Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Making of a Mini Quilt

Did you see  Lisa Bongean's version of the APQ QAL posted in July? I was smitten with it. Burgoyne Surrounded has never grabbed me before like this one did. When browsing through some Miniature Quilts magazines one day, I came across a pattern for it in miniature (ETA--issue #11, Fall 1993), in red and white. I began toying with the idea of doing Lisa's colors in this miniature size. What clinched it was a Fat Eighth bundle that arrived one day from my sweet blogging friend, Julie at JulieKQuilts. It was blacks and golds. I put the magazine with the fabrics and it sat for a few weeks. As I have been doing some repetitive, boring piecing lately (still putting star points on my Garden Maze sashing), I wanted something fun as a leader/ender. This little quilt fit the bill. I have these two blocks made so far. It doesn't go together very quickly, but it isn't hard.
The hardest part is that the directions are for a red/white quilt, so I have to sub the black for the white, and then figure out if I am needing to sub the tan or the gold for the part that says "red".
I will be doing 12 blocks, using 6 different blacks to make two blocks each. The tan will all be the same throughout, and the gold/oranges will be scrappy.
Each block will finish at 3 3/4". Aren't they cute?
I've had lots of questions about how I make the mini quilts. I am no expert--many of you have made them far longer than I have. But for those of you who are like I was two years ago when I was first dabbling in minis, I will share a few tips.

Foundation paper piecing yields very accurate results, but I won't be addressing that method here. I still don't like removing the papers, but I use this method often for minis, because it is so precise.

When NOT using foundation piecing, here are some of the things I do.

Mini Quilt Tips

1. Make sure you are sewing with an accurate 1/4" seam. Being one or two threads off can make an obvious difference when dealing with such tiny pieces.

2. Pin profusely! I am not one who generally pins things together before sewing when working on large quilts, but I am completely opposite with minis. Keeping pieces perfectly matched up as you sew is critical with little blocks. I use slim, glass-headed pins, and I actually sew over them much of the time.

Which brings me to my next tip...

3. Slow down! If you are a speed demon, this may be difficult for you, but sewing at a slower rate allows you to maintain control and keep the seams straight. This is so much more obvious when going small. It also allows you to sew over slim pins, which keeps seams matched up.

4. Press consistently. With larger quilts I often just finger press my seams until I get a block finished, but with these small pieces, they don't finger press very well. Sometimes it even takes a damp press cloth with the hot iron to get a seam to flatten.

5. Square up each of the units as you go. If you are making HSTs or 4-patches, or 9-patches, etc., to go into blocks, square them up before assembling the blocks. Again, if you are off a thread or two it can make a big difference in little blocks. Where possible, I make the units a little larger and trim them down. This works great for HSTs and 4-patch blocks, but not so much for 9-patch blocks.

6. Trim seams where needed. For many patterns I leave my seams at 1/4", but when working with very tiny pieces (like the 3/4" 9-patch blocks above), the 1/4" seams in the middle of the block have nowhere to go if they stay 1/4". They just pile up in the back and create bulk. In such a case, I trim them to 1/8" as I go. Some people just sew 1/8" seams, but I find that more difficult to keep even.

7. Even if you take all of these precautions, be prepared for a little bit of wonkiness--and embrace it! When working on a small scale, every wobble will show, but it is part of the charm of tiny quilts.

8. Keep your binding small to keep it as close to scale as possible, and don't use the double fold--too much bulk. I cut my binding strips to 1", sew them to the front of my quilt with a hair under a 1/4" seam, and fold it under on the back side and stitch down by hand. It is a very snug fit to get it around to cover the stitching line on the back. I use binding clips on large quilts, but on my minis I pin it down with the slim glass-head pins to keep the binding precisely in place--especially on the corners. This little quilt (the squares are each 1") has the binding sewn on the front and pinned down on the back, ready for hand stitching.

9. One last thing, many miniature quilt makers like to press their seams open to lessen bulk. Before doing so, consider how you want to quilt the pattern. If you want to truly stitch-in-the-ditch, you will not want to press your seams open, or you will just be stitching over your threads--there isn't really a ditch if the seams have been pressed open. If you SITD by stitching just to the side of the seam, it won't be an issue.

