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Tips for Making a Jelly Roll Rug – without breaking the bank or being frustrated

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image of jelly roll rug

For several years I’ve thought about what to do about rugs for my kitchen. Yep, years. While pondering this issue, I’ve had inexpensive rugs in the kitchen as a temporary fix. But they don’t hold up well to washings (or vacuuming). Finally I settled on making jelly roll rugs for the kitchen. There are many tutorials for making jelly roll rugs so this post isn’t a tutorial or a pattern, but tips for making a jelly roll rug without spending a lot of money getting super frustrated.

The main priority I have for rugs for the kitchen is that they are washable. I really like the look of those inexpensive woven rag rugs you can get at the store – but they start to fall apart after a few washing.

I also want the rugs to co-ordinate with my rug in the living room as our kitchen, dining, and living rooms are all one big room. Decorating is not my forte and my style is probably best categorized as eclectic. But I’ve been working on trying to tie all the eclectic together to make my home feel less chaotic.

I love the look of braided rugs and seriously thought about making a toothbrush rug. I watched videos, lots and lots of videos, made a toothbrush rug tool, and joined a couple of toothbrush rug facebook groups. I was all ready to go – except I couldn’t decide on colors. I bet I spent over a year trying to collect thrifted sheets in a color combination that I thought would look nice in my kitchen.

This is something I already know about myself, too many color options overwhelms me and my brain just shuts down.

I was talking with my sister about the rug issue and she said, “Oh, you should just use a jelly roll.” If you’re not familiar with jelly rolls,  they are precut strips of fabric that are in collections that match. Each strip is 2.5″ x 44″ and there are usually about 20 in the jelly roll. When I first heard about jelly rolls, I thought it was silly because it doesn’t take long at all to cut 20 strips of fabric.

I now realize the beauty of jelly rolls isn’t in the time savings from cutting the fabric, it’s in having 20 strips of fabric that all look nice together. Then my sister introduced me to the jelly roll rug. It’s sewn in a similar way to the coiled rope baskets I make so I knew this was the rug for me.

image of homemade sewing machine extension with plywood and bowls

Tips for Making Jelly Roll Rugs

The biggest tip I have for making a jelly roll rug is to go slow and enjoy the process. It’s not a hard project but it is time consuming. You have sew all the strips together, then bind them with the batting, then sew them together, and finally iron the rug. It can probably all be done in one long afternoon but I broke it up and did it over several days.

Once I started sewing the rug together I felt rushed and didn’t take the time I needed to do the curves properly and ended up having to take the stitching out half of my first one and restitch it. So, don’t be in a rush.

If you’re looking to make your rug a certain size (like I was) then this pattern is probably a good investment even if you’re only going to make one or two. I think it saved me hours of frustration of not making the jelly roll rug center piece the right length to get the size of the rug I wanted. (She also has a rectangle rug and a round rug pattern available.)

  • Make a flat surface – The other thing you’ll need is a flat surface to sew on. If you do a lot of quilting you might already have a sewing machine extension, that’s wonderful! If not, try stacking books around your machine to make a flat surface. Or do what I did, ask your teenage son to cut a piece of plywood to go around your sewing machine and use your soup bowls to elevate it. I wouldn’t want to use this for a lot of projects but for a rug or two it was fine. It slipped here and there but it was free.
  • Use coupons – if you want to use a real jelly roll, buy locally and use coupons. You pay a lot for the convenience of having the fabric cut and coordinated for you.
  • Cut your own strips – If you have a large fabric stash (and are pretty good with putting colors together) cut your own strips. You don’t need tons of different fabrics. You can repeat some.
  • Cut on the bias – If you cut your own fabric, cut on the bias. I think this will help make the curves lay flatter because the fabric will have a bit of give in it.
  • Cut your own batting. Every video I watched suggested precut jelly roll batting, it’s quite pricey and you’ll use almost a full 50 yard roll per jelly roll rug. Instead of buying this I just cut my own using cotton batting, a rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and cutting mat. It didn’t take long and really cut down on the cost.
  • Don’t stitch batting together. One reason everyone suggests the jelly roll batting is because it’s in one long strip. If you cut your own batting, they recommend you zig zag stitch the ends of the batting strips to make one long strip. I didn’t do this. When I came to the end of one strip, I just butted the next strip of batting right up against the first strip and pinned it. It’s not going to go anywhere, it’s getting folded and then sewn twice.
  • Use what you have. The other thing that is highly recommended is quilting binding clips. If you do a lot of jelly roll rugs or quilting then I’m sure having these on hand is wonderful. But don’t buy them just for this project. I rummaged through our drawers and found some binder clips I bought on clearance a few years ago after the back to school sales ended. You can also just use regular straight pins.

image of jelly roll rug before ironing

image of ironing jelly roll rug

image of jelly roll rug after ironing

  • Make your own ironing spray – You’ll need an iron and some pressing spray close by. Everyone recommends a pressing spray to iron the jelly roll rug. But as you probably guessed I don’t use this pressing spray. I make my own ironing spray with vodka and distilled water in a 1:8 ratio – for every one ounce vodka use eight ounces distilled water.
  • Use quilting gloves  – One thing I didn’t see recommended that I think would help is using quilting gloves. While sewing the second half of each rug, my left hand and wrist started hurting from having to move the bulky rug a little at a time. Next time I make one I’ll ask my sister if I can borrow a pair to see if that help.
  • Go slow on curves – If you’re machine has an adjustment to control the speed put it on medium. If not, then just be careful with the food petal. Once you get a curve done, spray and iron it. Since my extension is wood, I just ironed right on the extension instead of removing the rug from the sewing machine. At some point the curves will lay down but you’ll need to iron the first 7 or 8 curves on both sides.
  • Iron often and fix mistakes immediately. When you’re sewing and you notice something that’s not quite right, fix it right then. If you notice some waviness in the straight side, try to iron it out. If it doesn’t iron out then take the stitches out and re-stitch it. Whatever error you have will get exaggerated as you add more rows.

image of sewing jelly roll rug

Along with buying the printable jelly roll rug pattern, I also watched a few You Tube videos on make them. This one from Confessions of a Homeschooler is the first one I watched. Then after my first one didn’t turn out quite right, I watched this one from Quilt Addicts Anonymous. They are both very good but highlight different things.

My second rug turned out better than my first, not that the first one is bad, but I think the second is better. I was able to get the tension of moving the rug and letting the machine pull the strips in better sync than I did with the first one. I also sprayed and ironed after every couple of rows. I didn’t realize the importance of this even though it’s mentioned in the first video. I erroneously thought I could just iron it all at the end – but the waves were just too much.

Overall this was a really fun project and I smile every time I see my new rugs. I’ll probably use this technique to make things like trivets, coasters, and placemats. It think it will be a good way to use up a lot of scrap fabric.

image of kitchen jelly roll rug

 

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

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