If you’ve never made a quilt before, a mini quilt is a great first project to dip your toes in the “quilting” water. I’ll show you step by step how to make a mini quilt using my free Rainbow Ring Quilt Block Pattern. Or you can resize your own favourite quilt block to make an adorable mini quilt.
What are Mini Quilts?
Mini quilts are small quilts, no bigger than 24 inches square, but more often about 12 inches square. They are made using the same methods as a larger quilt, only on a smaller scale. You can create a mini quilt with a specifically designed mini quilt pattern, by resizing a larger quilt pattern, or by using a single block from a quilt.
What are the Benefits of Mini Quilts?
Mini quilts are great for learning and experimenting because they are low risk and require less materials than larger quilts. Their much smaller scale also means they are less unwieldy to wrestle while quilting the layers together. You will find it so much simpler to machine quilt them, and they can also be a great small project to practice free motion quilting. You will be amazed at how quickly a mini quilt comes together in comparison to a full sized quilt.
In addition, if you’ve got an abundance of full size quilts piling up already, mini quilts can be a great solution. They take up less room and can be great hung on a wall, as they are more decorative than useful. Many people use thumb tacks to create a wall of mini quilts in their sewing rooms.
Or you can make your miniature quilts even smaller and turn them into doll quilts or coasters!
The Rainbow Ring Quilt Block
The quilt block that I am using in this mini quilt tutorial is my free Rainbow Ring Quilt Block. Originally it is 7.5″ wide and 7.25″ tall. For the mini quilt I have resized the block to be twice as large, or multiplied by 2. The Rainbow Ring Quilt Block is a great beginner block to learn quilting because it has no triangles, is pieced in horizontal rows, and requires no nested seams. You can find the Rainbow Ring Quilt Block in its original size at the bottom of this blog post.
Resizing a Quilt Block to Make a Mini Quilt
Resizing quilts blocks is a really helpful skill for making mini quilts because you don’t need to feel limited to making an existing mini quilt pattern. You can take any quilt block that you like and size it up or down to an appropriate mini quilt size. This means that the sky’s the limit when it comes to determining what you want your mini quilt to look like.
I promise you that resizing a block is not that challenging and you can absolutely do it. It’s actually a great first project to try resizing if you’ve never done it before. It’s way less commitment and risk than resizing a full quilt. If you messed something up (which you won’t!), you’ve wasted very little fabric.
To resize a quilt block, follow my tutorial and video for Resizing a Quilt Block using my Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet, all of which you can find in this resizing post.
Depending on the block that you wish to turn into a mini quilt, you might be multiplying or dividing. If the original block is smaller than the mini quilt you wish to make, multiply when doing the resizing calculations. But if the original block is larger than the mini quilt you wish to make, divide when doing the resizing calculations.
A quilt is typically made with a pieced cotton top (made of small cuts of fabric), a middle layer of batting, and a backing layer, usually quilting cotton. These layers are then sandwiched together and quilted with lines of stitching to hold them together. Finally, the quilt gets bound with binding around the outside edges which is either hand-stitched or machine stitched.
My Quilting Method – Simplified
Piecing means to take two adjacent cuts of fabric, place them right sides together with the edges aligned where they will be joined with a seam, and sew them with a 1/4″ seam allowance (preferably a scant 1/4″ seam allowance). Then you would normally snip the thread, and press the seam (open or to one side as specified in the pattern) before sewing the next pair of cuts.
To speed up the piecing process and to save thread, many quilters love to chain piece, which means you feed pairs of cuts to be pieced through the sewing machine one after the other so they are connected in between by a chain of thread. Then simply snip the threads in between all the pairs.
I love chain piecing! You can do as few or as many pieces in a chain as you want, providing that you can keep track of what they are or where they belong. But if it’s a quilt of all the same size blocks in random placement, then you can chain piece large stacks at a time. Definitely a time and thread saver!
Flannel Backing, No Batting
In a previous post, I explained why I love using flannel to back quilts, and why I omit the batting entirely. Part of the reason is that flannel makes quilts cozier with nice drape. While that isn’t really a concern for mini quilts, I still like using just 2 layers in my quilts, mini quilts included. I like to keep things simple, and since I use flannel to back larger quilts, I have flannel scraps on hand to back my mini quilts too.
Minimal Straight Line Quilting
I also like to keep things simple and do straight line quilting with a walking foot on my machine. While a mini quilt would be much less of a commitment to quilt by hand, I don’t love hand stitching and I’m not very neat. With no batting and a smaller size, a mini quilt doesn’t need much in the way of quilting lines to hold it together. A pair of diagonal lines, or two horizontal and vertical lines would do the trick on a mini quilt around 12″ square. It will hardly take you any time at all to quilt a mini quilt, and you won’t be wrestling a huge, heavy quilt while doing it.
