What is a mini quilt for? Well, I want to say it’s to bring joy but perhaps that’s not very helpful. So, I have been giving some thought to the matter….
I belong to a local group of women who like to get together, now and then, to discuss where we are with our individual projects – both art and business related – share information, and ask and answer questions. I love the company of the members and always learn a thing or two; though I often leave with more questions than I had when I arrived!
At the last meeting, I was sharing my new idea for a series of mini quilts with a Scottish theme, in tartans or plaids. I had also brought several earlier finished projects with me, to show the changes in the direction of my work since I joined the group. One of the members held up a quilt I had made using Liberty prints and said “It’s lovely but what are you meant to do with it?” (or words to that effect). It had not occurred to me that anyone would wonder what my little quilts were for or what they should do with one. I couldn’t believe I had overlooked something so important. That their purpose wasn’t, and should be, more clear.
I think the difficulty of knowing instinctively what you might do with a mini quilt may be largely due to the fact that we no longer uphold and pass on our quilt-making heritage here. Quilts are not a common sight in households across the UK, as they are in the United States. There, I imagine that the mini quilt is seen used in different ways quite often in different households and this inspires new ideas and uses.
The most common uses seem to be as table toppers (round, square, hexagonal or rectangular) to decorate the centre of tables, or as long runners on dining tables. Someone once told me that they wouldn’t want to use them for such a purpose because of food stains. There are of course quilted place mats and mug rugs and tray cloths intended to be used for serving food (often with insulated linings) but I don’t see the mini quilt falling into this category. They don’t need to be used in this way.
Their use, as I see it, is primarily decorative: A splash of colour on a wooden table, a pretty centrepiece for a vase of flowers, a scratch-proof base for a row of candlesticks. They can be removed when the table is laid, if required. I have one on a small side table for drinks but it is under glass. It shows through but is completely protected from stains.
Mini quilts bring colour to the top of a tiny chest or small leather suitcase, a sewing chest, the space under or beside a table lamp on an occasional table, and warmth to a deep window sill.
Other uses are as a lining for an attractive or antique basket, a lining for a drawer (does it matter that only you see it?), a mat to display a old and much loved doll or teddy, a soft place to drop your keys when you come in the door…
And then of course there is the wall. And even here there are so many choices: The larger mini quilts bring life to an empty wall, narrow ones look fabulous behind a sofa or above a fireplace, or a bed.
The easiest and most inexpensive way to hang them up is probably the wire quilt hanger, quick to find online and available in a variety of sizes. There is a generally a small sleeve attached to the back of quilt intended for this purpose (see picture below), for the hanger to slip inside. However, there isn’t one and you don’t want to make one, you can buy hangers with small clips at each side to attach the quilts from the top. These tiny quilts lovely in porches and kitchens, and in tiny corners that won’t accommodate anything larger.
Mini quilts (sometimes called ‘Baby quilts’ which is a bit confusing as this refers to the size not the user) vary quite a lot in size from three or four inches square to three or four feet wide by four or five feet long. I assume the term really just means it is significantly smaller than the traditional, bed sized, quilt. The larger mini quilts look wonderful handing on a wall, especially in a nursery or child’s room, on poles or wooden dowelling. Command Strips are used to fix them too, though I have never tried these.
Lately I have noticed two interesting ways of displaying a small quilt. Here is one, the image borrowed from http://carriedawayquilting.blogspot.co.uk. Do visit this site for her fabulous ideas on how to decorate with quilts.
And this one: A quilt inside a wall mounted basket. Lovely for primitive designs. What are your favourite ways of displaying quilts? Have you seen any unusual ways of displaying them?
Then there is framing behind glass: There are quilters that do not believe in hiding quilts behind glass and those that are happy with it as long as the fabric does not touch the glass. I have tried framing my latest quilt and discovered a few problems I hadn’t anticipated.
I haven’t hung the frame on the wall, so the picture is a bit distorted with the camera looking down on it, and the unavoidable reflections, but can you see the problem? It is an 8 inch quilt fitted into an 8 inch cut out area but I haven’t accounted for the binding showing. I am left with a small border inside the mount. This creates a frame inside a frame inside a frame. I really don’t like this, especially as hand made quilts may look square to the eye but are rarely perfectly square and a mount will show this up. To avoid this a little I have offset the quilt so that the cottage sits against the left hand edge and the binding only shows on three sides but it’s not much of an improvement.
The other problem with frames and binding is this:
Where you have radiating points, the tips can be cut off by the binding or a frame; something to avoid in the future with a bit of forward thinking.
So I am experimenting with framing but it seems to me that the best way is say goodbye to binding and to wrap and sew the fabric around a piece of card or thin board inside the frame. I will post more on this as I experiment and find better solutions.
I have already discovered that, as mini quilts are often square (made up of quilt blocks are traditionally square), they don’t led themselves to many off the peg frames. It would be better to custom frame a quilt but this can be expensive and unnecessary when good quality, inexpensive frames are available both in shops and online. I am beginning to think I have to make a quilt to suit a frame, instead of the other way around, and to buy the frame first to make sure I can fit the quilt perfectly to it. There is also the option of a box frame which comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. I will be tackling that in another post as this one is already much longer than I meant it to be.
I have a number of Scottish themed quilts in progress right now but I am going to be taking a short break from sewing, as Spring has finally arrived and my garden needs work. However, I can post short pieces about them when it rains – which is likely to be often around here!
Until next time, I wish you all l o n g sunny days….