• Ways to Go Beyond Just Quilts

    Ways to Go Beyond Just Quilts!

    Tips and advice from Rhonda Woodsmall

    Small projects are a great way to put a little color into your daily life! Or brighten someone else's life with a little bit of love! There are lots of projects that can be made in a short time. Great for Christmas gifts and teacher gifts etc.

    This makes it possible to make a lot of different quilt block ideas. You can experiment with some of those techniques you want to try without taking a long time to see the finished project.

    You can use:
    • Appliqué
    • Embroidery
    • Crazy Quilting
    • Pieced Patchwork
    • Crewel
    • Crosstitch

    Or any other form of needlework will lend itself to minis or small projects.

    Take a break from that big quilt you have been striving over and try your hand at a new way to enjoy quilting!! You can make it as simple or as intricate as you want and still enjoy the art of quilting without investing a lot of time in it.

    If you have a lot of ideas of quilt blocks you would love to see made up then take those ideas and put them into making miniatures.

    The word MINIATURE does not have to mean real tiny! It just means smaller than the original. You can still use a 3" template and make a miniature! It is all in what you want to do. I would encourage you to stretch yourself and try some minis! They are very satisfying and can become addictive!!

    Projects that you can make in miniature: Coasters, Totes, Mouse Pads, Christmas Ornaments, Hot Pads, Bookmarks, Book Covers, Credit Card Holders, Trivets, Mini pillows, Eyeglass cases, Checkbook Covers, Magnets, Coin Purses, Doll Quilts, Wall hangings, Keychains, Hang ups, Mini Quilts, Trifold Billfolds, Gift Bags, Placemats, Pillow cases, Pincushions, Purses, Doilies, Tea Cozies, Christmas Ornaments, Table Runners, Table Toppers, Christmas Stockings.

    And probably a lot more I haven't thought of!!!!

    I have not tried all the project ideas I listed above but throughout this tutorial you can see some of the ones I have done. I hope this will inspire you to try your hand at a miniature or two. Have fun with them!!

    You could frame quilt blocks and hang them in a grouping on the wall.

    Hang small quilts -- pillow cases --- wall hangings etc on a ladder. You can hang some hang-ups (like a key chain) in a window like a sun catcher. Hang them up in an office to brighten the space. Mini pillows work well in a display of miniature keepsakes.

    The lady I sell to uses my mini quilts to lay on an Amish doll to make it look like she made the quilt.

    You could put several hotpads or bookmarks or coasters in a basket and set it on your kitchen counter or on a coffee table with a quilt magazine or two.

    I have thought it would be fun to make a mini quilt block and make it into a pocket to sew onto a piece of clothing. I have never done this but it could be done I am sure. Maybe one of you will work out the logistics of this and let me know how it goes!!

    Templates and miniatures:

    Templates are made from lots of different things. I prefer a hard acrylic template. You can use a cardboard cut out for some things but they are not very durable. Cardboard or thin plastic templates are fine for applique but I wouldn't use them for cutting with squares and rectangles. The cardboard and thin plastic will wear and no longer be true. I do use cardboard circles for the yoyos I use to make the Drunkard's Path blocks.

    You cannot find anything smaller than a 2 1/2" or 3" on the quilt market. I have them custom made for me. You can buy a plexiglass cutter at a glass cutters and cut your own but I find it hard to do. You probably could have them cut at the glass cutters also. I have never asked and don't know how expensive that would be. It might be worth asking.

    1 1/2" template, 2" template, 2 1/2" template, template with yellow lines

    So I offer the 1 1/2" acrylic and the 1 1/4" acrylic template as I want people to be able to try the smaller stuff. It is so much fun to make small stuff!! I also offer the Dresden Kaleidoscope template. I do use a miniature version of the Dresden K also, but I haven't made it available yet.

    If you are interested in the free templates just send me a PM (private message) on the quilting board or email me at [email protected]. Please make sure to specify your postal address.