How to Make a Mini Quilt
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- A pattern -either an existing mini quilt pattern, a pattern you want to resize, or my Rainbow Ring Quilt Pattern, resized (available at the bottom of the post)
- Optional: Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet, available at the bottom of the resizing post, and a calculator and pencil
- Rotary Cutter
- Cutting Mat
- Quilting Ruler
- Quilting cotton scraps in your desired colours
- Flannel scraps for the backing, or 0.25 to 0.5 yd of flannel, depending on the width of your mini quilt.
- Fabric for binding – ideally 0.25 yd, or a fat quarter or long strips of scraps
- Sewing machine
- Recommended: Quarter inch foot, and a walking foot for your sewing machine
- Thread – I used white cotton thread for everything, but you can swap out colours to match your backing/binding
- Sewing pins (straight pins)
- Safety pins (I liked curved pins)
- Optional: Painters tape
How to Make a Mini Quilt in Steps
1. First, do calculations to resize your quilt block if necessary
If you’re using an existing mini quilt pattern that doesn’t need resizing, great! If you’re using my Rainbow Ring Quilt Block or your favourite quilt block, use the Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet to resize the mini quilt. Remember you want it somewhere in the 12-24 inches square range. (Of course it would be easy if I gave you the Rainbow Ring Quilt Block already in the larger measurements. However, I believe practicing resizing is a useful skill that leads to endless possibilities! Plus, you might wish to multiply by 3 instead of 2 like I did – everyone is different!)
For full instructions to resize a quilt block, follow the instructions in the resizing post.
2. Cut all required fabric cuts
Iron your quilting cotton scraps and then place them on your cutting mat. Using a rotary cutter and quilting ruler, cut the pieces listed on the pattern and in the quantities required. (Remember to cut the newly calculated sizes if you’ve resized a pattern). As I cut the pieces, I like to lay little scraps of paper or Post-its on top of each pile, labelled with the letter identifying the cut, before placing them off to the side.
3. Piece the mini quilt top
Using a scant 1/4″ seam allowance and 1/4″ foot on your sewing machine, piece your mini quilt top according to the pattern directions. I will show you how I like to chain piece my Rainbow Ring block. It is especially quick to sew as it’s sewn in horizontal rows. If you don’t have a quarter inch foot for your machine, you can try using the guide on your machine’s throat plate. Or laying some painter’s tape as a guide on the throat plate and follow beside it.
First, lay out all the cuts in the layout of the pattern, within easy reach from your sewing machine. To begin chain piecing, starting from the right side of second row (the top row is a single piece, so no piecing required), take the two right-most pieces and turn them right sides together. Stitch down one side with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance. Continue down each row, piecing the two right-most pieces from each row one after the other in a continuous thread chain until you’ve done the second to last row (the last row is also just one piece).
Then, cut the thread and take the chain pieced section and lay it back into the proper rows. Snip the threads in between to separate the pieces.
Then you will continue piecing starting from the second row again and piecing on the next cut to the left, down the rows in a chain. Place the chain back into the correct rows, and snip the threads to separate the pieces. Continue again in the same manner until the horizontal rows are completely pieced.
Here the rows have been completely pieced and are ready to be ironed. Now I take them to the ironing board for the first time.
Press each seam briefly in its closed position first to set the seam. Then flip a row upside down and finger press the seams open, and then press with an iron.
All rows have now been pressed with seams open and the rows are back in order beside the sewing machine.
Next we will start piecing the rows together in pairs: the first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth, and seventh and eighth. I use pins to pin two rows together at each end and in the middle before sewing the seam.
Once the pairs of rows have been pieced, press their seams open. Then piece the remaining sections into one final block in the same manner, pressing all seams open.
Finally you will have a finished mini quilt top!
4. Cut backing flannel and pin the quilt top to it
Next, take a scrap of flannel or yardage and cut a piece roughly with scissors so that it is bigger than the quilt top by a couple of inches on all four sides. Iron the flannel and smooth the quilt top nicely on top of it. The flannel grips the cotton somewhat.
Then use safety pins (preferably curved safety pins as they’re helpful) to pin the two layers together. I was already anticipating doing diagonal quilting lines so I left a small gap at the diagonals to place tape.
5. Quilt the layers together as desired
As I mentioned above, mini quilts don’t need a lot of quilting lines because they’re so small. I decided on two diagonal lines to make an X. Next I placed painters tape on a diagonal, but just ever so slightly off the diagonal line so that I could stitch on the exact diagonal. (I also measured the very centre of the middle white block and marked a small dot with a disappearing fabric marker so I could be sure my two diagonal tape lines would meet in the centre.)
If you have a walking foot, put it on your machine now. The upper feed dogs of a walking foot help the bottom feed dogs to move the two layers of fabric at the same time so there’s no slipping or bunching.
Slowly start stitching from the flannel onto the cotton, stitching closely beside and following the tape guide line. Remove any safety pins in the way as you come to them. End your quilting line on the flannel again.
Trim your threads. Remove the tape and reapply the tape again for any subsequent lines. Quilt any other lines, and trim all threads. Remove any remaining safety pins.
