Precuts are incredibly convenient but what if they aren’t offered at all by a particular manufacturer? Or there isn’t a bundle available of a collection you like? Cut your own! In this post we show how to cut charm squares and mini charm squares, with layer cakes and jelly rolls coming up next.
What Are Precuts?
Precuts are pieces of quilting fabric of standardised sizes cut by the manufacturers. Their prices are higher than fabric bought from the bolt not only because of the extra labour involved, but also due to logistics.
Fabrics are made and printed in Asia in most cases (South Korea, Japan, Pakistan and Thailand among others), but in order for precut bundles to be created, fabrics are transported to the USA where manufacturers make them by hand.
Some manufacturers with Moda Fabrics in first place offer a wide range of sizes whereas others opt out completely. It is time-consuming, and prices per yard climb compared to bolts delivered from Asia straight to distributors.
The most common precuts are 5” charm squares, 10” layer cakes (also squares), and 2,5” jelly rolls (width-of-fabric strips). These are referred to by pattern designers when they mention ”charm-square friendly” or ”layer-cake friendly”.
There are many reasons to invest in precuts, a common one of which is the time they save you, if you don’t have a lot of it to spend on crafting in this season of your life.
They are also an excellent way to get the full range of a fabric collection with a relatively small investment. Otherwise you may have to spend significantly more on large cuts such as half-yards or 50 cm of the whole collection. Sometimes they contain over 20 prints and that’s considerably more of both money and fabric.
Since consumers want precuts these days, many designers have several precut-friendly patterns to choose from now. But as concluded in the introduction not all manufacturers make these bundles even when there’s a clear market for them, so let’s start from cutting your own charm squares.
Cutting Charm Squares
You can cut 5” x 5” squares called charm squares from any piece of fabric large enough, but here we demonstrate cutting from metric fat quarters. These measure 50 cm x (width-of-fabric / 2).
Metric fat quarters are slightly larger than yard-based fat quarters, which on average are 18” x 21”, and therefore would create 12 squares from 15” x 20” with less excess fabric:
Press your fabric before cutting, and cut the selvedge off. Trim edges if they have started fraying:
Cut 5” wide strips in either height or width direction of the fat quarter. I chose width and got three long strips to work with:
Place the 5” strips on top of each other with one end perfectly aligned for all of them. Cut 5” squares:
If you’re comfortable with stacking fabrics before cutting them all at once, from fat quarters you can create 12 charm squares multiplied by your number of layers quite swiftly: for example 60 squares from five fat quarters. Not bad!
There are numerous lovely quilt patterns out there utilising charm squares, so you’re bound to find one you like enough to use some cherished (hoarded, hehe) fabric for.
Cutting Mini Charm Squares
Mini charm squares are 2,5″ in size, meaning one charm square creates four minis. This could be useful if you are left with a few charm squares from a larger project and want to make something small like a pouch, placemat or mini quilt.
The leftover strip above when cutting charm squares from a fat quarter allow you to cut 8 mini charm squares from it:
What’s left from the fat quarter is a thin, about 21″ long strip in addition to the 5″ and 2,5″ strip ends.
Cutting your own precuts creates fabulous avenues for scraps and leftover pieces of fabrics as well, not for new projects from pieces not yet used. If you’re of the type to buy fabric for specific projects but don’t have many ideas for the remnant bits, one solution is to look for precut-friendly patterns, then go for a scrappy look to use your own precuts collected over time.
For an organised approach, sort your pieces right after cutting, too, so getting into designing and sewing is as fun as possible when inspiration strikes.
Have you thought of cutting your own precuts yet? If charm squares and mini charm squares are too small to your taste, stay tuned for our tips how to cut layer cakes and jelly-roll strips!