Friday 27 April 2018

Springtime Scrap-busting: A Trivet and Potholder

Zoë MacDonald is E-Commerce and Social Media Manager at Canada’s largest manufacturer and wholesale distributor of quality sewing, quilting, and knitting supplies. Crafty lady and recent quilting convert, she is keen to share her love for the latest in notions.

Perfect for Springtime scrap-busting!


• 2 x Colours of fabric scraps
• 2 x Fat Quarters (complimentary to scraps)


For sewing projects, my inspiration often comes from imagining the finished result. Like seeing a top with big flouncy sleeves and thinking “I can make that!”. Especially if I think I can make it in an evening. For quilting, I’m more likely to think about how I want to spend my time and which fabrics I want to play with - weighing the experience of making the thing.

In this case I wanted to use up some of precious my scraps and experiment with a more traditional quilt pattern. It also occurred to me that as a sewist, surely I can do better than a folded up tea towel under hot dishes at the table.

Part One: Make a mini quilt top measuring approximately 10” x 10”

Schmetz Microtex Needles are my go-to for piecing - they also come in Chrome!

I wanted a lot of contrast but a similar theme, so I picked two awkward skinny pieces of floral print fabric and starting slicing and sewing until I had a pretty substantial pile of 1 ½” finished half square triangle blocks. I like sewing these up in batches, since I find the repetition meditative. Like knitting, but without my having to worry about wonky tension. I also love that there are endless configurations of these very simple little blocks.

For more elaborate patterns, Unique Quilting Numbered Pins also come in packs numbered from #11 to #20. 

Browsing the CQA Traditional Quilts Board, I noticed that the half-square star was a recurring theme, and this resonated with me as a classic quilty look. I landed on a traditional-feeling pattern that I hadn’t tried before: Hunter’s Star.

Initially, I kept having to check and re-check diagrams to make sure I was arranging my mini blocks properly. Thankfully, I had Unique Quilting Numbered Pins at my disposal so that I could lay out the arrangement once, number it, and then take the entire stack to the sewing machine (without re -re-re-checking!).

When in doubt, press it out!

Once assembled, some blocks were just a tiny bit off, but not quite enough to warrant a re-stitch. So I shimmied the stitches a bit by pinning them in place with Heirloom Glass Head Pins and blasting them with a super-hot iron and steam. Because the Oliso iron is a specialty sewist’s iron, the flat and minimally vented plate gives consistent coverage perfect for this kind of precision pressing.

If there were quilting police, I imagine that would have earned me a citation.

Decisions, decisions.

I thought a few decorative hand stitches would make a nice complement to this pattern, which was easier to do using a Unique Wooden Quilting Hoop. Since the smallest size starts at 10”, I had to add sashing along the outside to fit the mini quilt top inside. Another option would be to use an embroidery hoop instead.

Usually I avoid hand stitching at all costs but have always loved the look. Is there a machine that can do that for me? In the meantime, I did stitch a few accent stitches by hand and enjoyed the process much more than a thought. To this I credit Unique Sewing’s jujube-looking thimbles. Brightly coloured and comfy to wear; Because of their flexibility they double as needle grabbers, which simplifies stitching through multiple layers.

Gütermann Hand Quilting thread helps too! Its glacé finish prevents tangling and glides through multiple layers of fabric.

Now my tiny quilt top was done and ready to be transformed into a circular trivet and potholder. The TrueCut Circle Cutter is my go-to for quick and easy to cut circles, but in this case I used it to cut out a circle in the right dimensions from paper, traced it in chalk, and cut it out with very sharp KAI’s

Part Two: Convert mini quilt into a trivet and potholder

I went back to my scrap bin for the rest of the pot holder fabrics. I chose denim and navy because jeans go with everything! Also, they’re nice and sturdy for the kitchen.

Using the TrueCut Circle cutter, I cut:
                • Two 8 ½” circles from Main Fabric (denim)
                • Two 8 ½” circles from Lining Fabric (navy)
                • One 8” circle from Unique Quilting Therm Fleece

Next, I cut one main fabric circle and one lining circle in half and trimmed flat sides of each half circle by ¼ ”.

I went back and forth about whether the navy should be on the outside pocket or the inside of the pockets and ultimately think I landed on the wrong call. I would have preferred contrasting pockets than contrasting lining, but c’est la vie!

To make the pockets, I placed a pair of half circles (one lining and one main fabric) with right sides together, and sewed along flat side with ¼” seam allowance.

But first! Since I still had a dwindling stack of miniature blocks, I joined them to create a pieced fabric strip and clipped it around some extra piping that wouldn’t be long enough for a larger project.

I wanted to give the quilt top as much space as possible and avoid doing circular binding, so I place right sides together for stitching, and trimmed to reduce bulk before turning it right-side-out. For stitching, the order should be:

Denim Main Fabric (right-side-down)
Half Circle “Pockets” (main-side-down)
Mini Quilt Top (right-side-up)
Unique Quilting Therm Fleece (shiny side up)

I used the clips again to attach all of the layers and be sure the Therm Fleece stayed centered leaving a 3” gap.

Once turned right-side-out, I folded and press edges at gap, then hand stitch opening closed.

And done! I so enjoy making simple things that I get to use often.

What’s your go-to mini quilt project when you want to experiment with a new pattern? Let us know in the comments!

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