6. Trim down and square up the quilt
Now, place your mini quilt on your cutting mat. Using a quilting ruler and rotary cutter, trim off the excess flannel on the first side. Rotate around and trim the rest of the sides, making sure to keep nice square corners at right angles.
7. Prepare binding strips
To prepare the binding strips, first you need to know the perimeter of your mini quilt so you know how much binding length you need. Measure all four sides of your quilt and add them up, and add an extra 12 inches. That measurement is how long of a binding strip you need. Usually people cut 2.5″ wide strips for binding, but when I skip batting I cut 2.25″ wide strips. You can cut 2.25″ strips the width of fabric (44″), or from a fat quarter or scraps. If needed, piece shorter strips together with a 1/4″ seam allowance until you have enough to go all around your mini quilt plus 12 inches extra.
I decided I wanted to make a rainbow binding for my Rainbow Ring Mini Quilt using the same fabrics from the quilt. To do this, I calculated that I needed about 57″ to go around my mini quilt (before the extra 12 inches). There are 12 colours in the quilt, so 57″ divided by 12 = 4.75″ of each colour approximately. But they also needed seam allowances to join to each other. Therefore, I added 0.5″ (for two 1/4″ seam allowances) to each colour, making each colour’s length 5.25″.
I cut 2.25″ x 5.25″ strips of most colours. I did not have enough of one purple colour and I had to piece odd chunks. Therefore I made the darker purple longer to make up for the shorter segment. And I left two blues longer yet for my extra 12 inches. I sewed the strips in rainbow order, leaving the two longer blues at each end as extra.
Cut 2.25″ binding strips and piece with a 1/4″ seam allowance as needed until you have enough to go around the perimeter of your quilt plus an extra 12 inches.
Here’s my pieced rainbow binding.
To finish preparing the binding, press the seams of your strips open, and then fold the binding in half across the strip so the raw edges meet, and press, running the hole way down the binding strip. It will now be a long strip, in 2 layers with a fold on one side and raw edges on the other.
8. Bind the mini quilt
You can use your walking foot to sew on binding, but I prefer using my 1/4″ foot again. To start sewing on the binding, turn your mini quilt so the back is facing up. Starting in the middle of a side, line up the raw edges of the binding with the raw edges of the quilt. Be sure to leave about 6 inches or so of extra binding length loose behind the needle from where you begin sewing. Start stitching with a 1/4″ seam until you get about 1 inch from the first corner.
Here I’ve stopped sewing about an inch from the first corner. Next lift your presser foot and pull the quilt out on a bit of thread slack.
Then, take the binding strip and fold it back on an angle to the right so that the raw edges of the binding and the raw edges of the quilt are in one continuous line with each other.
Put your finger on the angled fold to hold it there for a second, and fold the binding back to the left, lining up the raw edges of the binding on the raw edges of the quilt. The resulting new fold will be in line with the side we just finished stitching.
Holding both of the folds you created in place at the corner, pivot the quilt 90 degrees to the next side, sliding it back under the presser foot and lowering it to start sewing from the corner.
By making those folds, we have made a little triangular flap of fabric which will help us wrap the binding to the front.
Here’s a brief video demonstrating how I turn a binding corner:
Continue down this side and around each corner in the same manner.
Joining the Binding Ends
When you come back to the final side, stop sewing and leave about a 6 inch gap before where the binding begins. To join the binding ends neatly, watch me showing how in this video:
Binding on the Front
To attach the binding to the front, simply flip the quilt to the front. Pick a place to begin in the middle of a side. Wrap the binding around from the back so it lays flat on the front and stitch near the edge. When you get to a corner you’re going to fold a nice little mitred corner. Then pivot with the needle down to turn the corner. Continue around until you come back to where you began. Backstitch, and clip your threads.
Here’s a video of me attempting to show the fold on the front corner. (with my fingers constantly in the way!)
That’s all there is to it! And you did it! You sewed a mini quilt! I knew you could do it!!
How to Make a (Lot of) Mini Quilt(s)
Once you realize how quick mini quilts are to create, how great they are for using up scraps, and how fabulous they are for trying out patterns and experimenting with new skills, you’ll be hooked! You’ll want to resize all your favourite quilts and blocks to mini quilts! Doesn’t everything look cuter in miniature??
If you like colourful quilts, you might also like my tutorial for painted Barn Quilts.
Get the Rainbow Ring Quilt Block
If you’d like to use the Rainbow Ring Quilt Block to turn into a mini quilt, get your copy right here! What else will you do with it?
Share Your Rainbow Ring and Mini Quilt Projects!
If you make a mini quilt or any other project from my Rainbow Ring Quilt Block, share it on social media using the hashtag #RainbowRingBlock and tag me @mixmeasuremake so I can see your creations!
If you make a mini quilt by resizing your favourite quilt block, use the hashtag #MixMeasureMakeResize and again, tag me @mixmeasuremake. I’ll be so proud of you and I can’t wait to see what you make!
All the best,