Friday, September 17, 2010

Tips for miniature hand pieced patchwork

I have had a few people ask for tips on how to make a patchwork quilt like mine, so here we go.

If you have never done English Paper Piecing before, here is a real size tutorial found on the web - thank you Lizard of Oz . I would recommend printing out all 4 pages and reading several times.

To miniaturise  first pick a simple pattern. If you haven't tried it before, start on something small using squares before you try different shapes - you can always turn it into a cot quilt or a pet blanket. 1/2 inch is a comfortable size and translates to 6 inch squares in real life.

When you are ready to move to shapes this site is excellent for your paper pieces - choose the size you want and print it out! Free printable graph paper 
Before printing make sure you are looking at it at 100%. The measurement is the length of one side, not across the entire piece.

Print out 3 or more pages - one to draw up and colour in your quilt - this will give you an idea of size, although the finished one will end up slighter bigger, and will remind you where you are going if you aren't doing a repeat pattern. Most of my hints will be directed at hexagons now.

For hexagons don't drive yourself batty trying to cut out individual hexagons - cut strips and then trim to shape.

Fabric: Use as fine a weave as possible. I found hankies from our local op shops to be perfect - soft, cheap and very tightly woven. The newer ones are coarse by comparison. Beware before you cut though - some are highly collectable and you could be hacking into something which could fund your entire dollshouse collection - check ebay first. If this doesn't worry you, hack away!
The quilt with 1/2 inch squares  uses patchwork fabric. I wouldn't use this for anything smaller.

Spray starch is now your best friend. Starch like mad until your hanky/fabric feels like stiff paper. This eliminates the need for tacking the individual hexagons when you fold it around the paper and who wants to tack a shape smaller than your little fingernail?! Finger press the folds by pinching.

Don't worry about cutting hexagons from the fabric - squares are fine, make them about 2 1/2 - 3 times as wide as your hexagon. This gives plenty of fold size and some thickness when finished. Trim off any bits that poke out.

Ideally centre your squares around a motif on your hanky - one hanky can usually be used to make numerous different pieces and angling these different ways will give you a new look as well. (see the pink stripe blocks in my quilt) This will require all your squares to be cut with scissors and the hanky will look like it has been through the censors when you have finished. You will need 6 same and 1 different squares for each flower.

Making the flowers: This part is the hardest. You have your 7 wrapped pieces in front of you and you want to be able to do it with one thread, so holding firmly, start by sewing the first outside hexagon to the centre with about 4 or 5 whip stitches. Slip your needle and thread to the top of  this outside hexagon, going  inside the fold, and attach the next outside hexagon on to the 1st outside hexagon, then onto the centre. Slip your needle and thread back to top, making sure you aren't pulling too tight, and attach the next and so on. Once all 6 are joined to the middle, break the thread off and with a new thread tack the outside in place. Put aside and make a few more flowers.
Medallion layout front
Medallion reverse

Once you have done this, you have all the skills needed to join the rest in whatever pattern you want.

When you have your quilt top assembled, undo your tacking and remove all the tiny paper pieces. Some will have already liberated themselves. Keep checking it against a lighted surface because others will remain in hiding. (I still have one tucked away inside) Iron (being careful of your edge pieces) and starch again - it will be limp from handling by now.

Applique it onto a piece of fabric allowing for 1/4 inch seams around the outside and cut a back the same size. Right sides together sew around outside like making a cushion, turn right side out and slip stitch closed.

You can bind it with fine bias binding instead.

If sewing is beyond you, starch some cotton fabric to paper stiffness or iron onto a piece of freezer paper, cut to A4, choose a quilt and run through your printer! Use pellon for padding and quilt.

Please ask questions about anything vague or left out.

 I'm not sure how well this will work but here goes:

Click for enlarged image, R-click to copy to your computer and I think you will need to play with the colour if you want to print this quilt onto fabric. It was originally saved in a high resolution, but necessarily the internet has to turn it into a downloadable size.

When printing onto fabric, I have found it better to have the colours too strong as they print a lot more faded.

