Eat dessert first…

I’ve always liked that adage – “life is uncertain, eat dessert first.”

It explains why I’m not a Size 4 – genetics notwithstanding – and it explains why I am such a pushover for every single incarnation of Moda’s “desserts”… those luscious pre-cuts known as cakes, jelly rolls, candy and turnovers.


I can have pieces of every fabric in the collection – which is so much better than having to decide which fabrics and how much to get of each.  I can have them all.  (Those “Hoarders” folks have a lot of quilters on their “Watch List”.)

You’ve asked many times about pre-cuts, primarily about how they’re made and some of the particulars.  I wish I could tell you that it was some really cool machine that took bolts of fabric and magically turned them into Jelly Rolls.  Better still, a pre-cut replicator like the one on Star Trek.  (Wouldn’t we all want one of those?)

It’s pretty simple – long lengths of fabric are stacked in a particular order based on color, print and so on.  The fabric is cut by machine and the packages are assembled by hand in much the same way that any packaged good is done.  Somebody has to put all those Thin Mints into that sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.  You asked if there might be a video of the process but when I asked about it, it was pretty clear that nobody ever thought the idea of filming the process would be of interest.  (Maybe someday.)

The other common question is always about the pre-cuts themselves – how many pieces, duplicates, why the pinked edges, etc.  Did you know that there is a chart of “Equivalent Measures” on the Moda Bake Shop?  It’s at the top – Weights & Measures.  There are several terrific charts with useful information on the Bake Shop but this is my favorite – I refer to it frequently.

MBS Equivalent Measures


So here’s what I can tell you about each – and show pictures of pretty new fabric.

Fat Quarter Bundles. 


(From left to right… Lorraine by American Jane / Purebred by Erin Michael / Mille Couleurs by 3 Sisters / Bright Sun by A Quilting Life.)

These are called AB Bundles – for Absolutely Beautiful, of course.  An AB bundle is comprised of one fat quarter – 18″ x 22″ – of each fabric in a collection.  There are no duplicate pieces in a bundle of fat quarters – some folks also call these bundles “stacks” or “towers”.

On a side note, for some unknown reason, the ribbon used to tie AB bundles seems to knot very easily, resulting in many quilters being unable to ever untie the bundle and use any of the fat quarters.

Fat Eighth Bundles – F8s.


(From left to right and top-to-bottom, Very Merry by Sandy Gervais / Mon Ami by Basic Grey / Lorraine by American Jane / Chic Neutrals by Amy Ellis / Eliza’s Indigo by Betsy Chutchian.)

As with the fat quarters, these bundles have one fat eighths – 9″ x 22″ – of each fabric in a collection.  No duplicates, just one of each.  They’ve been my favorite for several years because I could combine collections without having a lot of extra fabric – another case of not having to make a decision about which one to get.  And with the larger collections, one F8 bundle was almost always enough to make a nice-size quilt.

Jelly Rolls. 


(Top to bottom, left to right – Purebred by Erin Michael / Mon Ami by Basic Grey / Farmhouse by Fig Tree Quilts / Nocturne by Janet Clare / Collection for a Cause Nurture by Howard Marcus / Windermere by Brenda Riddle / Eliza’s Indigo by Betsy Chutchian.)

A Moda Jelly Roll is always 40 strips of fabric – 2 1/2″ x 40″.  If there are only 32 pieces in a collection, there will be eight duplicates.  It might be 2 strips of 8 of the fabrics, or there might be three of some prints.  It varies depending on the prints and colors in the collection.

These are rolled by hand – and it’s hard!  Try unrolling one and then rolling it back up.  Having recently rolled some strips for various projects I’m working on, I figured there had to be a trick or secret.  There is – the strips are rolled in a “chute”.  It’s the only way to keep it straight.  Tight?  That’s totally dependent on the skill of the Jelly Roller.

Junior Jelly Rolls?  Those are half the size – 20 strips.  They’re available in Bella Solids and some collections, like V&Co.’s Simply Colorful and Ombres.

(The ribbon used on Jelly Rolls seems to have the same knotting issue… of course, it has nothing to do with how cute they look on the shelf in one’s sewing room.)

Layer Cakes.


(Color Daze by Laundry Basket Quilts.)

A little Australian bird recently told me that this is her favorite size of pre-cut because it’s the perfect way to get the widest variety of fabrics for her amazingly awesome scrap quilts.  Her shop cuts fabrics this size – 10″ x 10″ squares – and after folding them, they’re tightly rolled and sold as “lollies”.

What’s in a Layer Cake?  Each Layer Cake has 42 squares measuring 10″ x 10″.  Every Layer Cake will have at least two duplicates since Moda collections are usually limited to 40 different fabrics.