If you have any other tips about sewing in miniature, I'd love to have you share them in the comment section.

(ETA--tips below about needle, thread, and stitch length are worth noting. I haven't been one to change needle size, though I should give it a whirl. I know many people do use a smaller than normal needle. I generally use Aurifil 2-ply, 50 wt thread. It is fine and strong and doesn't lay heavily in the seams. I have used the Mettler thread mentioned, too, but I do seem to get more lint with Mettler threads. My stitch length is set at 2 as well. Thanks for sharing your tips, Tina W.)

I've added another page to the tabs at the top. I've had many questions about the way I did my yardstick gallery, so I've made a page showing my method, and linked to Ann Hermes' blog page where the idea was spawned. I don't do mine exactly like hers, so you can see the two methods, if you are interested,  and decide what works for you. Have you a favorite method for hanging small quilts?

DH is camping with scouts tonight, so it is a late night blogging and sewing for me.
Until next time,
Janet O.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

All Squared Away!

Lately, in my sewing room, I kept bumping into a little basket of leftover 1 1/2" squares. I think they were trying to tell me something. So I took the basket and a few small design boards to my sewing machine to piece some simple little one-patch quilts. This is what happened.
Most all of these are from a basket of squares and a few strips from my scrap baskets. Five of them are quilted and the binding is sewn on and pinned to the other side. The sixth one is still a flimsy.

I started with this little piece--just randomly alternating light and dark squares, blurring the lines now and then with some medium values. I am always happy making scrappy quilts. What I struggle to make are two-color quilts. I'm always throwing in another color or two (or more).

So after making this, I sorted the remaining squares into piles, by color. Then I paired off the piles of colors and challenged myself to make some little two-color pieces.
Recently I had seen a red and brown quilt on another blog and it has stayed on my mind ever since. So it was my first two-color experiment.
So far, so good. No extra colors crept in. So I moved on.
Red had been the largest pile, so there were still plenty leftover to pair with the pile of greens.

Blue and gold are a classic combo, to me. Like sunlight glinting on water, it is a soothing pairing.

I really should have dead-headed the little African Violet plant, or chosen one with no dead blooms, before taking this photo, but I didn't even notice until the photo was on the screen.
(Okay, I have a confession to make. To get truer colors in photos I take indoors at night, I take them in a dark room with a flash. I often don't really see what the photo looks like until I upload it.)
I am not a big fan of pink, but I love the classic combo of CW pinks and browns.

This quilt is where I got off track. Not only did I add a third color, but I also deviated from the one-patch format, and I had to leave the scrap baskets to find that lovely Jo Morton gold fabric the four-patch blocks seemed to be asking for.

Since Gidget was warmed up quilting these little pieces, I put her to work on something I should have had quilted long ago.

This is the baby quilt I made from the block swap I did with Maureen last summer. I did a rope pattern in the red border and put a large stipple on the rest of the quilt. It is a baby quilt, after all, and will see lots of wear and tear.

I finally settled on a soft green for the sashing in my Garden Maze setting, after auditioning all suggested options. I think it is a nice variation from the simple sashing and cornerstones.
I can promise you there won't be this much to share next time. I was making up for 3 weeks of not quilting at all!

BTW, the winner of my drawing was Kathy, who blogs at Empty Nest But Full Heart. Congrats, Kathy. 

Until next time, Janet O.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Row, row, row your...


Are you doing the Row by Row Experience? Well, I'm not, but I have to share a couple of things from my LQSs that are participating.

I saw this "row" in one local quilt shop, and I think it is one of the prettiest I have seen. The designer is a store employee, Annette Rose, and I think she did a beautiful job.

The snowflakes are made using English Paper Piecing and then they are appliqued to the background and the stitching is added. Aren't they sweet snowflakes?

 You can click on these little snowflakes to see more detail.
The pattern includes a sheet of cardstock shapes to cut out for the EPP.

Have you seen the clever fabric license plates some shops are selling in conjunction with the Row By Row? Here is one offered by another local quilt shop recently featured as one of the "Top 10 Quilt Shops in America" in whatever magazine it is that does that. (I'm way too tired to remember or to bother looking it up.)
If you would like a chance to win one of these fabric plates, and a copy of the pretty snowflakes pattern, leave a comment and I will draw a winner on Wednesday!

