Thursday, July 5, 2018

Jelly-Roll Rug Tips and Tricks

I still have to laugh - one of the gals at a recent All Day Sewing Day was working on a Jelly-Roll Rug.  She showed me the pattern and I thought she was insane - why would anyone pay money for a Jelly Roll, then spend hours stitching a rug when you could simply purchase one for next to nothing at Target, especially since you were going to throw it on the floor and walk all over it?!  (Uh duh, that would be what we do as quilters on a regular basis, now wouldn't it, minus the walking-on-it part?!)  

The crazy thing was that I couldn't get that rug off my mind!  I went home and watched every YouTube video I could find, searched all the hashtags on Instagram, and read everything I could find about tips and tricks in making a rug.  I even e-mailed the pattern author!  The more I read, the more nervous I was that I wouldn't end up with a rug I was happy with.  But finally, I felt like I had gathered enough info and was ready to take the plunge.

It turned out great, and I had so much fun making it! 
And, after all the research I did, I wanted to document it here and share it with you as well.

So, here are my Jelly-Roll Rug Tips and Tricks:

~ First of all, you'll need to purchase Roma Lambson's Jelly-Roll Rug pattern.  I purchased it from The Old Country Store, the local quilt shop where I teach classes.  You can purchase a downloadable PDF from Roma's Etsy shop here, or you can find it online from various shops, 

~ This video by Erica Arndt of Confessions of a Homeschooler was the most helpful of the ones I viewed.  Thanks, Erica, for filming it!

~ You can use a Jelly Roll or cut 2-1/2" WOF strips from your stash.  If you decide to use a Jelly Roll, you can rearrange the order of the fabric strips, but I decided not to over think it and used them in the exact order they were arranged on the roll.  I simply decided which strip I wanted on the outside of the rug (usually the darker values look best on the outside).  

It was so fun to see the design emerge!!

~ Instead of fan folding my pieced fabric strips, I simply let them fall into a small round laundry basket as I seamed them.  Then, when pressing the seams, I allowed them to fall into a second laundry basket.

~ I used Warm & White batting scraps and also cut strips from batting yardage instead of the 2-1/2" Bosal precut batting roll.  It was a great way to use up all those skinny batting scraps that I've been saving, and it was cheaper too.  But, using the precut batting strips will save you some time.  My understanding is that the Boasal is not quite as thick, so your rug may end up being a little less substantial.  You can also use the 2-1/4" Bosal precut batting rolls that are now available.

~ I did not seam or fuse my batting strips; I simply lapped them, cut them on a diagonal, then butted them up and overlapped them ever-so-slightly.

~ I don't know if anyone has tried using polyester batting, but I would think cotton batting would be the better choice in case you need to steam press your rug to get it to lay flat.  Same with using a cotton/poly blend fabric such as vintage sheets - I would not try that until you get the hang of keeping your rug flat without pressing.

~ I used my Juki to stitch the fabric and batting tube; it speedily powered through the thick layers with no trouble whatsoever and didn't require a walking foot!  I wouldn't have even considered skipping the walking foot if Erica hadn't mentioned that in her video.

~ If you find you do need to use a walking foot for stitching the tube, try to center the tube under the walking foot so that the walking foot isn't hanging over the tube, and so that the tube is centered over the feed dogs as well.  You'll likely need to move your needle over a few notches if you are stitching on the edge of the tube vs. in the center.

I used a 3.0 stitch length and chose to stitch a slightly less than 5mm seam (less than 1/4").  

I was really happy with the way that looks in the finished rug.  

~ I turned the edges in toward the center and clipped as I went along, using no more than five Clover Wonder clips at a time.

~ Again, I allowed the tube to coil into a round laundry basket, even though rolling the long fabric tube into a ball results in a way cooler effect!

~ If you choose to roll your tube into a ball, Clover Wonder Clips in place of rubber bands work great to keep it from unrolling.

~ When it comes time to zig-zag the coil together to make the rug, I would encourage you to make a test swatch and test your stitch length and tension.  For whatever reason, I had trouble with skipped stitches using a Denim/Jeans needle on my Bernina until I switched to a Topstitch needle.  I only had a size 14 on hand, but a size 16 would probably have been a better choice.  Had I taken the time to do a test swatch, I could have saved myself from unpicking a lot of stitches.

~ You'll probably want to change your sewing machine needle at least once if not more during the zig-zag stitching process.  Keep in mind you are sewing through four layers of fabric and four layers of batting.  I could hear that my needle was getting dull, but I didn't bother changing it because it didn't seem to be impacting my stitch quality.

~ I followed Roma's recommendations on the stitch length and width, and was really pleased with the results.

