Quick Tip-Quilting with Pre-Cuts

Charm Squares, QuiltingGood Morning, Quilters!

Do YOU ever quilt with pre-cuts?

Last week, when I was using charm squares (5 x 5″) from different manufacturers, I came across this little problem:Charm Squares, Quilting


Argh!  I had to cut my pre-cuts!

My friend Kelly Ashton–known for precision piecing–recommends that you measure all your precuts before stitching–and you may need to do a little trimming!

She did a little research and learned -more than 150 layers are cut at a time!  –

With that many cut at once, it is likely that some grading will occur.

Charm Squares, QuiltingAlso, when fabric is cut with a pinked edge–some manufactures measure from the zig–while others measure from the zag!

I found it too confusing–so I re-cut my pre-cuts!

Charm Squares, Quilting

Thank you, Kelly for setting me straight!

(For more tips like this get Kelly’s Craftsy video (25% off):  Conquering Challenging Seams

and check out her very thoughtful blog, Kellyquilter.com)

What about YOU?

Do YOU ever use pre-cuts?

Do YOU have any pre-cut or piecing tips to share?

We’d LOVE to hear!


PS.  All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at lckennedy@hotmail.com.  Thanks!

96 thoughts on “Quick Tip-Quilting with Pre-Cuts

  1. Ran into the same problem first time I used a charm pack, and now share the warning with fellow quilters.

  2. I used pre-cuts when I first started quilting, but now I usually cut everything myself after finding some charm squares up to a quarter inch off. If I have to trim, I would rather cut them myself.

  3. While using two different sets of precuts (1 solid, 1 print) I was really surprised to see the amount of shrinkage after starching and pressing. The solids shrank noticeably in one direction, so that they were no longer square. Particularly when making half square triangles, you can’t rely on getting the full size of the fabric from a charm square. I agree with Debbie, above, but sometimes it’s more economical to get the mix of fabrics in a charm pack.

  4. I ran into the same problem with pre-cut 2.5″ strips. I “solved” the problem by sewing a scant 1/4″ seam and settling for blocks that finished at 5.75″ instead of 6″.

  5. I use precuts all of the time. Usually cost saving and space saving. Some manufacturers are better than others for size consistency. If I want 5 inch squares I cut them from a layer cake. If I get a particularly bad pack of precuts they are usually good for using a template.

  6. Noticed you are making a red and white quilt. Do you ever have a problem with bleeding of red onto white and how do you handle that? I had that problem with an hand redwork quilt I had made

  7. I’m confused… isn’t the white pre cut smaller than the red? Or are they both precursors, and you made them the same?… sometimes I have to “cheat” on a seam allowance… hopefully that’s my secret, as they might come apart when washed ?

  8. I don’t like using precuts for many reasons, one of them being what you mentioned Lori. The other reason is that I’m a firm believer in pre-washing all my fabrics before they become part of my stash, and charms and jelly rolls don’t lend themselves easily to that process. I wouldn’t want to take a chance that bright red pieces, such as in your photo, bleed into their white neighbors when the finished piece is washed! Better it should bleed into a Color Catcher in my washing machine before I put it in a quilt.

    • I’m with Bette on this 100%. Most of my quilts are pieced, so I’m very particular when it comes to precision. I once bought a couple of rolls of strips at a quilt shop, and they were cut off-grain, resulting in a lot of fraying. I find that washing my yardage relaxes the fibers so that it is easier to cut strips on grain.

      • Sharon,, love your solution !! I did wash some small pieces and clothes pinned them to line on my porch. My granddaughter thought I was going to make doll clothes.

      • Tee hee! Like Marta, I washed my latest small pieces (by hand) and put them in a laundry bag to spin them, then hung them on the line. They did look funny, and I hoped the neighbours weren’t wondering what I was up to hanging tiny squares on the line ….. I almost used my crafting clothes pegs, but I don’t think they would have clung to the line very well!
        It did look like a little like a dolls washing line!
        Barbara x
        You can see my spring quilt (in progress) here: http://theflashingscissors.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/wip-quilting-and-cross-stitch.html

      • My process with the small pieces is: .1. prepare warm water with detergent. 2. Dump the fabric in. . Squush them up and down in the water with tall plastic cup. 3. Soak for 15-20 minutes..4. Pour water off, retaining fabric. 5. Run rinse water in and squush some more with the cup. 5. Pour water off. 6. Lay a towel out flat on top of washer and dryer. 7. Dump fabric out onto towel. 8. Roll towel up with fabric inside. 9. Squeeze to draw water out of fabric. 10. Hang pieces on line OR throw them in the dryer for 10-12 minutes. with the damp towel.. works great !! And it is so easy to observe whether any are cut off grain. ( By the way, I protect my hand skin from too much water contact only because of neuropathy.) Just my 2 cents worth…

  9. I purchased a kit and when opened it found a layer cake. Squares turned out to be more like 9 7/8 instead of 10 inches. I am unable to cut a 5×10 and a 5×5 inch sqaure from each piece as the quilt requires. UGH!!!! I am NOT a fan of precuts.