Saturday I attended a class at Village Dry Goods in Brigham City taught by 4 very fun sisters. It was entitled "The Care and Feeding of Featherweights". We learned all about cleaning, oiling, greasing, adjusting tension, changing needles, belts, and lightbulbs--and more!

Our instructors said it was the first time they had ever had 4 men in a class--and they have taught this class a lot! Two of the men came with their wives. The other two were there on their own.

Haven't sewn in three weeks, other than a very little hand stitching when my Mom was willing to have the lights on or blinds open in her hospital room. Not making much progress on the Stars in The Garden.

My thanks to those who have inquired as to my Mom's health, and especially for your prayers and encouragement. It has been a long three weeks--she was in the hospital for 3 days, home for two, and then back in for eight more. She has been home for a week now, is starting to feel more like her old self,  and we are finally beginning to lighten up on the around-the-clock care. Maybe one day soon I will be dusting off my sewing machine! And hopefully I will be able to get back to blogging.

Remember to leave a comment if you are interested in the pattern and license plate.

Drawing is now closed.

Until next time,
Janet O.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I am supposed to be back to my UFOs, after my 2 month obsession with minis to get ready for the trunk show. But what's a quilter to do when 2 of her favorite designers are running SALs at the same time? Join in, of course!

First up is Lisa Bongean's Primitive Gatherings 10th Anniversary SAL. She is doing a "pieced only" version, and a version with "piecing and wool applique". I have been trying to convince myself that I only need to make one version. Making multiples has been my downfall in the past, so I have chosen to do the pieced/wool applique version, and ONLY that version--so far. And, so far, I LOVE it!

Then Pam Buda has been running one of her Pocket Patchwork SALs. This one is called Market Day, and she offered the regular version, and a mini version. Which one do you think I did? : ) 
It is such a cute little patriotic quilt--just 16". Pam bordered hers in red and bound it in blue. I tried every red I had in my patriotic drawer, and my CW repros and I didn't feel like any of them clicked as a border. Then I moved to the blues. This was the only one I felt did anything for it, but I'm still not sure if I will leave it on. I tucked the little red dotted strips behind it to see how it would look bound in red. What do you think?

Recently I was a poll worker for a primary election. I knew turnout would be low and I needed a handwork project I wouldn't finish in the first few hours of the day. This project has captured my eye on Gayle's and Kathy's blogs. (It is from the Spring 2013 issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects.) Okay ladies, I caved!
I can't believe I actually started another hexie project. The one I already have going is 17 years old, at least. But I like this, where my old one is made in fabrics I had purchased decades ago when I started quilting and I don't care for them anymore.
This will definitely be a long term project. You can see I didn't make a ton of progress, but it is a start.

During my mini obsession in the past few months I haven't spent much time with Gidget. So this past week I found a few minutes here and there to brush up on a couple of favorite designs.
It was fun to play, but I can't believe how rusty I have become in what seemed such a short time. I need a few more practice sessions before I sit down to quilt an actual quilt.

On Independence Day DH and I drove an hour up a nearby canyon to a favorite lake. It is just a small lake and the trail that circles it is a little over a mile, and is peppered with a variety of wildflowers. We had just received our Fitbits in the mail the day before and thought it would be a good inauguration to walk the trail. It was a gorgeous day at Tony Grove.
That was the only boat on the lake and I wished I had been in it.
There was such a variety of wildflowers, but two particularly caught my eye. We usually go up later in the summer and I don't recall seeing these two before, and they are two of my favorites. Click on the right photo to see the butterfly.

