the jelly rolls once purchased…they’re so pretty all rolled up!

    —Teri N on November 19, 2018
  • Love you working with jelly rolls. Your patterns are delightful and I see a few i would love to make.

    —Martha Cook on November 19, 2018
  • Love jelly rolls. Always ready to see new patterns and I can see there are more than a few in your book that I want to make.

    —Martha Cook on November 19, 2018
  • I have sewn a Jelly Roll strip now and then.

    Molly Riemann on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve been a fan of jelly rolls for some time. But I do hate the fuzz from the pinked edge. I saw a tip, run a lint roller over the edge before you unwind the roll to get rid of it. I tried it and it really helps.

    —Lerlene Nevaril on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve never sewed with jelly rolls.I’ve seen what others have done with them, just never used then myself. Love the ideas in the info about the Start with Strips book. It’s on my wish list.

    —Donna K on November 19, 2018
  • I have been stripping with jelly rolls for years and love them!

    —Marilynn on November 19, 2018
  • I love sewing with jelly rolls! I have made several quilts like that and really enjoyed doing them. The hardest part is taking your jelly roll apart.

    —Cynthia Fedak on November 19, 2018
  • I have sewn up a few jelly roll quilts. It is very hard to unroll that roll!

    —Wendy on November 19, 2018
  • I have used jelly rolls many times to make a quick baby gift or for charity quilts. Very convenient !

    —Joan H. on November 19, 2018
  • I find Jelly Rolls, unlike Charm packs or Layer Cakes, to be a bit intimidating – maybe because of the "bowing" problem I’ve read so much about.

    —Tricia Hoffmann on November 19, 2018
  • I’m new to jelly roll quilting, but I have a few bundled packs of strips that I look forward to using!

    —Teri Gailey on November 19, 2018
  • I completed my first quilt in October using jelly rolls. I have plans to complete another using jelly rolls.

    —Pamela Allen on November 19, 2018
  • I have sewn a few jelly rolls. We had a "Jelly Roll Race" sewing quilts to donate at a quilt retreat. That was a fun and quick way to help those in need. Thank you for the generous give-a-way.

    —Edith Gorzo on November 19, 2018
  • I have not sewn with many jelly rolls…the patterns I saw prior to these, were all quite boring looking ZThese are gorgeous!

    —Geri Alper on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve sewn a Jelly Roll strip here and there -mostly in jelly roll races or simple patterns.

    —Erika on November 19, 2018
  • I’m new to strip piecing with Jelly Rolls. I’ve had a jelly roll since I found it on retreat many years ago and look forward to breaking it out and creating a beautiful quilt.

    —Carol on November 19, 2018
  • I have several strip rolls but I an not comfortable in starting a quilt. Now here I read that several rolls can be combined to put together different colors. This sounds great and again I am hesitant to start. I need her book.

    —Althea Klosterman on November 19, 2018
  • I love strip piecing! I’m not a very patient person, and I want to get to the finished quilt top as quickly as possible. Strip piecing is my go-to method!

    Lisa on November 19, 2018
  • I have jelly rolls but I guess I just like to look at them

    —Barbara Lotthammer on November 19, 2018
  • I’ve bought a few but find them hard to work with–any tips in Susan’s book would help!

    —Valerie on November 19, 2018
  • I have used a few jelly rolls, not quite sure where to put them.

    —Paulette Voit on November 20, 2018
  • Enjoy using Jelly Rolls in quilts and recently used them in making a rug. I admit some Jelly Rolls are to pretty to open.

    —Glenda Barron on November 20, 2018
  • Yes I have and it’s neet what you can do whit them.

    Mary on November 20, 2018
  • I really like jelly rolls as the colors usually blend together so well. There are more books and patterns on the market to make beautiful quilted pieces. It eliminates a lot of cutting.

    —Daleen on November 20, 2018
  • I’ve done 4.

    —jackie norwood on November 20, 2018
  • Yes, I love jelly rolls & am always looking for ideas to use them.

    —Kay McCaffery on November 21, 2018
  • I have several Jelly Rolls, but haven’t started using one yet – should start one soon I think. I love the idea of the clothes airer to hold them all ready to sew, and to trim them first – well that’s great. Thank you for your tips.

    —Sue White on November 22, 2018
  • I love jelly rolls. I often cut leftover yardage to make jelly roll strips to have on hand for scrap quilts. I never thought about seperating a jelly roll collection. But that is a great idea.

    —Cindy on November 22, 2018
  • I have been quilting for probably 8 years and have yet to purchase a jelly roll. Why? I’m not quite sure, but I may possibly be intimated by them. This article has given me hope and a little courage to try them.

    —Jackson Watkins on November 23, 2018
  • I’ve been stripping with jelly rolls for quite some time! Great ideas mentioned above. And I like to mix jelly rolls and even cut some from yardage I have if I just don’t have a particular print or color needed in a project. Great FUN!!!

    —karen on November 23, 2018
  • I enjoyed doing a jelly roll quilt along once with friends in different areas. 2 of us in Maine, one in New York, and the other in Colorado. Great way to keep quilty friends united.

    —Nancy on November 23, 2018
  • I have sewn a few but would love to have this book to give me a few ideas for different patterns thanks

    —IRENE INDELICATO on November 23, 2018
  • Yes, I have pieced with jelly rolls

    —Donna F on November 23, 2018
  • I’ve made several jelly roll race quilts and am working on Tradewinds by Cozy Quilts and it’s turning out great. Love the book

    —debby on November 23, 2018
  • I have made many quilts with jelly roll strips.

    —Susan on November 23, 2018
  • I’ve sewn a Jelly Roll strip here and there. Fun and Easy.

    —Lillian K on November 23, 2018
  • I’ve made a rail fence quilt with jelly rolls.

    —Ola Norman on November 23, 2018
  • I’ve been stripping with jelly rolls for quite a while. And I’m very happy with my jelly rolls.

    —Stephanie's Woodward on November 23, 2018
  • I don’t even own a jelly roll yet. Guess I’d better get on that!

    —bookboxer on November 24, 2018
  • Oooh I love sewing with jelly rolls….love the fact you have them all ready to go and don’t have to ‘choose’ colours but I do love the tip of mixing and matching from different rolls. I’ve made quite a few 1600 quilts with jelly rolls and recently made a jelly roll rug which was fun and is used on my craft room floor!

    wendy B on November 25, 2018
  • I’ve made a couple of jelly roll quilts, would love to have more patterns that use them!

    —Pat V. on November 28, 2018
  • I have found reasonably proced jelly rolls at Tuesday <prning and Big lots.

    —Judy M on November 21, 2019

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