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.

40 comments:

  1. The cutest block! I am watching from afar.......one day maybe! Loving seeing what you are up to.
    happy creating.

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  2. Janet this is the best post ever...that block is a favorite of mine...I'm doing a big very scrappy one, but have thought about a tiny one...love your colors...I think I may need to do the math and make some tiny ones...I am in love!

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  3. Your BS block is so good! I found this pattern really challenging when I did it 20 years ago. Maybe my piecing has gotten better - but your piecing is perfect.
    great tips on making minis. What great information for any quilt making really. - hardest thing for me is the pinning and the slowing down, lol.
    Have fun tonight sewing tonight!

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  4. Great tips--I'm off to apply them

    Your miniatures are beautiful

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  5. Thank you for the tips! I haven't made anything as small as you have, but I have been experimenting with mini quilts and appreciate your comments. What size needle do you use in your machine when piecing?

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  6. So far, the mini- bug has not bitten me, but I do admire your work so very much. And I do agree with Barb that most of these tips are very useful on big quilts, too.
    The tiny Burgoyne Surrounded blocks are exquisite! Kudos to you!

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  7. You are doing a fantastic job! Great tips too, thanks!
    Have a great weekend!

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  8. Valuable information. Both on making mini quilts and hanging with the yard sticks. Do you follow "Petite Piece of the Prairie" blog?
    http://petitepieceoftheprairie.blogspot.com/

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  9. I too fell in love with Lisa's quilt. I've always liked BS, but it wasn't until I saw Lisa's that I knew that I'd have to make one myself! I have to say, though, that I'm not brave enough to make minis without paper piecing them. My piecing is still a work in progress, although your tips here are giving me food for thought to give regular piecing a try for my next mini.

    I have a semi-unrelated question. Do you have any trouble with threads breaking when you sew over your pins? I was using the Clover .4mm pins with glass heads while piecing using Schmetz 90/14 needles and 50/2 Aurifil 100% cotton thread (top and bobbin) ... and every so often, a single bobbin stitch would break - the top stitch did not and my machine didn't react to the broken bobbin stitch. Once I realized that the bobbin stitch was occasionally breaking, I'd have to manually review every seam to ensure that my stitches were intact. I've always sewn over pins (my first machine sewing experience was garment sewing, so I learned to sew over pins and always felt like I had better precision when piecing quilt tops ... remember, my piecing skills, while improving, are still not where I'd like them to be). I was just wondering if you'd experienced that. Thanks!

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  10. Adorable little quilt! I'm with Carol - may have to do the math and make one of these too.

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  11. ...I'm in awe at this block! I do appreciate the challenge however and will definitely have to tackle it soon. Great job! And THANK YOU for all the tips on making mini blocks!!!

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  12. Love this miniature block that you have created. Can you post which issue the pattern is in? Looking now for the clear command hooks....I know I have them as well and will hang my rulers up this way! Thanks!

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  13. LOVE the block! What issue of Miniature Quilts mag was it in? I have every issue!
    One thing I do when sewing minis is use a size 60/8 needle and either 60 wt. mettler or 50 wt. Aurafil thread, along with setting my stitch length to 2.0.
    I always read your blog and love your quilts. I think this may be the first time I've commented.

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    1. Hmm, I've never tried that size needle, but those are the threads I use, and that is the stitch length. Thanks for mentioning these points.

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  14. Good tips Mum :)
    Some day when I attempt a mini, I will come back and review!

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  15. Great block, thanks for all the tips. 24Tangent@gmail.com

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  16. Great block, Janet!! I too love the Aurifil as you know and I am now using it exclusively for my FMQ on Fredreeka!! Ha! Ha!! I thought I had made some mini quilts but when I look at that block in your hand, I don't think I have!! YET!! :-))

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  17. Your mini blocks are fabulous! Love the fabrics you are using.

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  18. All great tips to keep in mind, Janet, thanks for sharing! The little blocks are darling.

