Miniature Quilts - Tips, Tricks and Free Patterns
Miniature Quilts - Beauty in Small Packages!
If you have never made a miniature quilt, why not try one for a change of pace? They are made in the same way as regular sized quilts, but on a smaller scale. While most mini quilts tend to be made into wall hangings, they can also serve as a doll blanket (some people make really tiny scale ones for dollhouses), lap quilts or small throws to match your household furnishings.
I took the photo of the miniature quilt shown to the left when I visited a quilt museum in Washington state a few years back. It is 8 1/2 inches square with pieced, appliqued and embroidery elements. The main background area is pieced, the baskets are appliqued and the flowers were added in silk ribbon embroidery. The details were incredible...I wonder how long it took the quilter to make.
What are Miniature Quilts?
There are different approaches to making small quilts. You can use a reduced number of standard sized blocks to make a smaller lap size quilt or even enlarge a block to make a wall-hanging from a single block.
Other mini quilts are made like traditionally sized quilts but with the block components being substantially smaller in scale. For example, a standard nine-patch block would be made using three inch squares to make a block that finishes up at nine inches square. A miniature nine-patch might be made using one inch blocks with a finished block being 3 inches square. In some cases, the blocks are so reduced in size that the entire miniature quilt may end up being smaller than the original block.
What is important is the finished overall size of the quilt - if a quilt is smaller than 24 inches on a side, it is generally classified as a miniature quilt, but quilt shows and competitions will have specific rules regarding block size and finished overall size. If you are planning to enter a quilt competition, be sure to read the rules carefully to make sure you are following the guidelines so that you don't spend a lot of time working on a project only to have it not be eligible for the competition.
If you are interested in making miniature quilts to enter in quilt shows, the American Quilter's Society has specific rules governing the qualities of mini quilts. They must be no larger than 24" in both width and length with all aspects of the quilt being reduced in scale. This means that the piecing and imagery are scaled down in relation to the size of the quilt.
The quilt shown here is made using the Double Wedding Ring pattern (this link takes you to directions for making a standard sized quilt in this pattern). This miniature quilt is 8 by 9 1/2 inches (the regular quilt pattern finishes up at 69 1/2" x 84 3/4").
As you can imagine, making mini quilts takes patience and attention to detail because they must be precisely assembled. Below, I have some tips to make small scale piecing easier.
Helpful Tips for Making Miniature Quilts
Mini Quilts Require a Focus on Accuracy
Accuracy is key. While accuracy is also important in standard quilt making, it is absolutely critical when making miniature quilts. Your quilt units must be cut exactly to the correct size and you must be able to sew a consistent 1/4" seam. When you are dealing with units that are less than one inch wide, any variation on the 1/4" seam will cause problems with accuracy and matching seams later. Certain block components, such as half triangle sets, can be made deliberately larger and then trimmed down which can save some time on the assembly process. Before starting to sew, take a look at your quilt patterns and decide if this assembly technique would work with your pattern.
When it comes to matching seams, it is important to pin carefully prior to stitching. Be sure to use quilting pins which are thinner, longer, and sharper than regular pins. Time spent pinning accurately will save time ripping out seams later. One trick that I use frequently when trying to perfectly match seams is to insert a pin straight up and down through the points that am I trying to match and leave the pin standing up. If you angle the pin to one side or the other, the seams will slip slightly, so it works best if the pin is completely vertical. With the seams matching, you can then pin on either side of the vertical pin and then sew the quilt units together.
The quilt in the photo is a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt made in greatly reduced scale. The individual hexagons are 1/2" making the whole flower 1 1/2" wide.
Whip Up Mini Quilts: Patterns and How-to for 26 Contemporary Small Quilts (Hardcover) - A New Miniature Quilt Book from the Creative Minds at WhipUp.net!
Kathreen Ricketson, founder of the internationally popular Web site WhipUp.net, presents 20 contemporary quilts from across the globe in this charming, easy-to-follow guide. From the lovely English Garden Quilt to the playful Road Transport Pillow, the projects collected in Whip Up Mini Quilts cover all sorts of themes and looks. With plenty of step-by-step instructions and helpful how-to illustrations, this book showcases an artful approach to design basics while outlining the fundamentals of quilting techniques. Best of all, it all comes in a user-friendly format with lay-flat binding and pattern sheets tucked into the front pocket.
Make Miniature Quilt Piecing Easier with a 1/4 Inch Presser Foot
A 1/4 inch foot is one of my favorite tools for quilting. This sewing machine presser foot can make quilt piecing easier, especially miniature quilts, because it has quarter-inch markings on three sides of the foot to ensure accuracy.
Judging when to pivot can sometimes be difficult, but because the 1/4 inch markings are shown on numerous sides, it is easier to tell when to pivot.
Another helpful feature is the small center hole which prevents fabric from being dragged down into the feed dogs.
Lastly, on the right edge of the foot, there is a blade that holds the edge of the fabric seam at just the right distance.
