Book review: ‘Make Mine Mini: 13 miniature quilts from traditional to contemporary’, by Christine Carlson

I’ve been getting back into quilting during the past few weeks, and I found this book on my bookshelf:

‘Make Mine Mini: 13 miniature quilts from traditional to contemporary’.

It’s a slim book of 64 pages and was published in 2010, and features 13 little quilts, using various techniques. It is a very useful way to learn the techniques, as each quilt shouldn’t take too long – these aren’t difficult designs.

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There are 23 pages of general information at the beginning of the book, covering how to make the most of the blocks you have chosen to make (by setting them in different formations), to how to choose fabrics wisely, and how to bind your finished quilt.

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The instructions for the 13 projects are very detailed, especially the information about fabric quantities and how many of each square or triangle to cut out.

The section on colour theory was really good
The section on colour theory was really good
Quick tips for rotary cutting are also included, with advice on how to save time when piecing at the sewing machine. This book covers the ‘flip and sew’ method, and also shows you how to make trims for your finished quilts, such as yo-yos. There are ‘box-outs’ throughout the book with tips relevant to that page, and I found these really useful.
These are the 13 projects in the book
These are the 13 projects in the book

The project I liked the best was the Spools Variation mini quilt (featured on page fifty – see the illustration above for the visual index to the book), with an edging made from ‘prairie points’ (folded fabric triangles, caught into the seam between the front and the back fabrics).

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Although, on the whole, the fabrics chosen for the quilts in this book aren’t my choice really (they are either a bit too pastel, or a bit too brown, for me), it is easy to substitute your own palette when you start to make your own version. So, visually I was not attracted so much to this book, but once I started reading it, the information contained in it is very good, and I can see myself making several of the projects at some point soon.

The book is published by Clotilde, and costs $11.95 in Canada (I paid £3 on Amazon, second-hand. New, it’s about £6). ISBN 978 1 59217 323 5.

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Book review: ‘Small Scale Quilting’ by Sally Collins

I got this lovely book about quiltmaking for my birthday (Amazon wishlists are wonderful things!).

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It is about A4 size, has 112 pages, and has a quality feel to it. Sally Collins has published several books before on various aspects of quilting, and all her books focus on her love of precision. This is what I need, as I’m too impatient to do things carefully, and I can easily spoil something by not taking enough time over it.

Sally calls her quilts ‘small scale’ rather than ‘miniature’, because she says she thinks they are not scale models of full-size ones. So, this book features designs from 6 x 8 inches, up to around 30 inches square – still significantly smaller than any bed quilt would be.

The beginning of the book covers colour, fabric, how to cut accurately, lots of information about borders – how to choose fabrics for them, how to accentuate the centre panel with a good border, and so on. The construction techniques section is particularly good.

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There are then nine projects, listed in order of complexity. These use several different techniques. All cutting information, fabric amounts, etc., are given – I thought this part of the book was very well planned. Sally is obviously a perfectionist!

There is a short bibliography at the back, and a list of other quilting books from C & T Publishing.

What I particularly liked about the way Sally writes, is that she often mentioned the link between her creativity and her spirituality. They both feed into each other, and Sally is very aware of this. The process of making a quilt is part of her unfolding spirituality, so for her, unpicking a seam and re-sewing it is just part of life’s journey, not a ‘nuisance’ or a ‘problem’. Hmm, I’ll have to work on that one  🙂

An intermediate design
An intermediate design
An advanced design
An advanced design

The project I really liked, which will probably be the first one I’ll try from this book, is the ‘Framed Double Wedding Ring’ mini quilt. This is only 6 x 7 1/2 inches. Am I being ambitious here? It is listed as being the second-simplest project in the book, so that’s my excuse! I love double wedding ring quilt designs, but I don’t think I’d have the time or the patience to make a full-size one. But this little thing is so cute. It’s made with bias tubes of fabric 1/4 inch wide, and little four-square units at the intersections. Simple, really!

I'm planning to make the small version of this design, in the bottom right hand corner of this picture
I’m planning to make the small version of this design, in the bottom right hand corner of this picture

This is a very inspiring book, with several techniques to try. Sally is very precise, so if the book is read through carefully, you can pick up a lot of tips from this expert.

C & T Publishing. Paperback. 112 pages. About £19 on Amazon. ISBN 978 1 57120 009 9.