I am having a hunt for the file for the pink printed quilt as well.

Welcome to my newest followers!
Teresa is an IGMA artisan and her work is amazing - I'm glad I left her introduction til this post as she has just posted the most gorgeous pink sewing machine (!) along with a sewing room of delights. Keep looking back though, some things you need to check twice to see if they are real or mini.

Caroline has 2 blogs - her dollshouse blog with 2 houses - one for her herself and one for her daughter - both gorgeous and real life Forever Vintage with her shabby chic delights and her ups and downs in life. 

Susan has popped by to return my call. When life gets you down, go and visit the chaotic lives of her dolls house residents and have a chuckle. Poor Mother Schoenhut- her family are such a trial to her!

Natalia seems blogless, so please post a comment or contact me if that isn't correct.

As usual when my internet has slowed google translate is the first to suffer, but the pictures speak for themselves at PuNo's Minis I love the detail achieved with humble (and economical) cardboard packaging that is transformed when turned into furnishings.

 Marissa has blogging, following and sharing links and such down to a fine art, as well as working on her own mini projects, so for a look at those plus keeping up todate with who is having giveaways or running tutorials, call in to visit.

Berri and Kate are others who doesn't seem to have a blog so, like Natalia, please contact me if you have a link. .

Carol is a graphic designer and her blog is full of inspiration and resources! She is working on a dollshouse but most of her blog (that I have read so far) showcases other artisans work and gives advice for things we all find useful. Thank you Carol!

Evelien  is making a gorgeous modern 'lived in' house and like me bemoans how little there is to show for the time put in! (we have the same bathroom set too but she is really making something of hers) Have a look a her crochet - I can't imagine how tiny those stitches are! No wonder it is taking more than an evening!

Rosella is my most recent follower and I haven't had time for more than a peek, but that peek has a lot of promise of an enjoyable hour of browsing.

Thank you all for following and I'll look forward to keeping up with what you are doing as well!


  1. Thanks for posting that! Looks way too hard for me! But I might just give it a try. . .

  2. great tutorial Christine, i need to add to my hanky collection... so i'm off to vinnies today!
    ps. i like the (not tacking tip!!!)
    Christine xx

  3. WOW! You make it sound ALMOST easy! I need to find some hankies first..... actually I have some old Liberty cotton prints that might be just the thing..... I'll add it to my list of projects to start before finishing any of the others! LOL! You don't tell us how long it takes to complete! Your work is stunning Christine! Thank you for the tutorial.

  4. Hi ladies,

    It is fiddly rather than hard, Laine but aren't all miniatures!

    Have fun shopping, Christine! :~D

    Liberty prints would be perfect, Daydreamer - a friend has some she is saving for something special that I eyed off covetously (she has been saving them for more than 20 years now)

    For time, making a flower takes about 15 minutes - choosing which parts of the hanky to use,cutting it, ironing it and shopping for it in the first place are the most time consuming part! It is a longer term project but very rewarding. :~)

  5. Hi Christine
    Love your blog....soooo much info. It's going to take me a while to go through everything. Lots of ideas and links.
    A BIG thanks


  6. Oh you little Sweetie pie!
    thanks so much for the kind words and I really loved your tutorial! *I always love to learn new tips and tricks*

    Big Hugs to you

    Marisa :)

  7. Thank you very much for your kind words and welcome! And ofcourse also for the great tutorial. Gonna have to try it...when I have time ;)

    groetjes evelien

  8. Huge thanks for this, I have been looking forever how to do a mini one! :o) I need a few for Nanny McPhee's children's beds and also for my Gingerbread cottage bed. I need to get busy! lol

    Michelle xxx

  9. I already do mini quilts, but I have always done the paper piecing patterns the hard way(one at a time). Thank you so much for the website with the graph paper!!!The is fantastic. No more drawing hundreds of hexes!

  10. I can't imagine how you draw hexes perfectly, even though I know the circle/compass method and all the mathematics of it, mine are always lopsided :~D It is a fantastic site - I got it from my(then)school age children who used it all the time for school things.