1/4 Inch Quilting Sewing Machine Presser Foot with Edge Guide
Seaming Help for Miniature Quilts
Tips for Making Miniature Quilting Easier!
If you have trouble feeding your mini quilt pieces into the sewing machine in a straight and even manner like I do (it seems as though my machine sometimes likes to eat my fabric), there are a couple of tricks that you can use to make this easier. The first trick is to start stitching on a piece of scrap material and then sew onto your quilt pieces - sometimes the initial stitches will tangle a little then smooth out. By doing this, the tangled stitches will be on the scrap fabric rather than your quilt pieces. Another helpful tip is to use a straight stitch feed plate (this is the one with a small hole rather than a slot). This can help prevent the fabric from being pushed down into the feed dogs and jamming the machine.
When you press the seams on your quilt blocks, take care that you do not let the iron distort the seams nor press the fabric out of shape. This is an especially important consideration when using pieces that have edges cut on the bias such as triangles, because bias edges easily stretch off grain which can cause the block to ripple.
The blocks in the mini quilt shown here are only 1" wide. The sides of the quilt are embellished with beautiful silk ribbon embroidery. The curved edges make it look more elegant.
Cutting Fabric for Mini Quilts
Since accuracy is key when making miniature quilts, it is important that your fabric shapes are cut accurately. The easiest way to ensure this is to use a self-healing cutting mat with a rotary cutter and clear ruler. A rotary cutter is a hand-held cutting implement that uses a circular rolling blade that allows you to make long, crisp cuts through multiple layers of fabric.
This rotary cutting set includes everything you need to start making miniature quilts. The 18 x 24" self healing cutting mat is double-sided for more versatility.
A 6 x 24" clear acrylic ruler enables you to clearly see where you are cutting. A quarter inch seam allowance is highlighted for easier viewing and the geometric grid allows for accurate shape cutting.
The rotary cutter uses a 45 mm rolling circular blade that will accurately cut through multiple layers of fabric. These blades are very sharp, so be sure to always replace the cover. I took a quilting class one time, and the instructor kept a jar at the front and if she caught us with an open cutter, we had to put a quarter in the jar.
Small Scale Quilting = High Visibility
With Miniature Quilts, Small Errors Can Look Huge
When you reduce the scale of quilt blocks, it has the effect of magnifying their features. Any error, however minute, will be much more apparent than in its larger counterpart. Also, people are generally intrigued by miniature items and tend to want to take a closer look at them - I know I do, and they will tend to notice any flaws in the piecing and seaming.
Another option for precise small scale piecing is to use the foundation piecing method. Foundation piecing enables the quilter to create complex blocks with a high degree of accuracy because the foundation paper or fabric stabilizes the fabric. Also, the stitching lines shown on the foundation allow for greater sewing accuracy rather than having to depend on a precise 1/4 inch seam.
Mini-Mosaic Quilts: 30+ Block Designs • 14 Projects • Easy Piecing Technique
In this book, quilter Paula Doyle demonstrates piecing techniques that make it easy to put together miniature quilts. There are more than 30 different blocks that can be assembled into colorful quilts. Projects include table runners, tote bags, and many others. The project designs are fat quarter-friendly which makes it easy to use your stash!
Mini Quilt Video Demonstration - Miniature Rail Fence Quilt Pattern
Learn how to make a miniature quilt using the rail fence pattern by watching this easy-to-follow video tutorial. You will learn how to cut, lay out, and piece a rail fence quilt pattern.
Mini Quilts on Exhibit
If you are interested in seeing miniature quilts close up, here are some places where you can see them on exhibit. Maybe you can incorporate one or more of these on your next trip! For those who don't have any upcoming travel plans, I have included a few online galleries as well.
- Flickr: ART & MINI QUILTS
A group pool of artistic mini quilts. Tons of inspiration!
- Miniature Masterpieces by Pat Kuhns
Artist Pat Kuhns is nationally known for her award-winning miniature quilts. This collection of miniature bed quilts are intricate and delicate with many tiny pieces and stitches.
- Kate Adams Fine Miniature Quilts - Gallery
Using antique fabrics and early patterns and designs, Kate Adams creates quilts that are truly reflective of the Art of Traditional American Quilt Making.
- Collections | Quilt Museum and Gallery, York
An online gallery of the mini quilts in the Quilt Museum and Gallery in York, UK.
- Art Quilts in Miniature
Click on thumbnail to see full quilt.
- Gallery - George and Virginia Siciliano
Amazingly detailed mini quilts!
- The Quilt Index
An online quilt gallery with a search feature - search for "miniature" and an extensive list will pop up.
- Winterthur Digital Collections : Miniature Quilts
The Winterthur Museum has a small collection of historical miniature quilts in their online digital archive available for viewing.
- Quilting Gallery Blog - Vote Now: Miniature Quilts (voting is over)
A gallery of 30 miniature quilts that participated in a contest in 2010. Voting is over, but it still provides inspiration!