I don't remember where I saw it for the first time, but like just about everyone else, I fell in love with the Jelly Roll Rug pattern from RJ Designs. I knew I had to give it a try. Little did I know, that wouldn't be as simple as it sounded, and I'd need all the patience I could muster. And apparently a little more.
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First let me say, this rug is totally doable. There are very thorough instructions included, and it seems like just about everyone is offering a class or video on how it's done. The fact that mine was a fail is all on me, but I'd like to share my experience to help you avoid some of my mistakes. And there's a happy ending.
To make this rug, obviously you need a jelly roll. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's about 40 - 42 strips of fabric that are each 2 1/2" wide and cut the width of the fabric, so typically 42 - 44" long. They're sold rolled into a neat little circle and coordinate well because they're usually all from one fabric line, like this pretty one from materialgirlchic. The name Jelly Roll is specific to Moda Fabrics, but other manufacturers sell the same combo under different names.
The hot mess below is mine. I have tons of fabric, so I couldn't justify buying more to try this out. I ended up cutting my own strips. They're pretty laid out, but apparently that neat roll thing is harder than it looks.
I did buy a couple of rolls of the pre-cut batting. It was kinda spendy, but I'm glad I did. The thought of cutting all those strips of batting and attaching them together was daunting. I picked it up at one of my local fabric shops, but I understand that given the popularity of these rugs it's tricky to find online. There are a handful of Etsy shops that have it available for pre-order, arriving later this month.
I'm not going to give a step-by-step here, because this isn't my pattern, but I'll share some highlights and tips. The first is, string piecing is your friend. You're sewing lots of these together, and it only took me about 20 minutes to snip them apart and trim the seams afterward. I didn't even get through my whole glass of wine.
The fan folding she recommends in the pattern? Yeah, do that. It took me a while, but I knew if I didn't I'd have a stringy, tangled mess. Since I couldn't take a photo of myself doing this, imagine that stack of fabric on the chair below is in my lap while I sew.
It actually went very smoothly. I only folded and clipped the first couple of feet to get started, then I just folded as I went. Who has enough sewing clips to hold 50 YARDS worth??? I personally own like twelve of them.
Be sure your needle is down when you stop to fold, so everything doesn't shift on you. Also, unwind the batting from the side, rather than putting it on the floor and letting it spool off from above, because you don't want it twisted. If your paper towel holder is skinny enough to hold it, you might give that a shot. Unfortunately, mine wasn't, but I just unrolled a bit periodically.
I did deviate from the instructions when it came to where I put the seam on the strips. Rather than stitch down the middle, I stayed close to the double-folded edge. I had looked at lots (oh, so many) of these finished rugs before I started, and I just preferred that look.
Also, rather than use the batting seam tape I bought to attach the two rolls of batting to each other, I just butted the two ends up next to each other and zigzagged over them.
A quick note on bobbins - you're gonna need a ton of them for this project. Pre-wind as many as you can to make changing them out quick and easy.
I didn't follow the wind-as-you-go instructions to make the ball, but I did wind it all up at the end. Again, I knew if I didn't I'd end up with a tangled mess.
When it came time to start sewing the rug, I forgot to switch to a denim needle and broke the first two. Lesson learned.
My sewing machine hated the first couple of curves, but we got through it. I stitched about 3 1/2 strips worth, then took it to my ironing board, doused it with Mary Ellen's Best Press and pressed well, which took it from this:
So far, so good, right? It kept trying to curve, and I kept taking it back to the ironing board and reminding it who was the boss.
Right about here is where I lost my grip on this project.
You might have noticed, but the more strips you sew on, the bigger this thing gets. Feeding it through the machine became a full-body sport, with my left arm and elbow doing a lot of the work. One of my many mistakes was that I used my weaker sewing machine. Had I used the one with more power, I think it would have turned out differently, but I didn't think it would make a difference. I learned when I was making the placemats later that it really, really did.
That whole thing about having the rug even with the work surface on your machine is real too. You can see, mine was just dragging on the table. I think it would have turned out better if I'd made the effort to keep it flat. As it was, I ended up with this:
No amount of ironing, or swearing as it turns out, would coax this thing into submission. It had taken over, and it knew that I knew. If I didn't mind leaving it draped over the back of a chair I had something, but otherwise it was a bust.
I knew I could remove the stitching and try again, but here's the rub - I didn't like how the color combo looked either. Again, as all of this, my own fault, but it wasn't something I could fix. I didn't take into consideration that the outer rings would be larger, and therefore less prominent in the design. Ugh.
At this point I did what I do with all of my mistakes - I ignored it for a while so the rage could subside. When it was almost behind me, I thought "Well, one way or the other it has to come apart," so I clipped the threads at the end and ripped.
I ripped for about 5 minutes, until it was a pile of rubble. It was so satisfying.
It took me another hour and a half to remove all that thread. Totally worth it.
I measured the fabric cord, and I had about 148 feet. I cut that into four equal pieces of 37 feet each. If I couldn't have a rug I was going to have some placemats, dammit.
I used the same technique described in the pattern to make the placemats, only I made the first bend at 8 1/2". Instead of making one big rug I made four smaller ones. My theory here was that my rug was still flat at that size, so I should be okay.
I was right. I also switched to my better sewing machine (the old one from when Pfaffs were still made in Germany) and it powered through, putting my newer machine to shame. I did some periodic ironing and they turned out flat. Hallelujah.
I was afraid the color combination was weird (I was planning to use them anyway BTW), but they work with my colorful Fiestaware dishes. That, and my husband commented how much he liked them. They're keepers.
The first moral of my long story is that it's good to get outside your comfort zone on a project once in a while, but when you do, follow the instructions! I guess moral number two is that it's not over until it's over. Take that Jelly Roll Rug.