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  19. Your blocks look great - some of those units are so tiny!! What a challenge to do a whole quilt of them! And thank you also for noting down all your tips - some I have already learnt via trial and error, others go into my toolbox :-)

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  20. Another amazing mini...I love it! Thanks for the tips too! :0)

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  21. I visited Lisa's page and I can see why you fell for this quilt! I think your mini version is amazing! Thank you for all the great tips on making minis, I don't know if I am ready to try such small pieces yet. I have considered doing a small hexie quilt made with 1/4" hexagons.

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  22. Gorgeous blocks and great tips Janet.
    I think of you as the Queen of Minis...
    You do such lovely minis.
    Julia

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  23. Love.....!!!!!!
    But I'll let you make them......

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  24. Thanks for the tips! Will help when I start the Dear Jane quilt. The Burgoyne Surrounded block has always interested me but never tried it. Looks like you are getting into some fall colors. Seeing some signs of it around here.

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  25. oh janet. definitely a mini masterpiece....show worthy too....love the colors!

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  26. Your mini blocks are adorable! And thanks for sharing your tips, very thoughtful!

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  27. Again, I am catching up! Just not enough hours in the day! Loved your last two posts and all your "mini" advice! Great job Janet. You are an inspiration to so many and bless them with you talents and sweet heart! I'm blessed to call you friend! I sat down one day and pieced some small quilts for my self - not minis though! They are basted and ready to quilt but won't post about them until I finished! I have a question for you - what size were your thimbles in your rwb flag quilt? (I was too lazy to search your blog - besides I knew you would answer me! LOL) I made a small thimble quilt with 2" thimbles, but it looked bigger than yours.

    Special blessings to you and all your sweet family!

    Doniene

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  28. I posted a comment, however I don't see it? must not have hit the correct button.
    I really like your mini (as usual), I think I will have to call you nimble fingers, so tiny and perfect. Great job. I started a blog (simple and not much to iti) , but it is a small blog in progress. sewwhatelse@blogspot.com

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  29. Just got home from a visit with my Mother in Ohio. Love the new mini that you are working on. Thanks for the tips.

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  30. Your mini's are amazing! Great tips too!!

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  31. Love your mini and those fabrics !

    Wonderful information , THANKS !

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  32. Oh I am in LOVE with your Burgoyne Surrounded Janet!!! That color combination is a favorite of mine and it works up beautifully in that block! And thanks for the tips for working with mini quilts - I Pinned your post for future reference. I have most of the Miniature magazines but have not had time to play with any of them. I fully intend to someday though, and your tips will be very handy to have. It will be just like taking a class from the expert :*)

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  33. I'll repeat your opening statement with just a bit of a tweek. I've never been as impressed with the Burgoyne Surrounded block as much as I am with these you made. They're beauteous. Your use of color is unique, and the curvy vines and leaves through the black makes a really stunning block. Way to go, Ms. Queen of the Mini Quilts! Your work is extraordinary, and I enjoyed reading through all your hints and tips and instructions.

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  34. Your Burgoyne blocks are wonderful-can't wait to see more blocks!
    I'll be checking my stash of Mini Quilt Mags when I get home tonight to see if I have that edition.

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  35. Janet, such a great post about mini making. One day I'll get into minis. It is something I've wanted to do. I'm the speed demon as you know... I think of you anytime I see a wooden yardstick. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Sandi

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  36. I love your blocks! I'm not going to be making any minis any time soon, but your methods are definitely worth remembering Thanks for the information on the yardstick method of hanging little quilts, especially about the little clips. I didn't want to pay the extra shipping to get them and was wondering where I could get something similar, so you definitely answered that question. I just purchased an old yardstick while I was in Minnesota to start a yardstick hanging wall! I almost lost it at the airport, because I had to hand carry it. I left it at a card shop and when I went back to get it, the lady in the shop said she was thinking about paging "the lady with the yardstick"! I was so glad she saved it for me! I bet people were wondering why I was carrying an old yardstick around. Hee Hee!

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  37. Those blocks are the absolute CUTEST! Your tips are all excellent... even if one is sewing full size! Thanks for sharing, Janet; you're the mini queen!!

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  38. wow! Those are amazing blocks...so fun!

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  39. Thank you for your tips Janet, I will make some one day! You are inspiring as always!!

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