Specialist Group Focus: Miniature Group

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Learn more about the Miniature Group, one of The Guild’s five Specialist Groups with the group’s co-ordinator, Arlene McLeish.

The official definition of a miniature quilt is, “In a photo of the finished piece (with no indication of scale) the miniature should look like a full size quilt or wall hanging”.  Then there are those who argue that a true miniature should in fact be an accurate and faithful 1/12 scale replica of a larger creation, in line with the customary scale for dolls house furniture.  And to add further confusion, there are quilt shows where the category is loosely described as ‘miniature and doll quilt’, with anything up to 24” in length accepted. Suffice to say that unless one is entering a competition, the most important thing is, as always when making quilts, to enjoy oneself!

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Apart from size, there are no other restrictions on what constitutes a miniature quilt and so it’s possible to make them in any style imaginable.  After many years of miniature quilts being made in a very traditional style, we’re now starting to see more modern designs, and even a few contemporary pieces.  This, for me, is what makes it such an exciting Specialist Group as really, pretty much anything goes, and so it’s very easy to try out new techniques and ideas.

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This Specialist Group is the smallest one within the Quilters’ Guild, and membership is steadily increasing.  With members across the British Isles and overseas, it’s not always possible to meet up in person, and so the advent of social media has been a very useful tool to ensure that we can stay in touch with one another.

The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles Miniature Group was originally set up in May 2003 with Tessa Grieg as the first Coordinator, followed by Doreen Walton and then Judith Dursley.  The aim was to promote the making of miniature quilts and encourage members to tackle small-scale sewing.

In July 2004, the Handbag Collection was set up.  It’s a collection of miniature quilts which are available for groups to hire upon request, and since its launch has proved to be continually popular. Pieces are regularly updated, so if you’ve hired it in the past, it would be worth borrowing it again, so that you can see the diverse range of quilts in the collection.

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As Katherine Guerrier wrote in the very first edition of Small Talk, our regular newsletter, ‘making miniature quilts has many advantages… they can be used to try out a design or colour combination’.  She also says that they don’t take too long to make – I have to say that I would probably disagree with that – many of the miniature quilts that are now being produced are real works of art in their own right, with tiny piecing and intricate quilting.

Is miniature quilting for you?  If you enjoy experimenting with different techniques, then yes! If you are running out of space for full size projects, then yes!  But most importantly, if you want to have fun, then please have a go!

If you’d like to have a go at making a miniature quilt for yourself, but are anxious about where to start, you could begin by scaling down one of your favourite blocks.  So instead of making it 8”, make it 4”, or even 2”.  You will find that, like quilting in general, the key is to practice, and soon you will find yourself able to use pieces that previously you would have dismissed as being ‘unusable’!  Be warned however – making miniature quilts can prove to be very addictive, and there comes a point where blocks that previously seemed ‘normal’ now seem clunky, awkward and oversized. And as you become more adept at handling small pieces and blocks, you’ll find that you may want to use finer fabrics such as lawn and silk, as well as reducing the size of your quilting stitches, all in search of that elusive illusion of ‘miniature’!  Don’t forget to think about the thickness of your wadding as well – you may well have to use a much thinner one, or use an alternative.

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And if you have any queries, contact us, or post a query on our Facebook page, here.  You don’t have to be a member of the Guild to do this, and members are overwhelmingly only too happy to help with any issues.

So what about the future for this group? We have a newsletter , Small Talk which is posted out to members three times a year, and we have a residential retreat planned in Birmingham for November 2019, where our tutor will be Guild member Joy Salvage – if you’d like to have a go at miniature work, why not come along?  Further details can be obtained by emailing me at mini@quiltersguild.org.uk, or on the Guild website, here.  Plans are also afoot to set up some regional meet ups and workshops to enable this geographically diverse group to meet in person.

We also have regular challenges, which are open to all members. Not only are all entries displayed at the Guild Conference & AGM and at The Festival of Quilts, but there are also prizes to be won, including the Anne Morgan cup and the Mike Hannan trophy, both in memory of previous committee members, and with the aim of encouraging members to extend and to develop their work. Competition for these prizes is intense, and the choice is made by public vote. This year, members have been enquiring  about using non-traditional materials, so it’s going to be exciting to see what is produced.

This is a thriving and lively group, where you can really feel part of a quilting family. Find out more about the Miniature Quilt Group and how to join on the Guild’s website, here.

Arlene McLeish, Miniature Group Coordinator

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