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My first mini quilt is finished

I have spent several weeks, now, making my first mini quilt. This one measures 16 x 20 inches, and by ‘mini’ standards, it’s quite large  🙂  But it’s quite tricky enough for me, considering I haven’t made any mini quilts before. The only quilt I’ve ever made was 35 years ago, when I was 15, and I spent a whole winter hand-stitching a ‘grandmother’s fan’ design for a single bed, then hand quilting it….I ended up getting so bored with doing it, that as soon as it was completed, I gave it away to my cousin.

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So, mini quilts seemed more attractive, when I got back into this hobby recently, as I was under the impression that a small quilt might be quicker too do. Maybe.

This design is one from a design pack of nine by Lori Smith of  ‘From My Heart to Your Hands’. All the designs are nice, but this one attracted me. I have changed the tonal value placement slightly, but still kept to the basically red tones. (It’s the one on the top right in the image below.)

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Considering I felt at times that I didn’t know what I was doing, I am really pleased with how this has come out. The instructions in the leaflet were clear enough, but I am not patient enough to unpick seams when they are ‘off’, and it really shows in the finished quilt.

It’s very squiffy  😛

The points of the stars are often cut off at the tips, for instance. This is because, when I was pairing up the triangles before stitching them, I ‘evened up’ the seam allowances, instead of butting one triangle against the edge that would be fully in the seam allowance, if you see what I mean. Once I realised what was happening, I should have ditched what I had sewn together, re-cut more pieces, and started again – but I couldn’t be bothered, because I wanted to see it finished.  So, now I can see it finished for ages…with cut-off points. Hmm. I think I can learn something from this!

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Also, if I had made just one block first to check I was doing it right, I could have eliminated some of the problems, but again, no patience! I got all blocks to the same stage before looking at what I was doing, and sometimes what I was doing was daft. However, I’m trying to see this piece as very much a ‘learning project’, not something that I’m going to put on sale, or on display, or anything. OK, so I am showing it to hundreds of people on this blog, but still! And I did really enjoy myself making it.

The fabric was lovely to stitch with – it was from the Fat Quarter Shop, in the USA. I’ve since found a couple of places in the UK to buy reproduction prints from, but these *are* really lovely, if pricey to import to the UK.

This design uses only four fat quarters for the top, and another one for the backing. It was hard to decide which fabric to use for the backing , as I felt I was kind of  ‘wasting it’ by putting a good fabric on the reverse of the quilt, but now it’s finished, I’m glad I used a fabric that really tones with the front, rather than just a plain piece of any old kind of cotton that I had as a leftover from something else.

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I used Quilters Dream Poly batting, and I think that next time I’ll use 100% cotton – it seemed a bit thick and ‘bouncy’ to quilt through, and several online reviews that I have seen recommend 100% cotton. It cost about £5 for a pack 46 x 36 inches, from cottonpatch.co.uk, so I could get another mini quilt out of the piece if I wanted to.

I loved doing the quilting more than the patchwork. That must be the embroiderer in me, I think! Just sitting with a betweens needle in my hand, doing a simple running stitch for hours was great, and I am getting very tempted to try a wholecloth design next. My quilting stitch is still too large and meandering for my liking, but I’m prepared to work on that.

I encountered two problems with the quilting. One was that I used a pink Clover chalk pencil to transfer the design onto the fabric at first, through a stencil, but I found that the lead kept breaking. So I switched to a ‘dressmaker’s pencil’ instead. Both types are supposed to be able to be washed out afterwards. When the quilt was complete, I hand washed it with Stergene. The pink chalk has come out completely, but in some places, the grey lead of the other pencil still shows a bit. I think, now, that the Stergene has ‘set’ the pencil marks.

The other problem was that I chose a small cable design for the border – on a very busy floral print. Hmm. I have since found out that this is something that beginners often do – they choose a fancy pattern and put it on a fancy fabric, and it hardly shows up at all! But it was fun to do. In the centre of the quilt I just highlighted parts of the design with lines of straight stitching. I couldn’t manage ‘stitching in the ditch’, as I’d pressed all the seam allowances over to one side, so it ended up being quite bulky (pressing the seams open would have been better, but I didn’t plan ahead). So, I stitched ‘near to the ditch’ instead.

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In the end, as a first patchwork piece, I am very pleased with how it’s come out, despite the trials I had with it. Several other mini quilts are already being planned, so I can’t have been put off all that much  🙂

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