Broadening my horizon with Jelly Rolls

Jelly Rolls.  I have always admired these small bundles of fabric set in small stack around the local quilt shop.  However, they have also always scared me. 
I am a control freak when it comes to colors, patterns and textures.  That’s why I have issues with the scrappy look.  I admire scrappy looks created by others, but have difficult letting go to accomplish it myself. 

My first quilts have all been very carefully planned and executed.  The idea of letting go of that control is scary!  What if I don’t like one of the strips?  What if I need one more strip than came with the roll? 
Then, I deployed to Afghanistan.  My regular stash is on a bookshelf in the US.  I needed a new way to sew that required minimal cutting because my big, beautiful self-healing mat is also in the US.  That is when I discovered jelly rolls – the pre-coordinated, pre-cuts that I now adore.  They force me to leave my tightly controlled comfort zone.  They force me to attempt the scrappy look, to give up control. 
I admit my first effort was a blue and brown baby blanket, so I didn’t go too far out of my comfort zone.  It’s a start though.  This is my first little push in a new color direction.  The fabric is the blue version of Lilly and Will. 

This quilt is “Pandora’s Box” from “Jelly Roll Quilts.”  I only made it half size because I wanted to use it as a baby blanket.  It assembles super fast, and is a quick and easy project that would look good in a wide variety of fabric choices.  The directions were very easy to follow, and even included instructions on which direction to press the seams.  Little things like that make this quilt a no-brainer to piece.  I would recommend this as a good beginner quilt pattern. 


I first started quilting this summer while I was finishing up my grad school classes.  I was fortunate enough to have some time off that I could use to attend beginning quilt classes at my (not so) local quilt store.  I calculate that I saved about 2 years of frustration and hard lessons by starting out with good habits learned, and soon made rapid progress.  In that first summer I made a large sampler quilt from the beginner class, two baby quilts, two quilts for “Quilts for Kids” and another large quilt for my husband.  I was in love with quilting.  I had finally found “my” craft. 
Fast forward to October 2010.  I was about to deploy to Afghanistan.  I was not about to bring my sewing machine, so I got the bright idea that it would be a great time to make a quilt completely by hand.  Looking back, this was never going to work, but at the time it seemed doable.  I cut out all the pieces and brought needles, thread and instructions.  This attempt to hand piece lasted approximately two long and frustrating hours. 

I began to research sewing machines that were small, portable, and most importantly – would be able to stand up to Middle East dust and dirt.  I found the Singer Featherweight 221 to be the answer to my problems.  I ordered one, and had it shipped to Southern Afghanistan.  I’m pretty sure I have one of the few, if not only, Featherweights in this entire country.  It is the perfect solution.  It is small, has a case, and is entirely mechanical.  I can oil and grease it myself.  When I get back home, I will be able to give it a thorough cleaning on my own and have a great little machine to travel with.  Mine is a 1948, and it runs amazingly well.  I recommend this little machine to anyone looking for a travel machine. 
Now, I am attempting to quilt in an area that is about 18”x30”.  It requires some creative maneuvering.  It has also led me to discover the world of pre-cut fabrics.  I don’t have enough space to really deal with yardage.  My introduction to pre-cut fabrics is in the form of the book “Jelly Roll Quilts” by Pam & Nicky Lintott. 

I’m working my way through this book in 20 minute increments.  I work 7 days a week, so I sneak sewing in before work, during lunch, late at night … whenever I get a chance.  This is the story of my attempt to keep my sanity and keep a piece of myself no matter what else is going on in the world.