Junior Layer Cakes have 20 fabrics and they’re mostly available in the Bella Solids.

Charm Packs… This is what started all of it.


(Canyon by Kate Spain.)

You might already know that it took me a long time to embrace charm packs.  I thought they were cute but really, what could you make with a charm pack or two?  To date, more than 80 quilts… but that’s another subject for another day.

A charm pack has 42 squares measuring 5″ x 5″ and there will be at least two duplicates.

And finally… Mini Charm Packs. 


(Let’s go with many many different ones.)

Like the regular charm packs, there are 42 squares and there are some duplicates.  The difference is that these squares are 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″, one-quarter the size of a charm pack.  Hmmm… coincidentally, a charm pack is one-quarter the size of a layer cake.

Porquoi?  Because the math works out easily.  The size of pre-cuts is determined largely by how efficiently they can be cut within a 42″ wide fabric without having concerns about selvages.

The pinked edges?  They don’t fray or “thread”.  That means they’re essentially little “lint bombs” but cleaning that off your stretchy-sewing pants is easier to deal with than cutting or sewing a square that has threads along the four edges.

There are also Turnovers, Honey Buns, Honeycombs and Dessert Rolls but not every collection has these.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something – lots of somethings – but I am not forgetting the most important thing…

Karen Seitz!  You’re going to have to put”making an Irish Chain quilt” on your “to-do” because you’re going to have a new book and a Layer Cake.  (Karen – check your e-mail box.)

That’s it for today – Happy Friday!  And have a wonderful sunny, summer weekend!

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20 thoughts on “Eat dessert first…

  1. So, how about those miles of selvages that are cut off? Perhaps they could be sold in bags like the Scrap Bag. If they were sold for packaging cost with little profit they might win folks over to Moda, There are lots of selvage quilters out here. I am one who collects them and I have just started my first quilt after about 12 years of collecting. You know us stashers, we keep thinking we will get to it!


    1. Hi Susan – Having made a selvage project or two, I can tell you that these selvages would be too narrow. Very few are more than 1/2″ wide, and then there’s that pinked edge. It isn’t a problem, it just means there’s a skosh less usable fabric after seam allowance. But I’ll pass along your idea – it’s a good one!

  2. Does Moda still make Candy Bars? I love those! Have used them for piano key borders and coffee cozies.

    1. Hi Patricia – There haven’t been any Candy Bars for a few years but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some again. I’ll pass along your request. 🙂

  3. As usual, great info! I just finished a nine-patch quilt (from Carol Koenig’s Quiltmania book). I made all the nine-patch blocks from my charm square collection that dates back to what I think is the very first charm pack Moda made. Now, my question: what was the first charm pack, and when was it made? I thought it would be nice to include this information on the quilt label. Love ya, Carrie, you are doing an absolutely fantastic job!!!!!!!!

  4. Thanks for this post. I am shamelessly addicted to precuts because it allows me to have one of everything. That, and just as you said in this post, it keeps me from having to make decisions. LOL! I am so utterly impressed that jelly rolls are rolled by hand. Also a bit sad, because I know I will never get hired for this fabric fondling job.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I love precuts, charm packs are my favorite, cute and yet affortable. And I don’t feel bad when I’m using them … although it’s because they don’t have an untieable ribbon;-) And I think Edie’s idea is great: how about putting the release date on the lable. It would be a great way to keep track of the collections.

  6. Speaking of pinked edges, how do you deal with them? I just finished my first charm pack quilt top using a half hexagon template. It was very difficult to line up the pinked corners. Is there a trick? Do you cut them off?

  7. I really don’t like the pinked edges and agree with the previous comment that it is hard to line them up. I’m just finishing up a project which required 2.5 inch squares which I cut from a jelly roll and had to measure each piece to make sure to get an accurate block. Those pinked edges fray too.

  8. I’m thrilled to have won the Irish Chain blog hop prize! Thank you so much, Carrie and Moda, for the information and inspiration!

  9. I heard that you’re the instigator of the newest precut, Frivols. Very impressive! No wonder Moda snapped you up when you offered up your services last year. Wise people!

  10. Thanks for explaining the “knot issue”, that explains why I have so many sitting around. ha
    Love your posts!

  11. Thank you for the dessert. I feel like I had whipped cream on top! Can you tell me if there is a pattern for the 3 pillows shown in the scroll at the top of the blog header? Thank You.

  12. That jelly roll ribbon is something else! Took me 2 years to untie the first one. Still working on the FQ bundle and other jelly roll………………..

  13. If I ever figure out how to untie that twill tape, I will need an idea on how to use at least a mile of it!

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