EPP Mini Quilts, Finished and in Progress

Hello Everybody,

It’s wonderful to welcome the Spring and see lambs in the fields again.

I have some new followers; hello and welcome! I never know whether the people who join me here are experienced English Paper Piecers who want to move on from hexagons, or beginners who want to give the technique a try. Or, perhaps they are just interested in any kind of textile work, even if they don’t want to try it for themselves. I’d love to know!

The purpose of this blog is mainly to see what I can do with English Paper Piecing, other than the ubiquitous hexagon, so you will only find one post on hexagons, a unique pattern that was designed by one of my followers (see ‘Grandmother’s Posey Guest Post – A New Hexagon Design’). I want to see how small I can go with this technique, how large, how pictorial, how abstract. I want to embroider, quilt, paint and dye my English Paper Piecing backgrounds and designs and much more, so many of my posts are experiments with one thing or another. In between experiments I have been making small quilts, mainly wall hangings, with a Scottish theme, many of them featuring houses.

Since my last post I have been working hard on finishing a few quilts that have sat about unfinished for a while. It is always fun to do the top patterned part, but there are so many stages to a quilt that it is easy to put one aside once you have completed the top, in favour of starting another top. As I very much want to move on to something quite different in the near future, it is important that I get all this unfinished work completed. So, there may be a run of posts showing recently completed work with comments before I move on.

While I was working to complete these quilts it occurred to me that not everyone is likely to want to make a quilt. There are so many stages to quilt making: Once you have finished your top layer with its English Paper Pieced pattern, you still have to add backing fabric and wadding/batting in the centre. Then you have to quilt it, add binding, a sleeve if you want to hang it and a label to show who made it. But English Paper Piecing doesn’t have to be just about quilts. Of course you can use the technique to appliqué patterns onto tote bags or towels but there are a few other possibilities too, that I would like to show you in future posts. So if you love the technique but are not sure if quilt making is for you, perhaps there will be something there to suit you.

In the meantime, here are the quilts that I have completed since my last post. They will be familiar to many of you from previous posts but maybe it will be interesting to see how they look now that they are finished:

It’s going to be a long, picture-heavy post, so buckle up!

This is ‘Windblown’, a six inch mini quilt made for a picture frame. The quilting is not easy to see but I chose a circular pattern to represent the strong winds we have up here in the west of Scotland. I find square quilts often look distorted when photographed from above, so I bought a small easel to eliminate this problem. This quilt has polyester batting/wadding in the centre, which causes the shapes to puff out slightly but if you want a flatter look, cotton or bamboo is a better bet.


Here is ‘Geese Flying Over’. I love seeing the geese flying over our house between late November and January each year. I can hear them coming long before I see them. The naturalist and writer Helen Macdonald described the sounds they make as “discordant bugles” and that’s exactly right. I have found that when quilting stitches run up and down or across from the centre it is important they are not pulled too tight or they pull the centres of each edge in a little, as you see here. I have started to get a bit annoyed that the edges of my pictorial quilts cover part of the pattern when the binding is added, so I need to thinking about this more carefully beforehand, or add ‘knife edge’ finishes instead.

‘Geese Flying Over’

This is ‘Attic Window’, a really useful block for beginners to try because it is made up of only three pieces and you can put anything you like in the ‘window’, in this case a little black Scottie dog. This tiny quilt is also an example of a knife edge finish, which doesn’t interfere with any picture on the surface of the block but it can look a bit unfinished somehow. It works ok for projects you put in a frame because the edges are covered but I feel that it wouldn’t be as attractive on a quilt hanger without a fabric frame. What do you think? This has thinner bamboo batting inside which makes it more floppy, as you can see by the kink in the top as I tried to balance it on the easel. Bamboo works better for a quilt designed to go in a frame where you don’t want the bulk/higher loft that you would get with polyester.

‘Doggie in the Window’

This is ‘Thistle Jam’. It looks rather Christmassy with the red and green though it was not intended as a Christmas quilt. Here the fabric frame around it doesn’t interfere with the pattern as it does with more pictorial surfaces. Something to bear in mind when you are choosing your surface pattern.

You will see that the mitred corners are open along the crease. I used to sew right up to the top of each corner to close the gap but it often looked pinched. However, I am not sure I like them open either. I think it’s probably best to give them a press and see if they sit neatly and if not you can always add some stitches later.

‘Thistle Jam’

Here is the back of Thistle Jam, in case you wonder what they look like on the back. The quilting stitches make a nice pattern. It is the same green fabric on the back with the same bright red quilting thread so I’m not sure why the colours look a little different in the photo below.