~ When stitching the first sharp turns, I found a Clover Tailor's Awl to be helpful in guiding the fabric tube and holding it in place.

~ I had planned to use a walking foot, but I felt that I got better results with the dual feed.  I did reduce the foot pressure to 25 on my Bernina.

~When zig-zag stitching the coils together, keep your eye on your presser foot and don't look away, especially on the turns!  This may sound like a no brainer, but I found myself admiring the rug instead of watching what I was doing, and before I knew it, my stitching was no longer in the center and I had missed catching both sides of the coil, especially when I was going around the curves.  

~ A flat bed machine is ideal, but not all quilters have that kind of set up these days.  I simply used three plastic Art Bin boxes next to my machine, and that allowed me to keep the rug flat as I was stitching it.  You basically can use anything to create a flat surface - books, foil roasting pans, you name it!  

~ After seeing numerous pictures on wavy rugs online, I was really concerned that I wouldn't be able to keep my rug flat.  But, I had absolutely no trouble.  A flat surface was most likely the secret.  Also, as soon as the rug starts getting wonky, take it off the machine, spray both sides liberally with Best Press or spray starch, press flat and allow to cool before proceeding.  I mixed up a solution of half Stay Flo and half water in a spray bottle, but never even needed to use it!

~ Don't feel like you need to have your machine sitting on a large table.  I simply folded the rug as needed while I was working on it.

~ I had a number of thread start and stops, either because I had stitched off course, or due to the bobbin running out.  I chose to bury my thread ends (I know, I'm probably the only one out there crazy enough to do that, but it really does make for a nice stitch if you want to take the time to do that.).

~  I was really happy with my decision to use Aurifil 50 wt 100% Cotton Thread.  I considered using So Fine polyester thread thinking it would be stronger, but then I was concerned about pressing a polyester thread with high heat if my rug needed lots of pressing.  My go-to shade of Aurifil 2021  blended in beautifully.

I looove the finished rug!  It was such a "zen" project....  I really, really enjoyed working on it.  Can't wait to make another one!!


  1. Thanks for the tips. I am thinking about making one. Love your choice of "Jelly Roll"

  2. Those are great tips! I was wondering about using the Dual Feed. Did you use foot number 1?

  3. Nancy, so sorry - just now read your comment. Yes, I used foot #1D, but an open toe foot would give better visibility.

  4. So many great tips - thank you, Andrea. I can hardly wait to get going on one.

  5. What can be done about a wavy rug? It's beginning to look like a sombrero. When ironed, it looks great, but on the floor, looks wavy.

  6. Fantastic post! You answered so many of my questions. I have the pattern and the supplies and now I might even start the project :-)

  7. Love your post! I'm ready to stitch my rug, but there's no way to avoid the double fold edges butting up against each other at least once. How did you manage this?

  8. Question: I want to make a larger rug and have prepped 2 jelly rolls together. I’m just not sure how long the very first piece should be when I begin zigzagging! For an oval rug do you have any suggestions? I would like the finished size to be about 3’ x 5 or 6’!

    1. I've no personal knowledge but I've read for other rugs such as braided and rag rugs you subtract the width of the rug from its length and add in about a quarter or third more for ease. E.g. for 6 x 4 foot rug 6 - 4 = 2 feet. Add 2 x 1/3 = 2/3 feet. First length would be about 2 1/3 feet long.

    2. Oh my gosh! I have been googling and googling trying to get this measurement guide and never could find it. I just happened to see this. Yay!!!

  9. This is a really informative knowledge, Thanks for posting this informative Information.

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  10. Please help! I have tried numerous needle types, a walking foot, changing stitch length, I have an extension table BUT my stitches keep skipping. I don't know what else to do. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

    1. I have this exact problem. I've used regular needles of many sizes, Jersey needles of many sizes, turned tension up & down, tried 3 different kinds of zigzag stitches...nothing is working! I hope you get an answer, because I can't even get this started.

    2. I'm also having this problem. I've made many of these rugs with regular fabric and had no problem, but I'm using batiks and the stitches are skipping. Had the machine cleaned, tried denim needle, tried microtex needle. Nothing seems to help.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I'm also having this problem. I've made many of these rugs with regular fabric and had no problem, but I'm using batiks and the stitches are skipping. Had the machine cleaned, tried denim needle, tried microtex needle. Nothing seems to help.

  12. I've had problems skipping stiches... I use thin sharp needles, clean out all lint and change your thread,

  13. I loved this project, but had issues with my machine skipping zigzags! Be sure to use cotton thread!!!

  14. What color of Aurifil cotton thread did you use?

  15. What color of Aurifil cotton thread did you use?

  16. Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here.
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