Mini Name Quilts for retreat

What's in a name? Plenty if it's a mini quilt stitched with love. My 25th anniversary roses make a pretty background!

I really don’t remember where this idea came from.  Only to say, when you are on a sewing retreat, it’s standard issue to receive a 4×6 foot foam core design board.  Students pin up their work in progress for others to view.  It can be quite inspiring, to look across the room, see what someone else is doing with the same information, and change course.  Next thing, they want your name on the design board.  Rather than have a blue painter’s-taped & scrawled name, or a generic computer printed one, I thought these mini name quilts could be used again and again, for identification and other purposes.

Quilts in various stages of completion. I included my sister-in-law, Kim, in the mix, as we plan to attend another quilt class together.

If you’ve been following my blog, you would have seen my experiment with mini-lettering, on my Micro Moo 12″ square quilt.  If not, here’s a link: Mini Block Letters.  I begin with strips of Black Kona Cotton, cut 3/4″ wide, from selvage to selvage.  Next, I cut the strips into 2″ or smaller bits, to form the lettering.  Originally, I used 2″ as my maximum height for the capital letters, and roughly 1 1/2″ height, for the lowercase letters.  Naturally, those rules go right out the window, if the results aren’t aesthetically pleasing (or I simply goof.)  So far though, no lowercase letters are taller than the uppercase ones, whew!

Does this look like the name Linda to you? See the strips cut below the lettering? That's how I begin.

I lay out the cut strips on my cutting table, just as the name will be “written.”  Next, I pick the background fabric, colorfully matched to the recipient’s tastes, by color or theme or designer.  Right now, I’m loving all the pretty florals by Jennifer Paganelli.  The background fabric is cut into strips across the width at 2″.  I crosscut these strips, based on the fill I need, to complete the lettering.  I also cut pieces for the background strips, about 1″ wide, to make the spacing about 1/2″ between letters.  At the beginning and end of each name, I use the 2″ width of the background strip for spacing.  Additionally, above and below the name, I used the 2″ background strip as is, to form the finished rectangle.

"L"s are easy. You sew the lower portion to the background, then press open.

Can I just tell you, I hate making the letter “S” capital or lowercase.  “E’s are difficult, too, lowercase speaking, because of the triple horizontal bars.  However, I’m getting VERY good at them, having made at least seven, for this experiment.  They do get easier, and productivity increases, as you continue to make them.  My idea is to do all the names with the same lettering components.  In other words, I tried to sew all the names with “e”s first, then if I had “y”s in the names, I did that next.  It helped to keep the letters looking similar, and the lessons weren’t lost, due to time away from the sewing machine.

This is the second step in making the "L". The strip forming the left side is attached, all using 1/4" seams.

At the start, I listed each name I wanted to make.  Doing the math, I concluded I’d have to make one and a half quilts each week, to meet my October deadline.  Seemed to take about an hour to make each one, though.  Like I said, my productivity was definitely on the upswing.  Feeling like a super factory worker, I busted through the names and began to think how I would quilt them.  In the back of my mind, this was also to be a lesson for machine quilting, to brush up on my skills and get more comfortable.  One morning, as I was pondering just WHAT to do with four bricks of Styrofoam, jammed with all colors of pre-threaded embroidery floss, leftover from teaching the spring art quilt classes, I hit upon the perfect solution.  Hand quilting the mini quilts, with pearl cotton became a fabulous, spontaneous idea.  The previous idea of machine quilting practice flew out the window!

Now the background fabric is sewn to the left of the vertical bar of the "L". It looks pretty realistic now.


Almost done. You can see the name taking shape. The "d" seemed a bit short to me, so I made it again.

All done with the revised "d". Now it looks a bit wide to me - so picky!

Now prepped for quilting, I stitched-in-the-ditch with invisible mono-poly thread, to anchor the design.  Then the fun began, choosing colors to coordinate with the fabric, or not.  I used purple thread on a yellow/ lime fabric for Sue’s quilt, because I didn’t have a yellow or green that complimented.  Mostly, I did just echo quilting, with 1/4″ spacing.  For Cherise’s quilt, I wanted to stitch around the beautiful round blossoms of the Kaffe Fassett print, then follow up with the echo quilting.  Meanwhile, I was listening to “Moloka”i” the audio book, by Alan Brennert, and enjoying the slower pace of stitching, just like the traditional Hawaiian quilters.

"In the ditch" stitching with my walking foot. No need for serious pinning here. Just hold the layers together with straight pins.

The card trick I learned from Paula Reid makes rounding corners so easy.

Tips I have garnered from other retreats include how to make great binding corners.  Learning from quilting masters like Paula Reid, who showed me expert crisp corners with the “card trick.”  As you approach a corner, stop 1/4″ away from the edge, needle down.  Lift the presser foot, pivot the quilt to the next side, lower the foot and back-stitch to the edge.  Lift the foot again, folding the binding up and over (as you normally do) but insert a business card into the fold and push it up to the needle.  This makes the cleanest fold ever.  Remove the card and continue stitching to the next corner, stopping at the 1/4″ mark.  Repeat for all corners.

Rounding the corner, then prepping the binding for completion.

When I come the the binding join, I trim the last piece at a diagonal, to match my binding start and insert the end into the beginning.  This makes a clean finish.  One day I’ll pay attention when they show how to do the bias stitched binging join!

The end of the binding tucked into the beginning. Ready to complete.

Boy, I LOVE how they all look together… so bright and cheerful, just like students on their first day of retreat!

Now I'm hooked on this mini-method. Family watch out - this might just be your next Christmas gift!