    18" ruler and 18" ruler cut in half

    custom made ruler


    I use a 2" x 9" ruler. I bought a Draft n Cut 18" ruler and cut it in half with a jigsaw. The larger rulers are not easy to use when you are working with such small squares. Too much ruler gets in the way and makes it hard to see the seams and edges of the square.

    I also have one of those 2 1/2" templates that have the yellow lines on it. I can't see the seams behind the yellow lines. So now I have them custom cut for me and I add the plastic grid myself. The grid does not have any numbers on it. I care more about the lines on the grid and need to be able to see them without any numbers or logos getting in the way. Miniatures are like the big guys but they have their own set of challenges.

    Choosing fabric for miniatures

    When you choose fabrics for minis you want to make sure you have a fabric that won't lose the pattern when you are done. The smallest piece in your pieced top should still have some pattern in it. Otherwise too big a pattern will result in only seeing the back ground color of your fabric.

    You can cut a hole in a piece of paper and use that to look at fabric to see if it will work or not. If your smallest piece will be a 1" then cut a 1" square in your paper and lay it against the fabric. Do you still see a pattern?

    Dark value, Light value, Dark value, Light value

    The type of fabrics I look for:

    100% cotton is best. You can use a poly and cotton if the majority of it is cotton.

    I like the country calicos the best but plaids work or muslin and broadcloth. Anything that doesn't have too much give to it.

    Square cut out,
    so directional is on point
    When working with minis keep in mind if you choose a directional fabric - something like a plaid that has lines in it or other closely repeated design - you will notice any design line that is not straight more in a mini than in a big quilt. Your eye doesn't have any where to go so you see all the small imperfections more. Just pay attention to how you cut and try to cut along the design line rather than at an angle.

    If you prefer you can deliberately cut the directional on point. Place your template or ruler so you cut in a diamond like shape instead of in a straight line. This is a little easier to deal with the directional lines in the fabric.

    You can also manipulate your fabric so it lays straight even when it is not wanting to. I lay my ruler on the fabric and hold it firmly in place. Then gently tug the fabric till it falls into line with the ruler. Some fabrics will not be perfectly straight going both ways. You can either use one direction and make it straight or try to fudge the difference. If both directions are just a little off will the whole look reasonably straight overall? This may seem fiddly to you but it will affect how your pieced top looks. How much you want to tweak it is up to you.

    Fabric not straight on both sides, Fabric pulled straight on both sides

    Randomly cut square, Square with straight lines

    When you have a fabric in which the lines are not straight (pattern lines) then the eye sees the diagonal lines or crooked lines and the block appears off. Doesn't look like the block was cut out square when in fact it is but the eye only sees the pattern lines are crooked.

    So to my mind it is worth the few minutes needed to make sure the pattern lines are straight before you cut. When I cut the back for a coin purse or a hotpad I want that back to look straight so I take the time to cut it that way. But the fabric that will be the liners inside I don't go out of my way to make sure they are straight because they will not show much.


    Traditional batting
    I tried several different battings when I first started doing the miniatures. I don't put any batting in anything except the hotpads and the eyeglass cases. You can certainly add batting to any project you want to.

    I use a traditional low loft made by Fairfield Co. I like it because it is dense and not fluffy. It is easy to cut and will not shift in the project. I use two layers for hotpads and one layer for the eyeglass cases. Sometimes I use one layer in my totes to give them a little more stiffness.

    • • •

    About the author:

    Rhonda has been a quilter for 30 years. She writes tutorials for the Quilted Paradise Newsletter and is a member of the Quilting Message Board. She offers templates in hard-to-find sizes that will help you make beautiful miniatures or full-size quilt blocks. She authored the following e-books: Playing with Boston Blocks, Dresden Kaleidoscopes, Star Point Blocks, The Wings Block. Be sure to check them out, you won't be disappointed.
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