  10. I was given a jelly roll that varied between 2&1/4″ and 2&1/2″ sometimes within a strip.

  11. I am not a fan of precuts for many reasons including those already mentioned above. Inconsistent sizes require cutting/trimming, not always the amount both directions, and the pinked edges can result in variable seam allowances. In addition, I pre-wash all fabric and batting, which for jelly rolls and charm packs means either hand-wash individually or machine in mesh (lingerie) bags; using color catcher, then press dry. Most of my pre-cuts arrived as gifts or giveaways. I prefer to select my own fabrics and to choose the size of cuts based on the planned quilt, and have made many “charm pack” quilts from my own stash.

  12. I guess I just don’t worry about it that much. When you’re using the “scant” 1/4″, you’re kind of winging it anyway.

  13. I’ve run into that as well, with both charm packs and strips. The strips were the most frustrating, but I just fudged them a bit and it all worked out. I’ve also noticed that when working with charm packs, paying attention to the grain of the square is important in some patterns. I think it’s easy to forget that when you’re working with precuts.

  14. Yes! I first noticed when I unrolled a jelly roll and started cutting, the squares were not even, so I pre cut all of the remaining strips and they were off by as much as a 1/4 inch. Very frustrating and disappointing.

    • Ah, now a light goes on. One of the first quilts I did I used precut strips. I was very accurate with sewing yet the squares just weren’t quite the right size and I was totally baffled. I never thought to measure the strips! Thinking back, that may well have been the problem. I think I still have some scraps so I’m going to check that out. I’m thankful to read this whole discussion.

  15. Unless it is glaring, no problems cause I am creating, not competing. If I had to re-cut every pre-cut (I love them) I’d quit sewing. I like the use a layer cake and cut the perfect 5″ quart if I was about that. I feel consistency is key….either always sew measuring top of zig zag or bottom…and my 1/4″ are always scant. So far, so good.

    • I agree–consistency is the key. I ran into problems because I used charm squares from different manufacturers. It is a good thing to be aware of though.

  16. Might be a good idea to pass these comments on to the manufacturers. Or, we could just boycott! What’s the good of pre-cuts when you have to re-pre-cut them?

    • The one advantage to pre-cuts is you get a whole collection of fabrics at a time-and less expensively than buying fat quarters. There are ways to use them, but you must be aware…

  17. I pretty much agree with everything that has been said, I use precuts when I want a variety of that fabric line but always try to use the same manufacturer if I need more than one just a specific size …..for instance I might use a print in Moda but I make sure I use another Moda if I need a different size for the same project, I just run into less problems this way. I have also had a few size variations with my accuquilt dies being a little wonky. That I make sure I cut on grain.

  18. When I started quilting, the other quilters talked about honey buns, layer cakes, charm packs, jelly rolls, etc.. I was so amused !! I purchased some but the amount of pieces never matched the project. After awhile, I asked my retired cost accountant husband to tell me how much pre-cuts cost me if I bought them in yardage instead. It was always more than the by-the-yard price even when pre-cut was on sale ….caveat: one particular web site had good sales. However, I tend to need 42 pieces of the same fabric for a project, not 2 out of 42. I enjoy cutting my pieces so I rarely buy a precut. Only when I fall in love with a particular fabric design and I cannot find it in yardage. I still have a few pieces of Dr Seuss from 5 years ago. All the kids in my life had outgrown him, so I used many in donation quilts.
    About color bleeding, I always prewash to remove sizing and to find out if one is going to bleed. If so, I use Retayne (follow directions). I have a small bottle I have been using out of for 4 years. The secure feeling it gives me is always worth it. The 4 oz. bottle was $2.79. I don’t know how many yards of reds, blues, dark greens, and navy fabric I have prepared for quilting. It can be ordered from most fabric sites online. Another one used for hand dyed fabric is Synthropol, about $4-5. Some quilt stores have these too. When we cook, we wash certain foods… just part of the process. I have friends who pride themselves on never pre-washing fabric ! What is that about?
    Prewashing removes the manufacturer’s sizing. The washing/drying allows me to get familiar with the fabric’s natural hand. Maybe it will not be the best for a planned project and I can change before cutting and sewing and being disappointed. Heaven forbid recipients being disappointed with a quilt I made and gave them. Just sayin !

