Precuts can be problematic. The very things that entice us into buying them—They’re so cute and coordinated and easy to buy!—end up being the same things that can keep us from wanting to actually use them—But if I break open the pack and cut the squares, I might make a mistake and waste the fabric! And look at how cute it is, all bundled up and nice and neat like that!
Or maybe that’s just me. (Is it just me?) The precut 10” squares I have that I’ve been resistant to cut into include Sweetwater’s Boat House collection for Moda from a few years ago as well as some gorgeous Tonga batiks collections from Timeless Treasures. I mean, what if I make a mistake by choosing a pattern that doesn’t show them off to their best advantage?
Well, fortunately for all of us precut-lovers, there are lots of very talented designers and teachers who have created tutorials and patterns, ranging from super-simple to complex, to take the unknown out of using our precuts.
If you’re new to the world of precut fabrics, it’s important to know that different fabric manufacturers have different names for their precut packages. Most people know 10” squares as layer cakes, which is Moda’s term. Meanwhile, 10” Tonga Batiks are called Shortcakes, Robert Kaufman Fabrics calls them Ten Squares, Riley Blake Designs has 10” Stackers, and so on. The number of squares included in each pack may vary as well, although 42 squares per pack is common.
So with that, let’s take a look at some different approaches to using them.
In this episode of the My First Quilt series, Sara Gallegos talks about where to start and what’s available in terms of quilting fabric in the first part of this two-part episode. Precuts including layer cakes, jelly rolls, charm packs, fat quarter packs, and more are shown, and Sara talks about what kind of projects each size can be helpful for.
And in this episode of My First Quilt, Sara demonstrates how to use 10” squares to make the Brickwork pattern.
Quilting Quickly focuses on making quilts using precuts, so both the magazine and the video series have a wealth of patterns and tips for using 10” squares.
In this Quilting Quickly video, Colleen Tauke demonstrates how to make the Changing Places throw quilt using 10” squares and a Peter and Paul template set. I like this pattern because it incorporates easy curved seams while making very economical use of each precut square with almost no scraps leftover.
And in this video, Colleen demonstrates how to make the large, easy flying geese units needed for the Snowbirds pattern with only 10” squares.
This short McCall’s Quilting video provides a fun, speedy tutorial on using 10” squares and Wonky Nine-Patch templates to make Wonky Nine-Patch blocks.
Katy Jones of The Quilt Monkey has a few episodes on using precut 10” squares (which she refers to as origami squares, the Lecien Fabrics brand name). In the first video, Katy talks about what you can expect when you get a new pack of squares and what to look for, starting with the importance of breaking out your ruler and taking your own measurements.
In the following episode, Katy demonstrates an easy, versatile Three-Triangle Block made with 10” squares.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge with your 10” squares, including a bit of applique, take a look at Aunt Lucy’s Baskets by Aby Dolinger (pictured above), which was published in Quilters Newsletter’s Best Fat Quarter Quilts 2014. It’s a really inventive pattern that requires just 40 squares, resulting in a controlled scrappy look you’d never guess you could get out of precut 10” squares. The entire Best Fat Quarter Quilts 2014 issue containing 25 patterns is currently available as a digital download for only $2.00 (price subject to change).
And Quilters Newsletter’s August/September 2013 issue included another fantastic 10” square pattern also by Aby Dolinger called Berry Patch. The instructions guide you through exactly how to subcut the 10” squares into smaller patches and shuffle them to get this mixed scrappy look with almost no fabric waste. The entire issue is also available as a digital download and on sale for $1.20 (price subject to change).
So, do we have a deal? Do we agree to stop just admiring our precut 10” square packages and make them into a quilt that someone will absolutely adore? With patterns and tips like these, it should be a piece of cake.