Conquering Pre-Cuts

We’ve all done it. Standing in front of a new fabric collection we love, paralyzed by everything we want to do with said fabric, but no real ideas of what to make. That’s when we see it: a pre-cut. Maybe it’s a charm pack, mini-charm, layer cake, or jelly roll. (I swear there’s a new variety every time I turn around, and I love it.) You think, “I’ll buy this charm pack now and decide what to do with it later.” You end up like me.

A small sampling of my pre-cut collection.

Often the thing I most love about a pre-cut—it’s the whole line!—also stops me from using it later, because deciding how to incorporate all the different fabrics can be overwhelming. Well, time to bust those packs open, see what you’ve got, and come up with a plan.


I recently used a Turnover pre-cut (6” half squares) for a baby quilt and paired it with a white fabric to make a quilt inspired by Ailish’s mini quilt. The layout of the fabric was essential to the look of this quilt, and above all it got me thinking about how to do the brain work on the front end so I went into sewing with a foolproof plan. I used EQ7 (a quilt design program) to help me, but the new program EQ8 came out yesterday, so I updated and re-created my process to show you!

Everything I’m about to show on EQ8 can similarly be done with some good old fashioned graph paper and coloring pencils.

So first, I sectioned out my turnover pack and created an inventory of what I had. There are lots of ways to do this. One good method would be to sort by light, medium, and dark values; this method yields a scrappy look because colors are mixed, while maintaining the core of a design with value. Sorting by color is another great option. For this quilt, I did a mix of those methods. I had a rainbow range of fabrics and knew I’d like to utilize the colors in rainbow order if possible. But then every color had fabrics with white backgrounds with a color accent, and I decided that since I already had a white on white for the background, I’d give these accented white fabrics their own categories to help the color transitions in the quilt. I called these fabrics “Light [Color]” to show that they’re a lighter value than their color partners.





Light Red




Light Pink




Light Yellow




Light Green




Light Aqua


Knowing I had 72 fabrics for half square triangles, I laid out the quilt in EQ8 and colored it first in grayscale so I’d remember which blocks were white and which were a color. On graph paper, either make multiple copies of your outline and color one grayscale, or create a thumbnail of the quilt for quick reference. Using the fabric library tool in EQ8, I found close approximations for the fabrics I was using.

EQ8 baby quilt screenshot

I looked at my fabric quantities and decided to use red for the star center, because it has almost exactly the right amount, and the darkest color in the line. Lots of playing around and counting followed. That’s where I love having EQ8, because I could try lots of options quickly. If you’re using pen and paper, scan or create yourself a few copies of the outline to play with, or invest in some erasable colored pencils.

(Keep an eye out for a blog post soon about my favorite things about EQ8. I’ll be including how to add fabric to EQ8 that would be totally useful for planning pre-cut projects ahead of sewing!)

It may seem obvious, but something as simple as sorting and categorizing the colors and values of the fabrics in a pre-cut package, and then playing around with the design can circumvent lots of frustrations. There’s nothing worse than getting into the middle of a quilt only to walking away because you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough light or dark fabric. Pre-cuts are so fun to buy, but it can be so hard to let go of them. Knowing there’s a plan so each fabric can shine makes it a little easier to make that jump from stash to quilt.

Happy creating!