Frugal Jelly Roll Quilting.

 Hello Dear Reader,

Lots of photos and a ‘how to’ tutorial. As you may or may not know, I haven’t got a lot of spare money but I love to quilt, which can be expensive. You can buy bigger boards and cutters but I get by with a 14″ X 4″ ruler a cutting board and a rotary cutter. I bought one which could take a replacement blade. These will last me for year. You will need a flat surface such as a kitchen table or work top. 

 I buy men’s cotton shirts from charity shops and then tell everyone that I make quilts from recycled fabrics and people for all four corners of the UK send me fabric. I use duvet covers or sheets for backing but I do buy good quality batting/wadding. I have a whole collection of shirts. I even use white shirts to have contrasting stripes or squares. I’ll show you how to make jelly rolls. A jelly roll is a 2.5″ wide strip, which are commercially sold at 40″ long. This is home made, like home made cake, it isn’t like the stuff in the shops. It won’t be perfect.

 You will have two sleeves, which I put one on top of the other and iron. I then fold them over to make them easy to slice.

 Take to your cutting mat and trim off the scraggy ends. Now get onto your number bonds or number patterns. I now think in blocks and add on a quarter of an inch at either side to allow seamage. A 2.5″ strip will sew down to be 2″ wide.

  I also see numbers in patterns of 2.5. I work right to left because I’m right handed. I start at 15 and work back and lay my ruler at 12.5, next time at 10, then 7.5………………

 I hold down the top and bottom with my fingers spread wide and press hard, I keep my fingers well back as I could jump with the blade and cut my arm off!

 I end up with 2.5″ wide strips.

 I open them up and cut off the uneven ends. 

 I do the same with the two shoulder pieces.

 It seems like a lot of wastage, but these bits will go into my rag bags and be used in other projects, or as part of this one.

 Now the fronts of the shirts. Again, there are two, so lay one on top of the other. Iron carefully.

 Fold to make the cutting easier.

 Trim off the scraggy ends.

 Here you can see me holding the ruler firmly, making sure I stay on the right mark at the top and bottom; these gridded cutting boards are so easy to work on.

 Here’s an ‘ariel’ shot showing how I line up the ruler with the boars.

 Here you can see the force I’m exerting to keep the ruler firmly in place.

 Another shot to see what that looks like.

 Here you can see me lining up to a mid point marking. I make sure I keep the fabric in the same position.

 I try and keep the lengths similar, so I join some.

 I’ll have a pile of strips, right sides together on my lap ready to feed into the machine.

 I’ll then have a shirt full of strips of the same width and similar lengths.

 Here’s one shirt, in a jelly roll. I bought this shirt for 50p in a charity shop. It’s not worn, a few marks but I can live with those.

 One home made jelly roll. I’ll keep doing this in readiness for my quilting workshop. 

These will not be perfect and there will be tiny variations. I will not have cut every seam straight but it doesn’t really matter. I quite like to sit and unpick a shirt whilst watching a film, I could do it on the train or whilst DB is driving us to work. Even if I paid the full £2 that most of my local charity shops charge for a man’s shirt it is still a fraction of the price of buying material by the metre/yard and ready cut jelly rolls can cut up to £29 (for flashy and lovely Moda). I don’t mind a bit of work if it means I can save clothing from landfill and make lovely gifts for friends and family for a fraction of the price.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs


24 thoughts on “Frugal Jelly Roll Quilting.

  1. THANK YOU for this – it was just what I needed. I make clothes for my two little girls from recycled clothing and I have been wanting to have a go at quilting from recycled materials as well, but haven't known where to start. I was recently inspired by a book on jelly roll quilts that I got from the library but was NOT inspired by Moda prices! This was just what I needed – a couple of questions though – would you recommend a particular size of mat and also what size rotary cutter do you use? I have seen various sizes advertised and don't want to get it wrong! I would love to come to one of your workshops but I live on a remote Scottish island……if you ever tour this far I'll be first in the queue. Thanks again!


  2. Think we have had a similar evening. I've spent my time cutting a pile of unused homemade cushion covers into 5″ squares for a project. I got these from a friend – no cost and lots of fabric to re-purpose.
    To re-iterate what you said:- always cut away from yourself when using a rotary cutter (less lood on fabric).


  3. Fun to see your process! I used 2 shirts in my son's quilt that I'm working on right now. The collars and cuffs were frayed, so they couldn't be worn as dress shirts anymore. When I cut up clothes, I try to make sure they are truly worn, so I really feel like I'm saving them from their landfill demise.

    What kind of batting do you like? I don't know much about it.


  4. Having purchased a many lifetime supply of mostly Moda fabric before I came to my senses I won't be cutting up any shirts to recycle…but I love the idea of making my own jelly rolls…rhink of handy it will be to have them for binding small quilts or giving as gifts…as always Froogs…great idea!


  5. This looks like a great idea and probably what I need to finish my first ever quilt. If I were nearer I would come to your workshop! DaisyChain suggested finishing with plain borders, so could I make a jelly roll in different coloured plains and then add that to the edge? Why are they always 2 and a half inches? Can you make them wider? x


  6. Fab Tutorial FQ 🙂
    I am attempting to make a quilt from old clothes at the moment but its slow going as I don't have a machine so its all handstitched, but I'm definitely enjoying it.
    x x x


  7. I went looking in our local charity shops at shirts last weekend. £4.99 each! And some of them were so worn that I would not have bought them them at £1.


  8. Thanks so much for blogging this – I found it so clear and useful. Pictures helped a lot, I'm not so great at learning from descriptions alone. I'm starting to assemble the strips for a jelly roll “stripes” quilt that I found a pattern for online…using only recycled garments/bedding.


  9. Thanks so much for this post – I found it so useful and easy to understand. Pictures helped a lot too. I'm now starting to assemble the strips for a “stripy” jelly roll quilt which I found a pattern for online, using recycled garments/bedding, of course!


  10. well, good for you, but this is what quilting is in the first place….. re-using fabrics. That is how it started and done for a long long time. The commercial fabrics are nice, but in times as this, recycling fabric is more logic


  11. Hello! I'm so happy to know that there are others out there doing the same thing!! I've gathered used shirts for years, and love to use them in my quilting. Sometimes I cut them as you do, however, sometimes I lay out the back piece, folded in half, then align the rest of the pieces to have a straight edge or fold along the fold of the back piece, then I fold them over to make a long folded piece. From there I either wrap it around a saved cereal box that I've saved and flattened, to have a mini “bolt” that can be placed on shelves, or I just fold the piece in half again to stack with other shirts folded in the same way.

    Since I've done this for so many years, I always have just the right color fabric I need. And, I have many jars full of buttons, so I never buy buttons.
    Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE new fabric, and buy it when I need to, but for making family quilts that will used, washed and used for many years, the recycled fabric is the way to go!!


  12. Hello! I've done the same thing for years. I have many men in my life, hubby, 3 sons, 2 grandsons, so I'm always on the search for shirts at sales & thrift shops. I have a HUGE storage box full of men's shirts in various sizes, all in excellent condition. So, when one needs new shirts we look there first. However, my best buys are those shirts in plus size (over XL), because after a good wash they always get cut up into quilting lengths. There is a ton of fabric in those larger shirts and they always cost the same as the small sized ones. I do cut them into jelly rolls, but also have a huge stack of folded cut up shirts for quilting/sewing projects. I can get a kids size pair of shorts or a shirt made from one of the men's shirts, with leftovers for quilting. Also, all the buttons add up fast, giving you jars of buttons that look nice in your sewing room! Great sewing/quilting fun to all of you!!


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