The History of the Jelly-Roll Rug

The History of the Jelly-Roll Rug

 The Jelly-Roll Rug was born in a little quilt shop in a small rural town in Utah USA. Here’s its story--

 First a little about me, the designer. I have either worked in or managed quilt/fabric shops for 30 plus years. I have sewn on a machine since I was 3 years old and started piecing and appliquéing quilts in1979, just as quilt making was coming back into vogue since the women’s liberation movement.

 Back in the 1990s I used quilts as rugs when I would want a temporary décor change and dreamt of making a serviceable quilted rug with more substantial weight and density. I kept that thought in the back of my mind for years.

 I loved the huge antique braided rug in my basement but that looked too labor intensive to make on a domestic sewing machine. I thought about rugs that my grandmas used to make with fabric scraps from worn out clothing. They would fold the scraps into many layers (no batting) and hand (sometimes machine) stitch them together into a ‘rope’ and then hand (sometimes machine) stitch the ‘rope’ into an oval rug.

 In the early 2010s, I started looking online to see what was available. I found someone making a round basket using rope covered with raw-edge fabric strips. I liked this idea for a rug but wanted something less ragged, more polished.

 In early 2016 I brought a new pattern called Camden Bags by Aunties Two into the shop I managed and taught a class on it. The class went well and I liked the technique; however, I didn’t like the “beefy double-sided fusible batting” used in this process--it tended to create a mess of my class irons and some students burned their fingers.

 I continued to think about making a rug…

 Later in 2016, I decided to try SOMETHING. Using all the ideas and memories that were in my head, I cut 2.5” strips of Hobbs Cotton Heirloom batting, grabbed a Moda Jelly-Roll, and a large spool of Aurifil 50wt thread. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing or how big it was going to be, so I sat down and made notes of my processes of sewing this first rug and adjusted them as I went.

 I carefully thought through how I wanted the rug to finish in the end. I wanted to keep the project contained and organized, so I figured out that folding the long fabric strip a certain way and winding the long ‘tube/rope’ a certain way would help keep my brain happy.

 Everything in that first rug went perfectly, and I thought the size was just right for anyone to be able to manipulate. (Fun fact: That first rug is the one that got photographed for the Jelly-Roll Rug pattern cover.)  I taught my rug in my shop for the next few months without a specific name. Being a small town shop, maybe 50 people took that class in those early few months.

 One day in 2017 my Moda Fabrics Sales Rep, Dennis Farnsworth, came in and saw my class sample. He went crazy and got SO excited. He started taking pictures and sending them to all the people at Moda/United Notions Headquarters. He asked me if I had a pattern, and I had only written the pattern for my classes so it was simple. He and others at Moda decided that I needed to write a more professional pattern and have it ready to sell at the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas, which was only a few months away. He asked me what my pattern would be named. I said, “I would like to name it ‘Jelly-Roll Rug’.” That is the first time that name was ever said out loud--in that little quilt shop in a small rural town in Utah USA. Now, it’s almost a household name used in the sewing and craft industry throughout the whole world!

 Dennis said that since I was using the Moda trademark name of ‘Jelly-Roll’ (invented in 2006) that I would need to have a disclosure on my pattern linking that name use to Moda… that disclosure is on the back of EVERY pattern of mine that uses the ‘Jelly-Roll’ name.

 A friend, Lori Pallas, who manages another quilt shop where I also taught the early rug class, introduced me to her daughter, Kaitlyn Howell of Knot and Thread, who had written and published several professional patterns. Kaitlyn gave me a speed lesson in professional pattern writing, publishing, editing, printing, copyrighting, packaging, pattern testing, and selling.

 It’s quite a long process, and I had only weeks to accomplish the daunting task.

 Meanwhile... I had several more Fabric/Notion Sales Reps come into my shop and I would tell them about my Jelly-Roll Rug pattern endeavor. They all were so excited about this project of mine--especially Bill Aller and Deb Hanahan with Checker Distributors. They hoped that I could keep up with the pattern sales that would surely take place after Market.

 I barely got the pattern ready for all my sales reps and their distributors to debut and promote at the 2017 International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas. It was an overwhelming hit to say the least! I explain to curious people, “It was the right thing at the right time.” In a few short months after Market, my Jelly-Roll Rug pattern was being marketed and sold in more than 20 different countries around the world.

 A few months after Market, I had several professional YouTube videographers reach out to me about making tutorials for the rug:  Erica Arndt; Stephanie Soebbing; Jennifer Bosworth of Shabby Fabrics; Jennie Doan of Missouri Star Quilts; Matthew Bardoeaux of Mr Domestic; then later Amanda Mateo, and several others. Professionals are knowledgeable enough to ask what they could and couldn’t show to avoid violating my copyright. My copyright attorney and I decided that there were a few key points that would infringe on the copyright of the ‘Jelly-Roll Rug’ pattern. The videographers were given these points and easily obliged. My copyright attorney has also said to those who choose to violate my copyright that even if you think the ‘Jelly-Roll Rug’ or its equivalent has been made previously, no one legally copyrighted a pattern like this or named it as such.

 Also, a few months after Market, I had two ladies, Jen Van Orman and Kairle Oaks, reached out to me and ask if they could do a “Jelly-Roll Rugalong” on Instagram. As professionals, they also asked about copyright protocol and obliged.

 Bosal Foam and Fiber reached out to me wanting to market some cotton Katahdin 2.5 inch by 50 yard Batting-on-A-roll to go along with my pattern. Later we also decided to offer a 2.25 inch wide roll for those who had trouble hand folding the fabric into tubes, which works well but yields a slightly smaller rug.

 After reaching out to a few notion companies, I easily got Gypsy Quilter Notions to listen to an idea of mine to produce a sturdy notion that would help in the tedious and sometimes painful process of folding the fabric and batting strips into tubes, and the Jelly Roll Tube Maker was born.

 The Jelly-Roll Rug pattern has gone through 3 revisions, and a few of the “rough edges” of my early pattern writing have been smoothed out. The pattern now has options for three sizes of rugs and directions for an oval placemat. Recently, I teamed up with Claire Haillot and together we translated the Jelly-Roll Rug pattern into the French language where it is known as ‘Tapis Catalogne’.

 Since the humble beginnings of the ‘Jelly-Roll Rug’ it has blown up into an international phenomenon and many think they should have a piece of a pie that they didn’t make, but this is the only truth: The Intellectual Property of the ‘Jelly-Roll Rug’ belongs solely to Roma Lambson of RJ Designs and the legally protected copyright of the ‘Jelly-Roll Rug’ and subsequent patterns are also owned by Roma Lambson of RJ Designs and are legally protected for her lifetime plus 75 years.

 Currently (2024), there are eight similar technique project patterns published by Roma Lambson of RJ Designs: Jelly-Roll Rug, Jelly-Roll Rug2, Colossal Round Rug, Jelly-Roll Rug Plus, Jelly-Roll Rug Tree Skirt, Pillows and Placemats, and Jelly-Roll Handbag.


 Now, you know the Jelly-Roll Rug story!

By Roma Lambson