Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tutorial: Basic Jelly Roll Quilt - QuiltWest

Goodness!  We're about halfway through our project to make quilts for the families of first responders in West, Texas.  Several people have asked me how to make a Jelly Roll Quilt, so here goes!

First, check out this great video tutorial with Jenny Doan from Missouri Star Quilt Co on this technique.  A lot of people call it the Jelly Roll Race, because it goes so fast that they want to race each other to see who can get it done quickest!

Now that you have the basic idea, let me walk you through in a little greater detail.

Supplies you need:

- Jelly Roll
- 100% cotton thread (I used 50 weight.)

Lay out your jelly roll beside your sewing machine.  For me, the work flows best if I keep it to the left of my machine, about 12 inches away so I still have room to sew.

You don't have to rearrange any of the strips, and it doesn't matter which end you put on top.  My favorite thing about this technique is that it looks like you fretted over the placement of each strip, when really you don't have to think AT ALL.  If you follow the no-fuss steps, the beautiful layout just happens!  Weeks Ringle is SO disappointed in us right now!  (Oh, Weeks...relax!  I loved your Craftsy class on Designing Modern Quilts.)  ;)

You might want to load 100% cotton thread on your bobbin and machine.  (If you've never sewn with 100% cotton thread, you might want to check out this post to understand the benefits of using cotton thread.)  You're going to use a LOT of thread, so go ahead and load a couple of extra bobbins while you're at it!

1.  The first step is to join the ends of all the strips in one long mega-strip.  My kids think this is too cool when Momma puts together the "world's longest fabric strip."   You can do this two ways.  You can either butt the ends together and do a vertical seam to join strips, or you can put diagonal seams in it.  I prefer diagonal, because they give the quilt just a touch of visual interest that doesn't revolve around the fabric.

To create the diagonal seams, you lay the ends of the strips right sides together, overlapping on the perpendicular.  I like to let the selvage hang off the ends so it doesn't inadvertently get caught in the seams, but if you think you can't remember that, you should probably trim the selvages off before you get started.

Once you lay the strips together, you sew across from outside corner to outside corner.  (If you do the top corner to the inside corner, you'll be picking out stitches!)  It might help to mark it.  Here's the stitch line:

Repeat this step over and over, stitching the tail of the previous strip to the beginning of the next one as they come off the stacked jelly roll. (This process of joining strips with a diagonal seam is the exact same technique you would use to make your own custom quilt binding, by the way.)

I like to chain-piece, rather than cutting them out of the machine.  Fewer stops and starts means more time saved!

Go, Jennifer, Go!

All those strips start to make quite a rats' nest around your machine!

2.  Next, cut the threads holding the chain together...

...and trim the seam allowances to 1/4 inch.  I know, you might have to look really closely to see the seam line.  (Sorry, I'm not one of those people who will sew an extra sample with contrast thread just for the purposes of photographing the step.  Too many stinkin' boys running around wreaking havoc in this house for that kind of duplicated effort!)

3.  Next, find one end of your mega-strip and cut 18 inches from the length of your strip.

Now, grab it and hold on for dear life!  With that end in hand, sort through the entire length of the mega-strip, straightening and unwinding it as you go, until you find the other end.

4.  Lay the ends right sides together...

...and stitch them together along the right side, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Continue down the entire length of your strip, finger-pressing the diagonal seam allowances to one side as they come to the machine.  (It's not a big deal with way you press them, but Mam-maw always said to "Press toward the dark," a.k.a. the darker of the two seamed fabrics.)

5.  When you near the end, (and yes, it does eventually end), you'll have a loop.  When it's about 6 inches or so from the presser foot, cut the loop apart carefully, trying to keep your cut straight, and continue sewing off the ends of the fabric. 

Eureka!  Your mega-strip should now be two-strips-wide and half as long...which is still ridiculously long.

6.  Find the ends again and join them in the same way, sewing along the length of the strip, clipping the loop and finishing off the end.  Each time, the quilt will get wider and half as long.  Just about the time you think it will NEVER END, you'll realize you're just one or two seams from finished.  :)

From this...

To this...

To this...

"And sew on," until you get to this!

It's pretty easy, but I want to share a couple more tips to help make your finished product a little nicer:

First, after you put that first long seam in, it suddenly DOES MATTER which way you press the seam allowances.  Make sure you pay attention as seam allowances go under the machine and if they've already been sewn down in a certain direction, make sure the other side of the seam allowance gets tacked down in the same direction by the new seam.  Confusing, I know.  Here's a visual...

The strips in this photo aren't seamed diagonally like our quilt, but that doesn't make a differance.  The point is that you want to make sure to sew your seam allowances down in the same direction when you stitch your strips together.  Otherwise, you have to clip them in order to press them flat.

Second, when you get to the end of each long seam line, you cut the loop, right?  Well, if you're not careful, those cuts will be crooked, and when you finish your quilt top, you'll lose as much as 3-4 inches in width trying to square it up.  That's no fun.  So in order to make my cuts straighter, once I get to four-strips-wide, I stop cutting it all the way across at the machine.  I clip just enough to allow me to sew off the end and to get the scissor tips back in later.

Then I take the strip set and lay it out flat, re-insert the scissor tips and cut it the rest of the way across.  My cuts were much straighter and my quilt tops more square once I started doing this.  Less waste, YAY!

Don't forget to gently press your quilt before you drop it off for quilting!  (Or better yet, give it your own unique quilting touch!)

 Great job, Miss Millie!  We'll turn you into a quilter in NO time...

Finally, another big shout-out to our partners in this project:

The amazing ladies across the map helping put quilt tops together -- you know who you are!
The Missouri Star Quilt Co.
The Sewing Center Around the Block, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Lynn's Sewing Center, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Long-Arm Quilter, Amy Hughes

Be sure to check out their websites in my links on the right. 

Happy Quilting!