Planning an EPP Mini Quilt – Some Ways

Blustery, overcast and rainy weather is the norm in the west of Scotland at the moment

Well, keeping to the timetable I had in mind in my last post didn’t last long. A spell of dry weather took me out in the garden, a series of visits to the dentist put me in a slump and a couple of new quilt tops wouldn’t go together right.  I think, going forward, the best thing is for me to work towards two new quilt tops a month in general, and/or try to fix two unfinished or problem ones, without deciding on any specific one. Maybe that will work. Hmmm, time will tell.

I often wonder how artists, writers and quilters plan their work and how much planning they do. I know a lot of people that don’t plan at all, they just begin. Me, I adore planning. I love that more than the actual making, though I like the finishing too, the quilting and embroidery stitches.  There is nothing better than coming up with a design, hunting for the fabrics that bring your idea to life and imagining how its all going to look. I guess that’s what big name designers do – and then hand it over to someone else to make. What fun that must be.

Planning shapes, colours, patterns and pictures.

So how do people make a start on an EPP quilt? I see that quite a few buy  kits or follow a set pattern, particularly lovers of the Passacaglia quilt and other similar  fussy cut patterns. Lucy Boston is another favourite but with a more traditional look. Hexagons still seem to be by far the favourite, though I am not a great fan of those. That said, I do have a great hexagon pattern designed by one of my followers, in an earlier post, so if you do like hexagons check out my ‘Grandmother’s Posy’ guest post (July 2018)

As for fabric, people use what they have in their stash, buy some new pieces that they love, or collect several from a range of shades and tones recommended in the quilt pattern. Some people buy charm packs which I have found very useful for small, patterned, more utilitarian quilts that you want to use for table-toppers, runners, mats and dolls quilts, because all the colours and patterns coordinate with each other. And if you need it to be larger, you just add in a solid or tone-on-tone fabric between your patterned shapes.

‘Town Square’ made from charm pack of 5 inch squares. I find that any left over squares go on being useful.

The mini charm squares are a bit more challenging but a great place to start if you want to try making something tiny. They make sweet house shapes:

A house from a 2 1/2 inch square, using a Moda ‘Comma’ mini charm pack.

There are lots of patterns to follow for these pre-cuts on Pinterest and there are several books on Amazon devoted to making them.

But what if you don’t want to follow a quilt pattern or use pre-cuts or repeat one basic shape? Some people are very good at designing their own geometric patterns using the computer or graph paper, and that is probably the best way to create something personal and original, but what if that’s not your thing, either?  I wish I could do that but I’m not much of a pattern person; more of a picture person. I have tried to invent patterns but it takes me ages and they always end up looking a bit odd. And it’s not fun (for me).

If this sounds like you, too, what you CAN do is take a traditional quilt block where you already have a pattern as a starting point and move the pieces around to change the pattern slightly. You are not copying and these blocks are so old that you can play around with them without fear of complaint from the person who originally designed them. Just make sure it IS an old, traditional block (unless it’s for personal use only). You will find lots at on Pinterest.  Some of these “altered blocks” will turn out more successfully than others, of course.

My mini quilt ‘ Farm in the Hills’ was an altered version of the traditional block ‘Farm Friendliness’ .

‘Farm Friendliness’ block borrowed from on Pinterest.

I moved the triangles around and created larger ones to make hills. Then I put a farmhouse in the middle. This was one that didn’t work out as well as I wanted but you get the idea.

‘Farm in the Hills’

A simpler way is  just to use different tones of fabric to emphasise different parts of the pattern. Make the original light bits dark and the dark bits light, emphasise   the centre or the corners and discover another version of the same pattern.

I quite often I use themed fabric in old blocks, finding my theme in its name. The names of blocks fascinate me and set me dreaming. I love seeing  skeins of geese flying over each year,  so I’ve begun working on a flying geese block , using geese in the fabric while altering the block a little to suit my purpose.

Geese flying over our garden in the early morning.

The Original block was ‘Geese Passing Overhead’ which you can see on the far left, below. The next picture shows how I have turned it around so the geese are flying upwards, printed it out and blocked off areas I want to use for some appliqué. The last picture shows how a further alteration of the design, adding in a paper dummy of a house and using larger triangles to accommodate the large geese in my flying geese fabric.

You can also  turn ‘on point’ patterns around so that they are square on, you can leave out middle squares, join up triangles to make larger triangles, turn a nine patch of tiny squares into one big square, or create long blank strips through the centre of a block to showcase special fabrics or appliquéd scenes. Just add or subtract parts of the pattern to suit yourself or your fabric.

The quilt below, that I featured in a recent post, was an on point pattern which wasn’t what I wanted so I turned it around, used only the centre section and emphasised different parts of the pattern. Here is the original block, called Purple Sage:

I used purple, Scottish themed fabric and called it ‘Hill and Heather’. Here is the same block now:

Many of my quilts feature houses because I am besotted with houses and I like to put them on a pieced or patterned background. But you can substitute a house idea with a dog idea, for example: dog fabric, appliquéd dog, fussy cut dog  – or any other thing you fancy.

Quite often I see pictures inside patterns. One example is the angel I saw in the traditional Storm at Sea pattern.

See the angel in the top left hand side? Block borrowed from on Pinterest.

Here she is still in progress. I messed up the hair around her face so I am waiting for the motivation to go back and try and improve it.

‘House Angel’

See if you can see a pattern inside a pattern; something you can use. One idea is to look at the many examples of floor tiling on Pinterest and pick out a section. I have a board called ‘Quilts – EPP Pattern Inspiration’.  And a number of other EPP boards, too, which you are welcome to mine for ideas.

Sometimes I will see something that makes me think of something else and that leads to an idea, such as this this block I noticed on

It’s not a traditional block but the half square triangles in the top right hand corner made me think of an arrow. I imagined a house in the opposite corner or a tartan background and a caption reading ‘You Are Here’ and so I have made a start on that one.

Once I have the idea onto paper, I begin to search for the fabric I want, of the quality I want. Sometimes that takes weeks but it’s something I really enjoy. I always buy for the specific  quilt I am working on these days, to limit the build up of my stash.

When I have the fabric, I am ready for the making stage. But what about the paper pieces? Do you use paper, card, buy shapes or cut up a pattern you have printed out? And what stitches will you use to piece it: Whip stitch, ladder stitch or feather stitch?

This post has ended up a wee bit too long, but I hope it has helped you find more  ideas for your quilts. We will look at the making part of a mini quilt in another post.

Till next time….