How to Design Mini Quilts for Maximum Impact

16 May 2012

Small art quilts are fun to make and generally take less time than larger art quilting projects. I especially like working on small quilt wall hanging and fiber art pieces like prayer flags because they are usually portable, and I can work on them on the go.

art quilt kristin laflamme
Kristin's mini quilt audition way #1.
art quilt kristin laflamme
Mini quilt audition way #2.
art quilt kristin laflamme
Mini quilt audition way #3.
art quilt kristin laflamme
Mini quilt audition way #4.
But just because mini quilts are small, doesn't mean they don't come with their own set of challenges. The biggest problem when you're making a small quilt art project, to me, is designing it in such a way that it has presence but isn't cluttered.

The key to success is taking the time to audition combinations of elements at each stage, preferably on a design wall.

Kristin LaFlamme offered a great tutorial on this process in her article "Small Art, Big Presence," in Quilting Arts In Stitches, Vol. 4.

In this interactive eMag, Kristin shared her creative quilting ideas and methods for designing small fiber art collage quilts on canvas.

Here is a look at her auditioning process and some of her tips.

Gather up likely supplies. Unprimed linen canvas can make a simple yet elegant foundation. Primed, pre-stretched canvas is readily available and suitable as a base to wrap a piece around. An embroidery hoop also makes an appropriate frame. Frames from thrift shops are fun to fill, too. Dive into your fabric stash and scrap bins. Anything from cotton fabric to a tea towel works.

  • Fabric beads or little bundles tied from scraps work just as well as design elements.
  • Never underestimate the textural interest of the tangled threads torn from your fabrics after they've been washed.
  • Now is also the time to look at your collection of embroidery floss, yarns, beads, and buttons.

Audition some fabrics and embellishments that coordinate or contrast with your main element. Often, the colors in variegated embroidery floss will inform the color combinations I choose in my fabrics.

  • I move things around, layer, remove, and try again until I like what I see, knowing that I can always change or add elements--especially beads and embroidery at the end.
  • Consider the mood of your piece and choose accordingly. Pay attention to how your eye moves around your piece.
  • Cluster elements or play them off each other, so it's not an all-over jumble. Think about the scale of elements and intensity of color.

Kristin keeps playing with the parts of the design until she hits on the one she likes best. As I said before, it helps to audition your arrangment of elements on a design wall. You could also snap pictures of each design possibility with a digital camera before rearranging the components so you can easily go back to an arrangement you like. And you can save the other arrangements for future use.

You can learn more about how Kristin assembles and mounts her small art quilts on In Stitches, Vol. 4. And be sure to check out all our fun, educational, and interactive eMags in the Quilting Daily store.

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