    • I came to quilting first sewing garments. It is best to always treat the fabric as you will treat the finished garment–specifically for the reasons Marta discussed. Very important for someone who needs the ease in special places to still be there after laundry–and in a quilt, so it will still fit the bed. The larger the quilt, the more shrinkage will have an effect. Additionally, as an asthmatic, potentially troubling chemicals can be washed away.

  19. Not a precut fan at all. I like to pre wash and I also like to sew accurately and the precuts are not accurate. That said, I will pick up packages of bright charm squares just in case I need a specific colour in an applique quilt and just because the colours make me smile.

    • On rare occasion, I’ve purchased a jelly roll or charm pack just because I love looking at it – especially bright prints such as Kaffe Fassett, etc. But with a stash dating back to the 1980s, I’ve been trying to shop my stash instead of buying more fabric. I enjoy trying to find just the right combination of fabrics for the project.

      Some good uses for inaccurately-sized precuts are Twister quilts and Mondo bags, which don’t require exactly cut squares.

  20. I read a tip for accuracy in sewing jelly roll strips (2 1/5 ” strips) together. I have not tried it. Make a guideline to the left side of the needle at 2 1/4″ and line up the left edge of the strips with this guide. Then sew strips together without watching the seam allowance on the right edge of the strips. I will have to give this a try next time. Has anyone else tried this?

    • Now that is a brilliant tip! I do have some pre-cuts on hand but have not started using them. I’m picking up a lot of insight from this discussion.

    • My machine came with a piecing foot that has a vertical guide on the right edge that I can butt the fabric up against. It makes a pretty decent scant 1/4 inch.
      I’m also dissatisfied with precuts. I like to add sizing to my fabrics before sewing (Mary Ellen’s stuff is great) but once I sprayed a few precut squares and literally watched them shrink right before my eyes! I was P.O.’d. If I’m using yard goods, I don’t generally wash them first but I do press them with Mary Ellen’s Best Press before cutting, so if the fabric is going to shrink, it will do it them. We all do things differently. I don’t believe there’s any “right or wrong’. Whatever works for the individual is the right thing to do. I quilt to make gifts, give baby quilts to new parents at my church and purely for my own enjoyment. I love learning new techniques and patterns. Thank you all for sharing great ideas!

    • I have actually used this method for pre cut strips and it works very well. By measuring 2 1/4 inches on the left of the needle, you force any minor anomalies into the seam allowance. I use the blue removable painters tape and a regular foot on my sewing machine. Where multiple strips are sewn together, I stitch in pairs. Once the pairs are stitched, I don’t have to worry about additional adjustments. I do have to concentrate, because I am not accustomed to focusing on the left of the needle. Have only used this method on strips.

  21. I rarely use pre-cuts because if their irregularity and more over price per yard breakdown! I had one layer cake- that on the outside was only 9.5 inches, ugh! Thats a full stitch seam missing. I only buy occasionally when I need some variety in a scrappy quilt. I buy 1 yard, pre cut my own bits out into strips and squares for stash boxes, then keep 1/2 yard remaining for future/stash.

  22. I am probably in the minority here but I never prewash unless I have found fabric at an estate sale. I have never, ever had a problem with bleeding but I do throw in a couple of color catchers in the wash with a quilt, and I always have some red in my quilts. I love the soft, puckery look of a quilt out of the dryer so any shrinkage is part of the charm to me. I do use precuts often and have found some discrepancies but nothing major. I love them for the full variety you get in the line. If there is a problem I just trim all the blocks down a bit. It takes more time but I get the look I want in the fabrics I love. It would be nice if the manufacturers were more precise though.

  23. I have used precuts – but not a lot, I just cut my blocks to one size when finished. I think I would just prefer to cut my own,

  24. I order a lot of precuts on sale from a particular site that does not recommend prewashing them. However, I do put them in a lingeree bag and prewash. I have also found not all manufacturers are accurate in measurements, so I agree with everyone about checking first! My quilts are not competition quality, so most of the time I am happy with the results.

  25. I do love the precut just to get the entire collection but I’ve run into this problem too so the measuring is a must…I’ve even had the issue with my fat quarters being way smaller and also cut so wonky it wasted a couple inches…$$ wasted in quilty language. I still buy them but measure and I do both adjust seam allowance and or trim. Boo on trimming.

  26. I lost my head and ordered a jelly roll form a very well known company. Stupid me, I assumed it was all really 2-1/2″ wide. Made all me cuts and NOTHING went together right. 2 strips were about 1/8″ of an inch off and they would be all through the quilt. I had to cut every piece down to 2-3/8″ wide. Then I had to trim the lengths also. Do any of you have a quilt ruler with 1/8″ or 1/16″???
    When i complained to the company where i bought it, they told me they have trouble with that particular manufacturer all the time!
    Got smart and bought the 2-1/2″ strip cutter for my Go Cutter. Will never buy pre-cuts again! Way too much work.