‘Thistle Jam’ (the back)

This is a wall picture made for a quilt hanger that I made some years ago but wasn’t happy with the embroidery at the bottom, so I removed it and re-did it. I would have preferred to just put ‘Welcome’ but the space seemed to want more than a single word which looked lost in the centre.

Welcome Home’ wall quilt

It has a slim sleeve on the back, for a quilt hanger.

‘Welcome Home’ (sleeve on back)

And lastly here is ‘Little Kitties’ a mini quilt of one inch squares surrounded by a border. A border before the binding is the best way to avoid the pictorial part of your pattern from being covered but of course it requires more work and more fabric. It does make the quilt larger, which does give it more presence on a wall. As I was attaching the binding, I was upset to discover a small flaw in the fabric near the corner, the sort of flaw that, with a little friction, could become a hole. The only way to deal with something like this is to mend it as best you can and then cover it. This is why there is a little kitty face in the top left hand corner. It’s not what I would have wanted but the only way to save the quilt.

‘Little Kitties’

The binding has finally been sewn on to “Over the Hills and Far Away’ (below), a much larger wall quilt. I am certainly pleased to see that completed. The binding, added separately, was sewn on by hand, both sides. I notice that there is no information, as far as I can ascertain, online, showing you how to sew on binding totally by hand. In all cases it is machine one side and by hand on the other. Sewing it on entirely by hand is done slightly differently and I hope to create a post on that soon, in case it is something you would like to try. Not everyone has a sewing machine. Most of my mini quilts (all those above) have the backing fabric brought to the front and folded into a faux binding. This works on tiny wall quilts because the edges don’t get the wear that larger runners and bed quilts might. It is also cheaper because you don’t need to buy extra fabric for the binding. However, proper binding, as in the example below, looks and feels so much better and is not very much work on a small quilt. In fact it is much less fiddly.

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’. This was a song that my dad used to play on his mouth organ.

The next batch of quilts I am trying to finish are those that I thought would benefit from some surface embroidery, so it may take me a little longer to get through those. ‘A Walk in the Glen (below) is an example of what I mean. I plan to embroider the man and the dog and scatter some French knots in shades of purples across the flowers to give them the quilt more ‘lift’ and texture. I’m not sure if I want to add the pinned on thistles at the sides, or not.

‘A Walk in the Glen’

And there are two or three finished tops still waiting to be quilted. Here is one of them:

‘The Hare’ Runner

So, until next time….

Here’s to new beginnings!

Could You Sew to a Timetable?

A ‘quilted’ hill just a few miles away, taken this time last year.

I don’t know about you but I find that the patterns I have earmarked for Christmas or Valentines day never get done in time because I don’t start them early enough. I begin some things and drift on to other things I fancy and end up with a pile of quilts at various stages of not done.

So I thought why not make a timetable with a couple of quilts to do  each month and a couple of UFO’s added in, in case there is time for them?  That way I could factor in Spring Autumn, Winter and holiday themes  and begin them well ahead of time, too.

I could check my list each month knowing I only had to concentrate on those few. The ones that were not finished by the end of the month would be left as  UFO’s to be carried forward, or not, and I would move on the following months’s projects.   I have made plenty of timetables in the past, for exams, for housework, for writing and have never been able to stick to them but I’d thought I would give this a go, regardless. Of course it would mean that, in most cases, only the pieced quilt tops would be finished. It would be unrealistic to imagine I could quilt and bind them as well but I would make good progress, right? Hmm.

My list for July was to make:

An Attic Window with something Scottish in the window:

I ended up making two Attic Windows but they still need something in the windows. The piecing and embroidery in  Hill and Heather, mentioned in my last post,  was done early in July.

‘Foxes in the Den’, begun months ago, didn’t get a look in, but I managed to complete ‘Dog Log’:

If you remember, when I added the binding it cut off the edges of the images around the sides of the quilt, so I had to add a narrow pieced border and sew the binding over that that to reveal the whole image. It does make a difference so I’m glad I did it. This is how it looked before:

‘Dog Log’ with cropped images – not a good look!

That led me to squeeze in another dog quilt this month, a  much smaller (five and a half inches square) spin off from the one above (just under nine inches square). Here it is,  a Dog in the Cabin block that I need a name for. Any suggestions?

‘Sniffing the Morning Air?’ Log Cabin Block

It reminded me of another dog quilt I made for my son years ago called ‘Mr Pickles in he Cabin’.

Its amazing how far two fat quarters with dogs and bones can go!

And so to August. The main thing on my list for August is to make one of the unmade quilts that I bought the fabric for years ago. This was a pack of Laura Ashley pre-cut fabric squares called ‘Whitley’ Bay that I bought from France. It had a sailing ship on the top square but  when I received it, many of the images were not centred on the cut square. Who wants to use part of a sailing ship? I don’t buy cut squares now unless I can see every one. I started making it using more pre-cut squares with checks and stars that I bought from Ebay but they are quite thin and not of the quality that I would buy now. If the description says the fabric is suitable for dressmaking or shirts, I don’t buy it because I know it will be too lightweight. I didn’t know that then.

