Jelly rolls can make quilting a breeze. As they are rolls of pre-cut strips, you don’t have to grab your rotary cutter. Better still, they sew together in no time at all. But what is a jelly roll? Do you need more than one? How many jelly rolls do you need to make a quilt?
The number of Jelly Rolls needed to make a quilt can vary. It depends on the size of the quilt, the design, and the number of strips in the Jelly Roll. A simple lap quilt will require one Jelly Roll containing 40 strips of fabric. For a queen-size quilt, the number of Jelly Rolls increases to three.
In this article, we’ll show you how many Jelly Rolls you’ll need for different sizes of quilts. We’ll also look at other projects you can make using a Jelly Roll.
What Is a Jelly Roll?
A jelly roll is a cute and colorful range of precut fabric strips all rolled up into a small log shape. If you look at the flat side of the log, you can see the different layers of color. It looks a lot like a rolled-up cake filled with jelly or jam.
This style of cake has a few names. It can be called a Swiss roll, a jam roly-poly, a jelly roll, a roll cake, a cream roll, or even a roulade. So, with so many names to choose from, how did jelly roll end up being the name of the bundle of strips?
Well, that’s down to the manufacturers and their location. The jelly roll was originally introduced by Moda Fabrics and Supplies. It was a way to showcase their fabric and cater to a quilter’s need for smaller cuts of material.
Although they are an internationally renowned fabric manufacturer, they are based in Dallas, Texas. It’s no surprise then that on seeing the resemblance between the roll of strips and the jam-filled cake, they used the term popular in the United States. That term is jelly roll.
The fabric in a jelly roll is a selection of strips measuring 2.5 inches high. They are normally the width of the fabric which can be either 44 or 45 inches. All the strips are from the same collection of fabrics and are guaranteed to coordinate. Moda jelly rolls usually have 40 strips of fabric in them.
Quilters love jelly rolls because they save time on fabric preparation. As they are cut to 2.5 inches high, they are the right size for making many quilt blocks. If you wanted to, you could use a jelly roll to make a log cabin pattern.
Buying your fabric precut in a jelly roll also helps with accuracy. You’ll find the points in your half-square triangles will be spot-on. Those tiny little squares in the nine-patch block will all be the same size.
You don’t necessarily have to cut your jelly roll up. One of their great features is you can use them as strips. Each one can be sewn to another to make a patchwork fabric made up of different lines of color. This is known as a jelly roll quilt.
Better still, as most quilting supply stores don’t tend to sell fabric by the inch, the jelly roll allows you to purchase an entire collection of fabrics without breaking the bank. Think of it as a sample pack bundled into a cute, colorful cake.
Other Names for Jelly Rolls
Although many makers of quilt fabrics have their own version of the jelly roll, they don’t all call them by that term. As the phrase “jelly roll” was introduced by Moda Fabrics, rolls using that name tend to be associated with them.
To distance themselves from their competitor, other manufacturers have come up with their own terminology for the cute little bundles of strips. Be aware that in some cases, it isn’t just the name that changes. Although most manufacturers stick to the 40 strip quantity, some don’t. You may find some jelly roll options that have fewer strips in the pack.
The following table shows the top fabric designers and the term they use for their precut strips. All of these are 2.5 inches high by around 42 – 45 inches wide.
|Manufacturer||Name of 2.5 inch Strip Collection|
|Moda Fabrics and Supplies||Jelly Roll|
|Free Spirit||Design Roll|
|Hoffman Fabrics||Bali Pop|
|Riley Blake||Rolie Polie|
|Robert Kaufman Fabrics||Roll Up|
|Island Batik||Strip Sets|
|Wilmington Prints||40 Karat Gems|
How Many Jelly Rolls to Make a Quilt?
The number of jelly rolls you need to make a quilt depends on the size of your quilt. It also depends on how many strips of 2.5-inch wide fabric are contained in each jelly roll.
As I mentioned earlier, Moda jelly rolls have 40 strips, but other manufacturers may include fewer strips in their rolls. You’ll also need to allow extra fabric for your quilt design. An intricate pattern with lots of seams will use more strips of fabric.
The following table indicates how many jelly rolls you will need for quilts from baby up to king size. These figures are based on a jelly roll containing 40 strips.
I’ve included measurements for the finished quilts in inches. This should help you calculate the number of jelly rolls you would need for a custom-sized quilt.
Please note that some of the quilts listed below need half rolls. In these cases, the number of jelly rolls required has been rounded up to the next whole number. As jelly rolls are always sold intact and never split, you’ll need to buy whole rolls to make a jelly roll quilt.
For instance, a baby quilt can be made using 20 strips, which equates to half a jelly roll. You’ll need one whole jelly roll to make it. The good news is that you’ll have a spare 20 strips to add to your stash.
Similarly, a queen-size quilt may only need 106 strips, making it a little over 2.5 jelly rolls worth of fabric. However, you’ll still need to buy 3 whole jelly rolls to ensure you have plenty for your quilt. Again, you’ll have some extra strips left over for stash building.
|Type of Quilt||Number of Jelly Rolls
(40 strips of fabric)
|Finished Size of Quilt
|Baby Quilt||1 roll||33 x 50|
|Lap Quilt||1 roll||50 x 64|
|Twin Quilt||2 rolls||64 x 88|
|Queen Quilt||3 rolls||86 x 93|
|King Quilt||3 rolls||104 x 93|
|California King Quilt||4 rolls||108 x 90|
How to Make a Jelly Roll Quilt
Jelly rolls can be used to make all sorts of quilts. From complicated patterns like the Double Wedding Ring to a more simple patchwork design of little squares. The list is endless. Your choice of the quilt is only limited by your quilting level and the time you have on hand.