Until next time,
Janet O.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gallery Expansion, Market Day SAL, and random stuff

 Between thrift stores, antique malls and contributions from family members, I rustled up a few more wooden yardsticks to expand the small quilt gallery. The photo above is of the hallway outside my sewing room door. Again, credit for this idea goes to Ann Hermes at Notes from the Quilt Lab blog (and as I read further back in her blog, she credits Sheryl at Temecula Quilt Co., for giving her the idea)!
Below is my small quilt corner, which has been updated. Now I can move these around without adding pinholes to the walls. I even added a couple of wooden rulers in the space between the corner and my design wall, where it is too narrow for a yardstick. The other side of my design wall has the same issue and I hope to find a couple more wooden rulers to fill that space.
I'd like to continue the gallery expansion to the wall above my HQ Sweet 16 (Gidget), so I will still be  scouting out yardsticks for a while.

Did you notice the little cottage in the bottom of the photo above? Someone recently found it at a thrift store and gave it to my Mom. She said she thought I would have a better place for it than she would. Isn't it sweet?

I have to tell you that it is entirely possible to catch up on Pam Buda's Market Day SAL in one day (begin here with the revised fabric requirements). I just did it Monday. Hadn't even chosen fabric before then. Now everything is cut and stitched, waiting for the big reveal Friday. I stuck with Pam's colors and chose mostly fabrics with a patriotic theme. Is anyone else wondering what we are going to do with the second gold fabric? 

I have had fun seeing what others have been guessing as to the layout. Gave it a whirl and I can say I have absolutely no clue where Pam is going with this one. I'm quite certain this is not it.

Recently I posted a little quilt I was making from the leftover HSTs of Terry's Goodnight Irene quilt. Well, I wasn't happy with the border, so I trimmed it down and added more. Maybe I went too far, but this is it now. The little broken dish blocks are 1"

 I had a few more HSTs to use, so I tried little pinwheels this time. This is about 7" square.

The black borders are all on my colored star blocks now. They need to be trimmed--the squares were not all exact, so the borders are acting as coping strips, besides being part of the sashing design. This gives you an idea of the Garden Maze setting that I will use when I can decide on a color for the sashing strips. I need about 2 yards of whatever I choose, and I was wanting to work from stash. I don't have many cuts that large, unless they are even larger than that, which I intended for backings. Most of those are busy prints that would be too much for this purpose. I played with the rainbow idea, but it didn't click for me. I may actually have to buy something (horror).
You sew star points that match the cornerstones onto the ends of the sashing, and it creates the effect of the Garden Maze design without having to make tiny X blocks for the cornerstones. The idea was found in one of Sharyn Craig's wonderful books on settings (Setting Solutions and Great Sets). Does it make more sense now to those of you who were "smiling and nodding" when I tried to describe it before? : )

I am enjoying seeing the red/white/blue posts popping up around blogland. Even if we've seen it before, it is fun to be reminded of all of the possibilities.

Which reminds me, each time I have posted about this quilt I have had people email asking about the pattern.
It is a Primitive Gatherings pattern called Primitive Picnic Quilt. I did add extra rows and I put the borders on it to make it larger. It is on the Primitive Gatherings website, but not if you search for it by name (why?). You must use the product code, which is PRI-197. Or, you can just use the link above, of course. : )

Until next time,
Janet O.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Here it is--the R/W/B post.

With apologies to all of my friends outside the USA, I decided to do a little patriotic parade as we approach Independence Day. These are not all still in my possession, but I am trying to hang on to enough of them to decorate my home. So in no particular order, "Three cheers for the red, white and blue!"
My brother has this one.
My daughter, Aimee, has this.
Daughter, Angie, is the owner of this one.

These 2" pineapples have gone to various friends.

I believe Julie and Carole are the owners of these two.

This little grouping hangs in my kitchen. Stars are 2".
The only large quilt in the bunch. Wish the quilting fairies would come quilt it in the night!

This is hanging in my sewing room.

This Lisa Bongean design hangs in my living room, along with...

...this. This is one of two "most pinned" items from my blog.

This little AAQI quilt sold at International Quilt Fest in Houston last year.
No idea where it is. This is the other "most pinned" item from my blog.

I made this for a small quilt swap with Gayle last summer. The only
hand-quilted piece in the bunch here.

This sits on my hutch, but the middle is covered by a soup tureen.

This little pincushion is one of two
r/w/b that I made--the other was gifted.
That is all of the R/W/B stuff I could scrape together. You have probably seen most of it before, but hope it was fun to see it all together.
Until next time,
Janet O.

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