  27. I have not always prewashed my fabrics but have several examples of when I regretted it – one fabric was an older batik in blue that I gave to my daughter to help her fill in with a scrap quilt – it bled like crazy!! Years ago I purchased a kit to make a Jewel box quilt. I washed the quilt top that was sewn together but not yet quilted. I decided to wash it because I was seeing some evidence of problems—BIG mistake. The 1/4 inch seam allowances frayed to 1/8 inch. I also purchased a pack of hand-dyed fabrics to make a miniature Baltimore album….yep, I spilled some water on it as I was working on it – almost done and saw it bleed. (I feel like I am writing a crime novel.) Now I am older – maybe wiser – and prewash all reds, all blues, blacks without fail and discriminate on others….except for the kit that I recently bought with Kona solids— I am now worried….

  28. I learned early on about this. There is also a problem with them being cut where the design is crooked. If I buy a charm pack I just automatically assume that I will have to cut them to at least 4 3/4 so they will all be the same.

  29. I don’t use pre-cuts. Mostly because I prefer to pre-wash all my fabrics and it’s not feasible or really possible with anything less than a fat quarter or straight 1/8 yard cut. I’d heard a few retreats ago that some were having trouble with pre-cuts for this very reason and so has further reinforced my belief to stay away from pre-cuts.

  30. I’d love some research on companies that sell pre cuts and how much they can be off and who the biggest offenders are…I guess I feel the product should be as advertised and not less so I don’t buy precuts anymore.

  31. I know my local quilting store does not carry layer cake packs in their store because I asked them about it. I have never seen the pre-cut charm packs either. They do carry fat quarters and bolts of fabric and I usually buy yards of fabric because the fat quarters are expensive to buy unless they are on sale and that the colors and design speak to me. For me I do not see how pre-cut charm packs would be economical in the long run.

  32. I’m not a huge pre-cut fan, although I have used them on occasion. Mostly, the 2.5″ strips I use are batiks – I love to make scrappy batik log cabin quilts. The more fabrics, the better, so pre-cuts give me the variety I want without loading up on too much yardage. Other than that, I’d just as soon cut my own fabric to whatever the pattern requires. Then I know that the cuts are accurate.

  33. I don’t use precuts for that very reason. I don’t care how many layers are cut at a time, if a square is supposed to be 5″, then it should be 5″, not 4-7/8 by 5-1/8 or worse.

  34. I think we have to use a simple pattern that is very forgiving when using pre cuts. We all get romanced by the thought of all of those different fabrics, but it is much more accurate to do your own cutting.

  35. I agree with those who hate precuts. I just completed a baby quilt that used a charm pack and never again, I’d rather cut 42 5 in squares than work with precuts. ARGGGG. Lesson learned, taking the easy route doesn’t always pay off.

  36. It’s been interesting to read these comments! I don’t use pre-cuts. They’re expensive, they can’t easily be pre-washed, and yardage (or even fat quarters, which I don’t buy much of either) gives me better ability to control the sizes of my patches.

    I’ll admit I don’t pay much attention to the trends in patterns, because I design my own quilts, and they tend to be rather complex. Do a lot of popular patterns come sized for 5″ and 10″ squares? Are they then just squares, unpieced blocks? I’m not being critical, just curious because I really don’t know.

  37. I totally agree … precuts are not all that accurate, but trimming precuts is super annoying, too! That’s why I usually stick to patterns that require squaring up anyway (like half-square triangles). But funny thing … I never hear anybody talk about this in all the precut piecing classes I’ve watched. The first person I’ve heard mention that precuts aren’t all that accurate is Debbie Caffrey, and now you.

    • Maybe we need to put a little pressure on the manufacturers because they could be wonderful!

  38. Thank you for this very important subject! I sew appreciate everyone’s comments. I’ve been using precuts off and on and have encountered all the problems mentioned above. Most recently, while mixing two charm packs from different manufacturers, I found one pack to be almost 1/4″ shy of 5″, the other almost a full 1/4″ bigger than 5″. I’m having to make adjustments which takes more time. I wasn’t able to use the smaller than 5″ squares in my blocks as didn’t want to use such a narrow seam allowance. I can use them in my piano key border tho, thank goodness.

  39. I rarely buy precuts for that very reason. Why pay for the cutting and then find they must be re cut anyway. And the whole zig-zag thing makes me crazy. Definitely won’t buy those. Sorry to be so grumpy. Your hand dyes are beautiful!

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