All About Precuts and Fabric!
by Megan Ellinger
I love precuts! They are a fantastic way to get a great sampling of an entire fabric line but which precuts should you choose? Here's my list of precuts and my favorite uses for each:
Mini charms are 2 1/2" squares--usually around 40 to a pack. You will generally receive at least once 2 1/2" square of each fabric in the line, depending on how many fabrics are in the line.
There isn't a lot of pattern support for mini charms and, since the pieces of fabric are so small, there isn't a lot you can make with a single pack. Many of the patterns you will find are small projects like pillow fronts or are larger but require more than one mini charm pack as well as some background fabric. The other major downside is that you won't get a great look at the fabric print if the prints are on the larger side.
Charm packs are 5" squares. Like mini charms, you will receive about 40 pieces of fabric and there will likely be duplicates of some, if not all, of the prints.
There is more pattern support for charm packs and you'll be able to make a small throw with a charm pack and some background fabric.
Layer cakes, also known as 10" stackers by some companies, are 10" squares of fabric. Like charm packs and mini charms, you will receive about 40 pieces of fabric and there will likely be duplicates of some, if not all, of the prints. At this size, you will have a good view of all but the largest prints but you can't count on getting an entire repeat of a large print.
This size is where you begin to have enough fabric for a throw size quilt without mixing in other fabrics and there is a large amount of pattern support. My Grover Quilt is 54 x 54" and requires only a layer cake. My Astrid pattern uses the same layer cake but adds in background fabric to make a very large 72 x 96" quilt.
Jelly Rolls, or Design Rolls, are a lot of fun to work with! Each roll contains 40-42 strips of fabric that measure 2 1/2" by the width of fabric--usually 42." There is a lot of pattern support for jelly rolls from simple to complex quilts. With one jelly roll, you can make a throw size quilt but adding just a little background fabric and you can get a fairly large quilt from a single jelly roll.
The width of jelly rolls--just 2 1/2" makes it hard to see the large scale prints on some fabrics, so keep that in mind with some designers as you shop. On the other hand, some designers and types of fabrics--such as ombre fabrics--lend themselves perfectly to jelly rolls.
Fat Eighths are a much less common precut size and I believe only Moda Fabrics comes in this size from the manufacturer. You may be able to find handcut fat eighths on etsy or other quilt shops. Fat eighths are half of a fat quarter and measure 9 x 18". It does give you a little more fabric than a layer cake but there is much less pattern support for this size.
Pattern ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/tinyorchardquilts/fat-eighth-patterns/
Fat Quarters are perhaps the most well known and readily available precut size. At 18 x 21" they give plenty of fabric for you to see most large patterns and make a sizeable quilt. In addition, this precut size has a LOT of pattern support. Most local quilt shops cut fat quarters from the bolts of yardage they have on their shelves so you can curate your own bundles across different lines. Fabric shops also sometimes curate their own bundles for sale.
Half and Full Yard Bundles
Larger bundles are for those collections you just love and anticipate working with multiple times. I don't often buy half or full yard bundles and they aren't as readily available as the smaller size precuts. I tend to only buy these for large blender lines from designers I like (I bought a half yard bundle of the Tula Pink True Colors line, for examples). As for pattern support, you can make anything from one of these bundles but you'll have a difficult time finding patterns specifically designs for half or full yards as there is simply a lot of fabric to use up!