Delectable designs cook up quickly with precut fabrics

“SHOOTING STARS,” detail above, was pieced and quilted by Mary Covey of Jenks, Okla., with a variety of fat quarters. Fat quarters are cuts of fabric that measure 18 inches by 22 inches. Covey also likes to work with fabrics that are precut into strips that measure 21/2 inches by 44 inches because they speed up the process.

Ever wonder how many ways you can slice a layer cake?

Quilter Mary Covey of Jenks, Okla., will tell you that a layer cake can be cut in four squares, four triangles, nine squares, five strips or four circles.

Uh, say what?

She’s not talking about moist chocolate cake that’s been baked in an oven and topped with irresistible butter cream frosting. Covey instead refers to fabric and one of many creative packaging techniques used by today’s manufacturers.

If you purchase a layer cake at a quilt shop, you’ll have about 40 different 10-inch squares of fabric, usually color coordinated from one designer’s collection.

Besides that, you may be tempted by honey buns, jelly rolls and the latest introduction by Moda Fabrics — candy bars. A box of the latter includes 40 rectangles already cut to a size of 2½ inches by 5 inches.

The terminology originated with Moda, which offers an entire online “bake shop” of cloth treats.

What Covey likes about these ready-to-assemble packages is the ease and speed they give her when piecing her quilt projects.

“It gets you 10 miles down the road ahead of the game,” she says.

Covey recently spoke and taught in Grand Junction to two quilt guilds.

One of her topics was “Possibilities With Precuts,” and she showed a variety of quilts she had made from the fabric pieces and strips.

Before precuts, she purchased fat quarters of fabric, cuts that measure 18 inches by 22 inches.

But the precut craze, first introduced in 2006, sent her over the edge.

“They had to name them after bakery confections,” she says. “I gained weight just drooling over them in quilt shops.”

Her favorite cuts are layer cakes, because they can be cut into such a variety of configurations.

Jelly rolls have 40 to 42 strips of fabric cut 2½ inches wide by 42-44 inches in length. Honey buns are narrower at 1½ inches wide.

Patterns and books abound with quilts, handbags and other projects that can be made from precuts.

Ever the conscientious instructor, Covey says it’s important to read through the instructions before you start sewing. She advises against prewashing the fabrics, particularly the long strips of jelly rolls.

“You’ll end up with a big ball in your washing machine,” she warns.

For those quilters who insist on prewashing their fabric, placing precuts inside a nylon lingerie bag is advisable beforehand. They will shrink about a quarter-inch, she says.

You can make a small project from a jelly roll; for a large quilt, other fabric must be added.

Covey searched the Internet for information on precut fabrics and was astounded to find 179,000 possible ways to use them in a pattern.

“So that tells you how popular they are,” she says.

She also discovered more than a dozen sites that offer free pattern downloads for precuts. Her own website is one of them, http://www.marycovey

Her background in quilting is impressive. She has been teaching since 1980, has written several books and been featured in numerous publications, such as American Patchwork and Quilting and McCall’s Quilting, and has designed several collections of fabric with P&B Textiles.

Covey also is a professional long-arm quilter for Piece O’ Cake and Hollyhock Quilts.

As a machine-quilting expert, she has published four “Follow-the-Line” books of continuous quilting designs and soon will be producing a fifth volume in this series.

Some of Covey’s quilting designs are featured in the February 2011 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting magazine: continuous fern fronds, loopy leaves, swirling waves and flames.

Covey recently began writing a blog to accompany her business called Designing the Good Life.

The company name is most appropriate because she says her favorite part of the quilting process is design.

No doubt where Covey is concerned, precuts definitely are part of the good life.

Email Sherida.Warner@


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