I’m not usually one for throwback Thursdays but while I was settling into the new sewing room I had a great idea for a lovely photo I wanted to take. Then I realized that posting it up would be a great way to talk about the value of pre-cuts again.
When I first got into quilting I was drawn to pre-cuts cause of the ease of use. I also found I had a hard time bringing fabric together so these packaged collections made making something beautiful easier with an expert’s help. But were these sometimes expensive pre-cuts a good value? I did the math and I found out pre-cuts are more expensive than yardage but with the exception of mini-charm packs (square) most of the bundles are still a good value if you enjoy having the wider variety.
My conclusions were:
- Yardage is the cheapest by far!
- Layer cake, charm packs and jelly rolls are comparable in value
- Mini charm packs are low value (I’d only buy as a novelty or for a specific mini project)
- Fat quarter bundle is the best value for variety
- While there is a difference – when it comes down to it there’s not an enormous value difference comparing a designer bundle to the designer yardage (considering the variety)
I went into greater detail including the math I did to come to this conclusion, you can check it out int he archives: Pricing, Value and Comparisons on Pre-Cut Bundles
It’s funny the one table of data I didn’t do for that post was per yard (which is way easier to conceptualize) so we had a better baseline to compare. Here’s that data:
Cost/Value per Cut Yard (36″x44″)
|Ingredient||Height||Width||Quantity||Cost||Cost per yard
(36″ x 44″)
|Fat Quarter (individual)||18||22||1||$3.75||$15.00|
|Fat Eighth Bundle||9||22||40||$72.00||$14.40|
|Fat Quarter Bundle||18||22||40||$124.99||$12.50|
|Formula for cost per cut yard (36″ x 44″) measured in inches:
Bundle Cost/(Quantity Per Pack * Height * Width) * (36 x 44)
Does knowing the different values change the way you will think about your next purchase? I know I’ll still buy pre-cuts occasionally but may start to consider quilts that use only yardage from time to time when I’m trying to save some pennies.
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Thanks for working this out! I’ve been thinking about the cost of them lately but I was too lazy to figure it out myself.
Mini charms have never appealed to me because of their cost; I definitely don’t find them worth it all. I agree they’re probably good little stocking stuffers for fabric lovers, so I would probably buy one as an extra with a swap item or something but I wouldn’t ever buy them on their own just for me (at least not at full price).
One thing I’m often surprised about, is when people write up patterns that use multiple of one precut. eg. a quilt that requires 4 of the same charm pack. I know it’s only a very slight price difference, but you can buy a layer cake for cheaper and cut it into quarters. That said, I bought 6 of the same charm pack for a quilt once from Fat Quarter Shop because they have bulk discounts when you buy X amount or more so it worked out cheaper that way than doing it the cut-up-a-layercake way. But I just kind of feel like “buy 4 charm packs” is a weird requirement in a pattern, personally.
I completely agree Jo. One of my recent finishes was a pattern that called for 3 charm packs and since I enlarged the design a layer cake (cut into 4) and a charm pack did the trick for a little less money.
I think a lot of patterns are designed for charm packs because that’s what people are looking for. Revisiting this math has made me want to try and work with yardage more often, one of the things I’d live to try is a 2 or 3 fabric quilt, it’s totally outside my norm but would be a great challenge – and clearly cost efficient 🙂
I made a quilt and used about 5-6 charm packs for it but it was a collection that had sold out of nearly all prints everywhere and I was able to get the charm packs on clearance. I would not have been able to incorporate all of the prints into the quilt that I did if I had to try to locate the yardage. In this case, it was cheaper buying those charm packs on clearance than it would have been buying cuts of yardage from various locations (if I could have found them) and paying shipping on each order. This was more of a unique situation. It would have been a different story if it were a newer collection. However, a lot of online fabric sellers require a minimum half yard cut and that could be more of each print than may be needed. Quilting can require a lot of math!
Yes quilting can require quite a bit of math! Great addition to the conversation Melissa, when it comes to out of print and older fabric lines sometimes you have to take what you can get!
