Tiny Quilt=Big Design Challenges

The McCall's Mini Madness taught me a valuable lesson:  Just because they are pint-sized, doesn't mean they are easy.  Each of those miniature quilts required just as much time, skill and patience as larger quilts.  Yet somehow I conveniently forgot this lesson when I decided to participate in the American Made Brand Tiny Quilt Challenge.

Without much of a design in mind, I picked up a few quarter yards during a shop hop and combined it with the leftover stash from my Farm to Fabric challenge entry.  Gathering the fabric was the easy part--it was deciding what to do with it all that tested my design skills.
Rainbow of solids made here in the USA
Fail #1:  Interleave Variation
Failed Attempt #1: Interleave variation of an Anton Stankowski print

I chose a fun selection of solids to create the two tops needed for this Interleave.  For this Interleave variation, I rotated one of them horizontally and cut my 1" strips at a 45 degree angle.

Unfortunately this experiment was a big fail as I didn't account for how best to stagger or slice up the tops or align the starts and stops.  As I added new strips, it became clear that this was not going to work.  So this idea was totally scrapped--literally and figuratively.      

Having wasted several hours and quite a bit of usable yardage, I was feeling very frustrated and upset.  So I turned to a hot shower for some stress-relief.  Fortunately for me, inspiration was awaiting in my own bathroom in the form of my portable heater/fan unit!
Inspiration Is All Around!
The back side of the fan really caught my eye as I loved the straight lines forming a grid, that was then framed by the larger circular shape.  So I got to work drafting up a block in EQ7.

Failed Attempt #2:  Bad Color Color Palette/Even Worse Construction!!
Excited about this new design direction, I gathered a selection of lime green to dark blues.  But I wanted a more scrappy look, so I sprinkled in several gold and light yellow solids too.  With no real plan in mind, I just sliced and sewed...and it got ugly real soon.  I tried to do some damage control by adding more pops of emerald and aqua, but it was too late.  The construction looked really shoddy and since I lacked a plan, I really struggled laying out the strip sets without identical colors matching up.  Another morning and more yardage was wasted and still no finished quilt top!
Fail #2:  No Plan + Imbalance of Colors + Shoddy Construction = SCRAPS!
Three Times is the Charm:  Hot and Cold Gradations
Losing so much time and yardage, I was starting to panic as the challenge deadline was rapidly approaching.  I returned to my fabric palette and sorted into two groupings:  a warm and a cool pile.  While I love the scrappy look, I've come to the realization that I thrive on order and planning.  I used slightly larger strips making it easier to assemble the strip sets, and created a gradation with each strip set...ahh, finally, some order!  Once my strip sets were cut and reassembled into blocks, I turned to my trusty freezer paper, compass and glue sticks to create my circular frames to reverse applique on my gridded units.
Trusted Tools and Finally A Design I Liked!!
I loved the contrast of straight lines and circular frames, warm and cool colors...and set out to add another layer of interest with my quilted texture.  Playing with the heating and cooling, I chose free motion quilting motifs to conjure up warmth and cooling.  A walking foot with some thread that blended was used to add some straight stitching throughout the grids.
Auditioning Motifs for Heating and Cooling
Quilt Back
Having lost so much yardage in the failed experiments, only the tan solid yielded enough yardage for a solid backing.  Despite its petite size, a 4" sleeve was still recommended.  So rather than lose more of the quilted texture, I added my label information to the sleeve.  After several brainstorming sessions for a witty title, I went back to the heater for inspiration once again and chose "Tiny Thermostat" for a quilt title.

Alas, "Tiny Thermostat" was not accepted into the travelling exhibit.  There were over 220 entries and space to only feature 40 quilts...so the odds were certainly not in my favor.  I am looking forward to seeing the tiny quilts that were selected as I am sure they were spectacular!!
"Tiny Thermostat" finished at 15"x15"


  1. Hi Mel,
    Do you think you might try something else using Anton Stankowski work as your inspiration? I just looked at some of his work, the strong linear imagery is very intriguing. It does seem like a lot of planning and revisions would be required to deliver this kind of linear structure in a quilt.

    Thanks for sharing your successes and failures. I think you succeeded in your final attempt in bringing out the structured and orderly qualities of your design.

    1. Yes, I hope to revisit the Anton Stankowski inspiration again as I think there is some potential there. A few bumps were well worth the finished end product!! Thanks!!

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  4. So pretty! I really like your background quilting.

    1. Thanks Jasmine...after several years, I am really enjoying free motion quilting!!

  5. Wonderful quilt and a great explanation. I always enjoy reading how your ideas develop. I have questions about your auditioning motifs photo. It's a plastic overlay on two samples, but did you draw your quilting design on the plastic or the white underneath?

    1. Thanks Ann! I use a 11"x11" piece of acryllic plastic (with blue painters tape along the edges as a buffer) that I lay over my blocks/quilt top and use white board markers to sketch out quilting motifs on the acryllic. I take pictures before erasing and sketching out a new idea so i can reference back to my favorites.

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