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The Popular Pre-Cut Fabric Kits… It’s All in the Packaging

A new Honey Bun from Moda
featuring Jan Patek’s “Harmony”
fabric (available in February 2009).

Ask someone outside of the quilting world what a “Jelly Roll” is, and they’ll probably tell you that it’s a baked good. However, ask someone in the quilting industry the same question, and you’re likely to get a completely different response.

Sure, the fabric Jelly Roll may not be as tasty as its edible counterpart, but for many quilters, the convenience and affordability of using packaged pre-cut fabrics makes it just as sweet.

Moda Fabric’s Jelly Rolls are one of the first examples of the hugely successful—and cleverly marketed—pre-cut fabric packages that have gained immense popularity in recent years. Moda developed the Jelly Roll—which consists of 40 2 ½-inch fabric strips rolled and tied into a charming bundle—as a way to give customers a sampling of a particular line with enough fabric to create an entire project. Since that time, it—like the variety of other similar products to hit the market—has become a favorite of quilters and quilt shop owners alike.

New Bali Pops™
from Hoffman California Fabrics.

With pre-cut fabric packs, explains Debbi Duckworth of Moda Fabrics, “customers can spend a smaller amount of money on the [fabric] and a pattern. Then, in a short amount of time, they can make a lap quilt, baby quilt, or any number of smaller projects. Also, many customers want to purchase kits for the samples they see in the stores.”

Kimberly Jolly, owner of popular online fabric retailer Fat Quarter Shop (whose inventory extends far beyond the “fat quarter”), agrees that using pre-cut fabrics makes projects much easier and inexpensive. She adds that they also reduce the waste of cutting your own pieces. “And they look so cute packaged up to boot!” she says.

After all, their delightful packaging and innovative marketing have been essential to the success of these products. Among the creatively-branded pre-cut bundles available at Fat Quarter Shop are selections from Moda’s “Bake Shop”—such as Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes, and newly-released Honey Buns and Turnovers— RJR Fabrics’ Twice the Charm™, Maywood Studio’s Sweet Sixteen®, and Lecien’s new Sushi Roll.

The shop has also recently added the new Hoffman Bali Pops™, each of which contain 40 strips of Bali Batiks or Handpaints measuring 2 ½ inches wide by 44 inches long. Bali Pops™ are currently available in six different “flavors,” but according to Michelle Flores of Hoffman California Fabrics, the company plans to release new colorways in February or March based on the Batiks that were introduced at Market this fall.

Rolling Along: Easy Quilts
from 2 ˝” Strips
by Nancy J. Martin.

Flores says that the “Pops” were well received in Houston—disappearing quickly during Sample Spree—and that they have already inspired several new project ideas from customers, including handbags, baskets, and even, bowls. “Pre-cuts really give quilters a ‘ready, set, go’ start on their quilts and other projects,” she adds. The idea for the “Bali Pop” itself, however, actually came from a quilt shop owner.

While the majority of quilt shops now sell pre-cut fabrics in one form or another, Duckworth says that some were originally a bit skeptical, unsure of the reaction they would get from customers and concerned about the availability of patterns, books, and other products with which the pre-cuts would work. “As soon as they realized that the designers were on board, the stores loved them,” she explains.

Since then, pattern designers across the industry have responded by releasing products created specifically for use with pre-cut fabrics. In fact, in the case of Moda, Duckworth says that the company often works with designers as they develop these new patterns, providing them with the fabric early so it can be incorporated into the design. “Everyone benefits,” she says. “The patterns are fresh and new, the stores have patterns for the new lines, and the fabrics sell.”   

There is also a wealth of pre-cut-friendly books on the market today, including popular titles like Rolling Along: Easy Quilts from 2 ½” Strips by Nancy J. Martin; Strip Happy: Quilting on a Roll by Donna Kinsey; and Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam Lintott, who also authored the book, Layer Cake, Jelly Roll & Charm Quilts, to be released in June 2009.

Additionally, many shop owners have launched in-store programs with a focus on pre-cuts, such as Fat Quarter Shop’s Moda Jelly Roll Club, in which customers receive a different Jelly Roll each month—though they also offer monthly “clubs” for a number of other fabric cuts.

Quilt shop owners have discovered that there are definite advantages to offering these types of products, including the ability to draw new, and often younger, customers who are looking for smaller, less time-consuming projects to complete. But for many quilters (and quilt shop owners), it’s simply the ease and affordability of using pre-cuts that makes them so appealing.

Jolly, whose Fat Quarter Shop has been carrying pre-cut fabric packages since they were first introduced, says that the store will continue to do so as long as companies continue to make them. “Simply put,” she says, “they are incredibly popular, and it’s easy to see why.”—Rhianna White

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