How to Sew A Jelly Roll Race Quilt

Jelly Roll
The jelly roll race quilt. Maybe you’ve heard of it? If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat, because it is, quite possibly, one of the fastest quilt tops you will ever make! I made mine in an hour once I cut my own strips. I was looking for a project to practice free motion quilting doodle flowers on (I’m still doodling flowers on everything), and this seemed perfect for that. I thought I’d share how I made mine in case you’d like to make one.
A “jelly roll” of fabric is literally a roll of 2 1/2″ x 44″ pre-cut strips of fabric, and a roll usually has 30-40 strips. These are usually created and sold to feature prints in a particular line (one or more strip of each print included) or groups of, say, coordinating solids. A lap or baby-sized quilt can be made from 1 jelly roll. Because I love to reuse and upcycle to create a more unique look, I used a combination of both new and repurposed fabrics. If you want to make your own jelly roll strips, just cut 2 1/2 inch wide strips across the width of any fabric. If you are reusing fabrics that aren’t 44 inches wide, still cut 2 1/2 inch wide strips, you’ll just need more of them.


I added in a few jelly roll strips from Denyse Schmidt’s Chicopee line which I bought at her workshop last summer. I also cut strips of Carolyn Friedlander’s Architextures line (love this line!) and the rest are repurposed fabrics– the bright blue were a pair of J Crew corduroy pants, the gray was a pinpoint oxford shirt, the pink check was a blouse, and the rest were from my stash, all from the thrift store.

Jelly Roll Race Quilt Instructions

1. Unwrap the jelly roll (or create a stack of self-cut strips yourself. You’ll need about 40-45 strips, each measuring 2 1/2″ wide by approximately 42″ long). Sew them together, end-to-end, at a 45 degree angle, like the photo below, just as you would sew strips together for binding. Sew a diagonal stitch line from the top left edge of the top strip to the right lower corner where both of the strips meet. You will cut away all but 1/4 inch seam allowance later. (Note: There is really no need to pre-plan or worry too much about which strips will go where, just let them fall where they fall, or give them one shuffle before you start, and you won’t be disappointed.)
Jelly Roll

After you complete this step of sewing all the jelly rolls together, end to end, you will have a 1600″ long strip if you have 40 strips. Trim off the tails, trim the seam allowances away, but no need to iron till the end. Cut off the first 18″ or so of the long strip. This ensures that your joined seams are staggered across the quilt, and not all on the edges.
2. Fold the entire long strip in half, lengthwise, and sew it all together. Snip open where the end makes a fold, creating an 800″ long strip.
Jelly Roll
3. Repeat step 2, and watch your strip get shorter, yet wider, each time. Your quilt top is forming!
4. Continue repeating step 2 over and over until you have your completed quilt top in the width and length you want. (This is where the “race” comes in, a little healthy competition between quilt groups to see who finishes these steps first.)
Jelly Roll
5. Iron, baste into a sandwich, quilt, and bind (here’s a video I did to show you how), and your quilt is done!
Jelly Roll
I spent the afternoon doodle stitching/quilting away. A bit rumpled in a few places where I was having some tension problems, but overall I am quite happy with how it turned out. Next time- contrasting thread flowers, for sure.
Jelly Roll

Jelly Roll Race Quilt
  • Jean

    February 11, 2013 at 6:35 am

    I like your doodled flowers. So cheery!

  • emily

    February 11, 2013 at 6:50 am

    eeeeep! this seems like great fun, blair! and i recognize those doodled flowers from your video last week!

  • Erin | house on hill road

    February 11, 2013 at 7:11 am

    love this – especially the quilting! and have some of my chicopee jelly roll left to use so this could be fun to try. but…i’m confused on steps 2 to 4. are you folding the entire 1600″ and sewing 2 800″ lengths together? maybe i need another cup of coffee…

  • blair/wisecraft

    February 11, 2013 at 7:25 am

    You're folding the entire strip in half and sewing those together lengthwise (800"), then folding that strip in half and sewing (400") and so on. I'll sharpen up the instructions up there to make more sense.

  • Erin | house on hill road

    February 11, 2013 at 7:37 am

    ok. that makes sense. thank you!

  • Jenelle

    February 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing this how-to! I might need to cut some strips and give it a try. 🙂

  • rachel | buttons magee

    February 11, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Such a great idea for a quilt. I may need to pull the machine out.

  • Jeane M.

    February 12, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Brilliant! Love the fabric and those cute flower pattern stitch to top it all.

  • Elaina

    May 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Must all the strips be 44″ long?

  • blair/wisecraft

    May 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I think an inch or two variance within the length of the strips is ok, but if the strips vary greatly it will be harder to estimate the size of your finished quilt top, and there will be less uniformity.

  • blair/wisecraft

    May 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I think an inch or two variance within the length of the strips is ok, but if the strips vary greatly it will be harder to estimate the size of your finished quilt top, and there will be less uniformity.

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