My Miniature Journey, by Corinne Curtis

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I make miniature quilts, but I also make large quilts and other miniature things such as scale dolls house items. There is definitely something absolutely fascinating about anything made in a smaller than usual scale, that you can hold in the palm of your hand. It’s a bit like entering a fantasy world, but it is also awe-inspiring – how do people make things that small?

In the last newsletter, Janet and Karen – joint coordinators of the Miniature Quilt Special Interest Group – gave a bit of an overview of the group and what miniature quilts are. I’m going to show you a bit of my rather varied miniature making.

The three photos above show my tiniest miniature quilts; but don’t worry, these are dolls house mini’s where it is all about illusion – no-one is expected to sew that small! I’m not suggesting you use glue or paper for your competition mini entries (as I did for these), but sometimes taking a different look at how to achieve an illusion of real life size in small scale helps.

When you look at your fabric stash in a different way, it is surprising how many pieces you can find that might make a mini-medallion quilt centre or 1 inch blocks that look like they have been pieced.  Stripes, checks and geometric prints are great but many other patterns work too. 

The two finished pieces below both use printed fabrics as sashings:

Foundation piecing is another way to make quite complex miniature quilts. I use oversize fabric strips (more waste, but less fiddly), thinner than ordinary photocopy paper, a fine size 60 machine needle, tiny stitch and very fine thread (bottomline or other 100 weight), and adjust the tension so it is tighter on the paper side. A good introduction is to start with 4 inch square blocks and then try photo-reducing (71% reduction) to 2 inch blocks. Patterns that build up from the centre out on a single paper are easiest, but more complex patterns are also possible.  The pictures below show 1 inch blocks (left) and 4 and 2 inch versions of the same block. 

I’ve come a long way since my first paper pieced miniature quilts more than 30 years ago! The samples below were all hand sewn on paper. I’m still impressed with my small stitches, but the finishing was a bit clunky. All blocks are 1 inch square.

The next two images are both patterns by John Cole Morgan for the Miniature Quilt Special Interest Group. I still need to pay more attention to my points when joining block units (as the twice unpicked one shows).

I am very pleased with the quilt below from Kumiko Frydl’s ‘Miniature Quilts’ book which is about 11 in. square.

Recently I’ve been doing more mini’s using regular piecing techniques, cutting pieces oversized so I have a bit more to hold onto as it goes under the needle.  These pictures show my trial beach hut construction, and the results in a 5 inch wide sample piece. Those prairie points (under the boats) were also made oversized and trimmed back once sewn into the seam.

Fabric choice also matters for miniature quilts. Art Gallery pure solids are my go-to now having not got on well with lawn, which I found too flimsy. The Art Gallery fabrics have a lovely even weave, are a little finer than regular quilting cottons, and come in a wonderful range of colours. Some fine weave batiks work quite well too, and you can fussy cut bits to give you a graduated colour range, but I find it difficult to choose batik patterns that look right in miniature quilts.

Mini’s don’t have to stay just as mini’s – they play really nicely with big blocks too, as you can see in my almost finished “Ocean Star” quilt (pattern by Helen Butcher) where 2 inch blocks sit happily alongside 12 inch ones. Helen’s instructions were brilliant.

Joining the Miniature Quilt Special Interest Group gives me inspiration from seeing what others are doing. I’ve made projects from patterns in “Small Talk” (the quarterly Miniature Quilt Group magazine), joined in with workshops, and found out about useful resources. I have also made a miniature quilt for the AGM Miniatures Challenge, and will make something for the miniature group display at Festival of Quilts. I’m even seriously considering entering a miniature in a quilt show this year.    

Corinne Curtis

Miniature Quilt Group member

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