I had intended it to be cot size, using nine images, but I have cut it down five images, so it will be faster to complete and I can be rid of the pressure of it. I have done my best with the images but in these days of precise fussy-cutting, perhaps it’s isn’t really acceptable.  Here it is in progress with just the triangles to do to complete the top:

‘Whitley Bay’ in progress – just the edge and corner triangles to add to complete the top

I have teamed the Laura Ashley and checked squares with some duck egg tone on tone fabric and I have some fun decking fabric for the back:

‘Coastal Painted Planks’ by Makower UK’

Maybe that will help improve the rest of it though, as the saying goes, you can’t (often) make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

This month I also have  two new quilts ‘Little Star’ and ‘Walk in the Glen’ to make. In addition I need to appliqué some shapes to complete the top of ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’,  add the windows and doors to ‘ ‘Liberty square’ houses, finish two half-done Angel quilts and fix a problem with one called ‘Into the Blue’.  So August is more about fixing and completing than making, it seems.

I’m not sure if this is good progress but it is progress. I might be asking too much of myself, especially as soon it will be time to work in the garden again before winter but I can always make my list shorter. It’s early days. It will be months before I will know if this idea will really work in my favour.  I am sure I will still drift away from it often and make something completely different, just because I fancy it. But what the heck? This is meant to be a pleasurable activity.

So,  I’m thinking timetables can work if you see them as flexible, just to help you along. And if they work for you, rather than you for them. What do you think?

I have some very nosy neighbours at the moment!

Till next time….

Through the Attic Window

The popularity of the traditional ‘Attic Window’ quilt block seems to have waned in recent years and although there are some newer and more modern geometric variations, these are missing the three dimensional quality that made the block so interesting.


‘Something Fishy In the Attic’  from Quilts for Baby by Ursula Reikes p 46.

The traditional block is designed to give the impression of looking through a window either from the inside looking out, (at a night sky for example) or from the outside looking in (at a cat in a room beyond for example). Here is a picture of a page in Ursula Reikes’ book showing a school of clown fish behind the nine Attic Window blocks of her quilt. You could also have single objects appearing to sit on the ‘shelves’, like a variety of seashells or toy boats and so on…

I thought it might be fun to try an Attic Windows block using  the English Paper Piecing technique. The best thing about this technique is how easy it to put together; there is no need to worry about mitred corners or adding half square triangles at the corners as machine quilters seem to have to do.

You need only three paper pieces for your Attic Window block. You can draw your own template, or find one online. It should look like this one and it can be any size that suits your pattern:


Template from EQuiltBlocks.com found on Pinterest

Some time ago I started collecting some ‘ocean’ fabrics of my own, because I loved the idea of looking into an aquarium and seeing fish  or seahorses or mermaids.

I discovered some Makower fabric that gave what I was looking for: Mermaids for my feature fabric


Fabrics by Makower except ‘Full Moon Lagoon’ (sea fronds) by Andover fabrics.

and some clams, shells, waves and seaweed for the complementary fabrics. You do need to have light and dark toned fabrics to accentuate the depth of your ‘window’.

I began with the large square which would hold each of my mermaids and began to cut out a set of nine mermaids, one for each block in my quilt.

IMG_7099You can use a see-through acrylic template or one with an empty centre, like the one on the right here, IMG_7104to allow you to centre your square over the part of the fabric that you want to showcase. This is called Fussy Cutting. I cut out the squares adding an extra half inch to each side, which will be needed to fold under my paper piece.

Once these were done, I cut out fabric for the two edges of the window, one light (for the base) and one darker (for the side), remembering to add the half inch of extra fabric to fold under. Then I wrapped them around each of the shapes and tacked them into place. This was the result:

IMG_7111You will notice that in Ursula Reikes’ picture, at the beginning of this post, there is a white frame (called sashing) around each block which further emphasises the window effect. And, if you look at my photo of the paper template I used, above, you will see open strips on the inside where the wood of my desk shows through. You can add strips of dark fabric here too, as a sort of inner frame, which will have a similar effect of creating depth.

So that’s it really. Now all you have to do is sew the bits together and make as many as you want in the size that you want.  I have an idea that this block would make a wonderful ‘I Spy’ travel quilt for a child, with a different set of objects fussy cut and inserted into each window. Here is my finished block, which is 6 inches square (or 15 cms) The tacking, or basting stitches as they are called, and the papers they hold in place, can be removed as soon as you have sewn the block to another one, or added sashing or a border.


Till next time…..