In this section, we’re going to take a look at a quilt that is quick to make, easy to do, and the ideal project for a beginner quilter. Called the Jelly Roll Race Quilt, this pattern was designed specifically for jelly rolls.
You probably think that’s a strange name for a quilt. When it was first introduced, quilters at quilting clubs and guilds would have races to see who could sew the strips together the fastest. Hence the name, the Jelly Roll Race.
If you’d like to see how fast you can do the Jelly Roll Race, check out our step-by-step instructions. You can use any brand of jelly roll for this.
The finished quilt in this example will be around 50 inches by 64.5 inches. If you have a roll with fewer than 40 strips, your quilt will be smaller, but the design will look the same.
You will need:
- 1 jelly roll
- Coordinating thread
- Sewing machine
- Backing fabric
Open up your jelly roll. The strips in the jelly roll are usually in color blocks. You can stitch them together as they come off the bundle. However, if you would like a more random pattern of color, mix the strips up a bit.
Thread your machine with a color that coordinates with those in your jelly roll. If you are unsure which shade to use, go for a white thread. Try to get a white thread that is an ivory white or antique as these will be less bright and able to coordinate with anything.
Place one strip of the jelly roll face up on your table. Flatten it out a little to get rid of any wrinkles. Next, put your second strip, face down, on top of the right-hand side of your first strip.
Position it, so it forms a right angle. Sew the strips together diagonally. Start at the top left corner and sew to the bottom right. Trim the seam to a quarter of an inch and press it open. When you open the strips up, you should see a diagonal stitching line.
Grab the end of your stitched strips and pick up your third strip from the jelly roll. With the right sides facing, stitch it to the short end of your stitched strip. Again, make sure it is positioned to form a right angle. Stitch from the top left corner to the bottom right and trim the seam to a quarter of an inch.
Keep stitching the strips together until all the jelly roll has been used up. Depending on how many strips you started with, you should have a long length of fabric measuring around 1600 inches.
Cut off the first 18 inches of your long strip. This will help stagger the seams throughout the quilt. Fold the entire strip in half so that the two short edges meet. Sew the folded strip together along one of the longest sides.
Cut the edge with the fold and open up your strips. You should have an 800-inch long strip measuring 4.5 inches tall. Fold it in half so that the two shortest edges meet. Stitch along the longest side. Cut the edge with the fold. Now, your strip should be 400 inches by a height of 8.5 inches.
Repeat this step until you have reached the size you want. When you have a quilt top measuring around 50 x 64.5 inches, you should have enough for a lap quilt.
Cut a piece of backing fabric and batting to make the quilt sandwich. Make sure both your backing fabric and batting are about 2 inches bigger than your quilt top all the way around. Put the backing fabric face down on your table and place the batting on top of it. Next comes the quilt top. Place this on top of the pile with its face up.
Hold the sandwich together with safety pins or use basting spray. Quilt the sandwich any way you want to. You can stitch in the ditch along the strips or do random swirls. It’s up to you.
Once the quilting stitches are complete, trim the quilt sandwich so that all the edges are straight and level. Then bind your quilt with your binding fabric.
What Else Can You Make With a Jelly Roll?
Jelly rolls can be used for a whole host of different projects. Although they are aimed at quilters and mainly used in quilting, you don’t have to limit yourself. There’s more to a jelly roll than making bed quilts in all sizes, from doll up to California king.
For one thing, you can use a jelly roll for crafts. As they are a handy 2.5 inches high, you can use them for small applique designs. They can also be used to make doll clothes and soft furnishings for doll houses.
A jelly roll is also pretty useful when it comes to home décor in your own home too. Table runners, placemats, cosmetic bags, and shopping bags can all be made with the humble little jelly roll.
It doesn’t end there. You’ve got throw pillows, lavender sachets, and fabric gift tags. As well as being used to make quilt blocks, you can bind your finished quilt with a jelly roll strip or two. Don’t forget the sashing. A 2.5-inch strip of fabric is perfect for adding rows of sashing between your quilt blocks.
It may be a small roll of strips, but the jelly roll is a versatile collection of fabric. With a seemingly endless range of potential projects, what you use them for is limited only by your imagination.
The best part about a jelly roll isn’t what you use it for, though. Many of us, me included, buy jelly rolls because they look adorable. The hardest part of using one is opening them up. It’s like cutting into a cake that looks too good to eat.
Because of that, jelly rolls tend to stay unopened. For months after you purchased it. You tell yourself it’s because the right project hasn’t come along yet. But really, they are just too perfect as they are.
A jelly roll can become a cute and colorful decoration for your sewing area. So much so that you might find you end up with more than one. If anyone asks why you’re collecting jelly rolls, just tell them you’re stash building, ‘wink’.
How many jelly rolls you need to make a quilt depends on three things:
- The size of your quilt.
- The design or pattern of the quilt. A more intricate design will need more strips of fabric.
- The number of strips in the jelly roll must also be considered.
Fewer strips mean you’ll need more jelly rolls.
One jelly roll contains an average of 40 strips of fabric measuring 2.5 inches by about 44 inches. That’s a lot of fabric to play with. It can make a baby quilt, a lap quilt, or a colorful shopping bag.