Not to surprising! I’m so glad you put this together…math…not me! There is something said for the convienence of precuts. Quick and easy. However I have heard that they sometimes are not all cut exactly the same size. I don’t often use them, but have on occassion. I think one reason that patterns that call for them is its easier to calculate fabric yardage ~ (and people are looking for a use for precuts), can’t mess up in fabric requirements there!!
Thank you for posting this, great information!
I love doing math like this so it’s a pleasure Jayne! Regarding pre-cuts varying in size: I agree. I used a mix of Kona pre-cuts with Moda pre-cuts once and the Kona were easily a 1/4″ larger. Fortunately it was a HST block so it was just more excess to trim so the difference was a mental inconvenience than a real inconvenience. That being said pre-cuts probably aren’t the right choice if you’re a type A personality and looking for perfection in your quilting. I’m quite laid back about points matching up and things being perfect so it works for me!
I know that I tend to only buy larger bundles (fat quarter or half yard cuts) because most of the time I am using them to add to my stash. I like winning the smaller bundles and the challenge of trying to figure out what to do with them (I have a pile I need to think about about right now), but I really prefer to work with and have yardage. I have definitely noted that fat quarters are not as good a deal as yardage before, and it makes sense that the other smaller cuts are even less of a good deal. Thanks for the informative table!
I would love to pick up fat quarter bundles and half yards but I think I’m afraid of the commitment. I feel like I just hit the point where my stash is big enough that I understand what I did right and what I did wrong in building it though so I’m glad to this point I’ve gone with more of the smaller pre-cuts but it might be time to change that perspective.
I buy a lot of charm packs to 1. sample the fabric before I invest more money or 2. If I need more variety and less fabric. If I don’t buy more I usually make a crossed coaster out of them and donate them to the guild or such to sell. We live in a rural area so there aren’t a lot of quilt shops or fabric shops close!
For some reason I’ve never considered using a charm pack as a preview of the collection but it makes perfect sense when you put it that way Kelly!
Thanks for the info. I’ve done the math myself at times. I consider pre-cuts products of convenience. They save time. They may cost more based on a per yard price but you would actually save total dollars buying the pre-cut than if you bought the cuts from yardage to create the pre-cut. An example would be if you wanted a fat quarter bundle, you’d have to buy all of those prints in half yard cuts to cut down to fat quarters. Then you have that extra fabric you didn’t want and may have paid extra to have them shipped to you. I know I can’t find an entire collection of fabric locally and often not even part of some collections I would like to see. You couldn’t economically create a charm pack yourself.
For me, I like to buy charm packs sometimes to use as a swatch set so I can see all of the prints in a collection in person and then use them in smaller projects. Typically, I don’t like all of the prints in a collection enough to buy pre-cuts larger than a charm pack. The prints I like I generally buy individually as a half yard or fat quarter.
Again, thanks for sharing this.
Glad to have been of help! I agree, there have been so many times I’ve dug into a pre-cut and realized I really only liked about half the prints. Fortunately the designers are often so talented that I fall in love with the whole collection in the final product even though I can spot the prints I really don’t care for.
Thanks for the chart, I always knew precuts were more expensive than yardage but had never done the actual math.
This is a great chart! Thanks for sharing. One thing to also note is, “What is your time worth?” When I was making a Simply Woven quilt for my son, I cut into my yardage. The pattern called for two jelly rolls. It took several hours to press, square up, and cut a 2.5 inch strip from 80 different fabrics. Then I had to fold and put away all the fabric. I quickly learned that while they are more expensive, they are sometimes worth it for the time saved.
Interesting discussion. The only times I’ve bought pre-cuts for myself is when my local shop has bundles of fabric lines I’ve been wanting but not the yardage. I’ve also bought a few fat quarter bundles on sale from an online shop when I liked the whole line and couldn’t get them locally. My mom likes that they’re already coordinated and go together, while I usually prefer making up my own combinations. We do like to buy them for my grandma, though, who started quilting a few years ago. Due to arthritis, she finds it hard to cut her own fabric, so pre-cuts allow her to quilt (without having to rely on us to do all her cutting).
Great chart, but I rarely buy yardage these days that is 44″ wide. When I’ve done these calculations, I use 42″ (or even 40″ to be on the safe side).
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