Precuts are neat stacks of fabric squares, rectangles, strips, triangles, and/or hexagons that range from an inch to a yard across. Here's a Benartex assortment (no financial affiliation with any company in this blog post):
They're precision cut, color-coordinated, hypnotically packaged, and depending on the the company, may have unhealthy food names, such as Layer Cakes. Crackers. Charms, Honey Buns, Dessert Rolls, Turnovers, Pops, and, come to think of it, Fat Quarters, which is what one complains about after consuming all the aforementioned foods.
(Robert Kaufman fabrics calls their 1.5"x 40" cuts Skinny Strips - Are they trying to be funny? Similarly: Why aren't precuts ever called Broccoli Bites, Celery Styx, or Fyltered Water?)
I'm especially fascinated by the Jelly Roll-like entities, (the term 'Jelly Roll' belongs to Moda fabrics), which are beautifully wound into a spiral. They're usually made up of 20-to-40 strips that are 2 1/2" high x about 40" long. Other companies call them Roll Ups, Rolie Polies, Design Rolls etc.
The 40-strip packs cost from about $30 on sale, to upwards of $50 retail. That's for about 2 2/3 yards of fabric, not an outrageous price for the convenience. Precuts can save hours of time choosing and cutting. And like chocolates, we deserve them!
On the other hand, I already have all those fabrics, or reasonable facsimiles, at home. They're packed in odd, large shapes, eccentrically folded and tightly smashed into cabinets and boxes in my sewing room.
Thus, I feel guilty when I fondle new precut packs at my LQS or ogle them online. I can't come up with enough excuses to buy them.
So last week, when I was cutting 3/4" strips for Ann Brauer stripping exercises, I thought, what the heck, while I'm at it, why not make myself my very own fabric roll?
I charged ahead without doing any homework, If I had closely studied the rolls online or at my LQS, I would have first bought a new pinking-edge blade for my rotary cutter. There's a reason, I quickly discovered, that most of these commercial charms and precuts have zig-zag cut edges. Otherwise, you get stray threads - a lot of them. A pinking blade runs around $5-$10.
I went back to the Internet photos, and realized that that I needed to fold the strips in half. But where do the folds go? First I tried to roll starting with stacked folds,
But that way,you wind up with raw edges at the ends:
1. From scraps and/or yardage, cut a bunch of strips to 2 1/2" high (or whatever you want), x the approximate length of your fabric. Any length is okay. You can cut off the selvages or not - personal taste. Uneven lengths are okay. Some of my strips ended at 15" - 32" long, rather than 40". It didn't make much of a difference in the final product.
2. Iron if necessary (I don't, except to save lives), and stack the raw edges directly on top of each other (in this photo, the raw edges are lined up to the left):
3b. Tap your roll on a tabletop a bunch of times. That will help them align.
4. Find something groovy to tie them up with. Jute! Satin! A color that complements the fabric! Here's a blue grosgrain ribbon:
The ideal: A brown fiber that evokes chocolate (like the ribbon below, which came off an actual chocolate box).
Did you notice that the fraying worsened with every step? That's why you really need the pinking blade. Also, no matter how carefully I wound, I couldn't align the strips as perfectly as the store rolls. The fabric companies must have a special winding machine?
You don't have to cut 40 strips. My roll of 20 strips folded in half is about 5" across - very substantial.
Despite or perhaps because of its adorable flaws, a personalized roll made by you would be a meaningful gift for your stitching and crafty friends. Perfect for swaps. Even if your giftee never sews the strips into a quilt, the rolls make excellent pincushions, paperweights or decorative coffee table toys/conversation pieces.
Take the idea little further and package it like
Bartons Passover chocolate box, possibly from the last millenium.
Starbucks coffee holiday sampler box, vintage unknown.
After I choose the perfect packaging, I will give it to my DH, so he can surprise me with it, perhaps under the Chanukah bush next winter; or under my pillow for consolation when my aging teeth need crowns; or atop my birthday cake. Then I can pretend that we paid $48 for it new, which, come to think of it, we did when I originally bought the fabric from whence the strips were cut.
On the other hand, after all this work, it's easier to just buy the danged precuts. Plus you'll be keeping the fabric stores and industry in business. In fact, now that I think of it, it's our moral obligation to buy precuts! Let's all resolve to shop for them frequently in the New Year!
PS Our family does not actually do Chanukah bushes, but if we did, I would want precuts under them.
PPS Dear family and friends, don't buy me precuts. But thanks for thinking of me. I roll my own.
PPPS Very cool round cushion project from strips here.
PPPPS. Anthology Story Strips and Hoffman Bali Pops are on sale this week at Hancock Fabrics, here! But you really should roll your own! Or not.