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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Monday 1st of March 2021
Has anyone tried using flannel strips as the batting? I ask because I'd like to make either a slice jellyroll rug or a rectangle jellyroll rug, to use as a step out rug, by my bathtub...my thoughts are that if i use cotton flannel strips for the batting, that the rug will dry out faster, than if i use the thicker Bosal cotton batting. I have an Accuquilt GO!Big Fabric cutter and the 2.5 inch strip die - and plenty of cotton flannel sheets that arent being used...that I'd be able to get LOTSO flannel strips for a jellyroll batting.
Wednesday 3rd of March 2021
I've never used flannel strips but I think they would work really well. The rug probably won't be as "fluffy" as it would be if you used cotton batting but I think it would work.
Sunday 29th of March 2020
I just made my first rug, at first I had to iron every two rows so it would lay flat, however, by the time I finished my rug it is now “fluted” the whole way around. How do I get it to lay flat?
Sunday 29th of March 2020
Hi Diana, I sprayed and ironed. The fluting comes from too much tension when you go around the corners. If the fluting isn't bad but just not quite flat, I suggest washing it, laying it flat to dry, and then ironing it when it's still just a little damp. I've been using my rug for about 18 months and now when I wash it I don't have to iron it to get it to lay flat. It settles in place after a day or so of being on the ground. I hope this helps. They're fun rugs but a little fussy.
Friday 30th of August 2019
I don't have a flat surface for sewing. My machine is a portable that sits on a table, not in a cabinet. I have always wanted one of those clear acrylic extension tables. Since I have two jelly roll rugs that I'm working on, now's the right time. I was just wondering how big I would need to go. Do you have any idea? I know they come in different sizes. I'd hate to buy the 11x16 and find out I should've gotten the 24xwhateversize. Thanks for any suggestions you have.
Thursday 5th of September 2019
Hi Kim, sorry this has taken me so long to reply! I think the one I link to in the post, https://amzn.to/2ZNMtlY, will be big enough as the finished rug is about 42" wide. If you're worried about it you can get a larger one, this one would be big enough that the rug would never be hanging off the edge, https://amzn.to/2ZQOQjU. Hope that helps.
Wednesday 31st of July 2019
I am zigzagging ropes together in rectangular jelly roll rug fashion. This is for Aunties Two-Christmas Trees. I can’t get the zigzag stitch to be consistent. I’ll have an inch or two of zigzag then the stitch is all of a sudden straight. Then maybe another zigzag or two. I have tried several different feet including walking foot. Also changed to a jean needle. Have cleaned machine. Have checked threading of machine. Other zigzaging on regular flat cotton turns out fine. Any suggestions?
Wednesday 31st of July 2019
Hey Cheryl, I had this same problem when I first started making rope baskets, https://www.schneiderpeeps.com/rope-basket-diy/. One thing to check out is to make sure that the core of your rope is actually cotton and not synthetic. The core should look almost like paper and not plastic. If it's synthetic it will gum up your needle. Hopefully that will be it.
Monday 22nd of July 2019
I read somewhere to use 2 1/4” batting rather than 2 1/2” to help with bulk. Do you think this is a good idea?
Monday 22nd of July 2019
I think that is certainly worth a try, Sue. The only issue I can think of is that it might be hard to keep it centered on the fabric strips. But I don't think that's much of an issue. If you try it, let me know how it goes.