After my “learn by doing” quilting marathon last spring, I decided to try working on some mini quilts as a way to improve my basic skills. I learned several important things…the obvious ones were that mini quilts don’t require the same time commitment as full size quilts and mini quilts allow you to experiment without expending much cash, because they are easily pieced from odds and ends. The not-so-obvious lessons are what I think really needs to be shared!
Lesson 1: Small pieces have no forgiveness for cutting mistakes. A two thread error on a 6 inch block might cause a frown here and there, but two threads on a two-inch block seem to grow exponentially in magnitude. My first attempt pieced like a dream, the second not so much. I believe part of my problem was the lighting as I cut my second mini…or my trifocals, but probably both. I was shocked to re-measure pieces (after several days break) and find them up to 1/8 inch off. I know how to use my ruler, so I think that lighting was partly to blame, possibly magnified by the odd curvature on trifocal lenses.
Solution: Make sure you have excellent lighting when you cut and make sure that all the measuring devices you will be using match up. Check your rulers and squares against your 1/4 seam marker or foot, etc. I purchased this little device at my local quilt shop, and I think it will be wonderful for both quilting and garment construction. I hope it will improve my consistency.
Lesson 2: Because of lesson 1, mini quilts can not be fudged! The area is just too small to absorb the “corrections” and the quilt will show its troubles. While this is a lesson learned, I must remind myself of the purpose in constructing these little gems, and not allow my inner 4-H’er to go crazy. That being said, you can see for yourself the results of fudging gone astray! All of those happy bumps and ripples are caused by the “fudging.” This little darling is definitely NOT square!
Solution: See lesson 1, above and measure EVERY seam–be ruthless! It’s much easier to rip out a 2 inch seam that to attempt to piece an entire row that is off. Shortcuts don’t work very well with minis.
Lesson 3: While the stitch in the ditch attachment sounds fabulous in principle, it may not be all it’s cracked up to be! I thought using this attachment would speed the quilting process and increase my accuracy-NOT!
Solution: I should have reminded myself that none of my machine’s attachments have actually been “snap on” ready. I had to figure each one out, and work through some little adjustments before achieving the desired results. Practice is definitely a prerequisite, at least until you have some experience with each one.
I used the stitch in the ditch attachment on the first mini, and went back to my clear general purpose foot for the green. If you compare the two, you can see that the quilting on the green mini isn’t as obvious, especially around the edges as compared to the blue, where I was relying on the stitch in the ditch, and ended up at least 1/16 inch off the actual seam. After a few days to process, I would say that the stitch in the ditch is not ugly, but it would definitely require a specific plan maintain continuity, and there are places and potentially patterns where it should probably not be utilized.
Mini quilt #2
Mini Quilt #1
Now that I’ve documented my issues for future reference, and purchased a nifty tool to use as the regulator, I want to apply my solutions and see whether I get the desired result.
Next time, I’ll be measuring each and every piece and seam to better learn what my trouble spots are, and we’ll see how the next mini turns out. I think the flying geese on this kit from Connecting Threads will be a good test. (see it here)