Learn how to resize a quilt to pillows, including how to calculate the proper scale with this adorable vintage Christmas quilt. Find tips and tricks for working small as well.
Vintage Christmas Quilts
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A few years ago, I put the book Vintage Christmas by Lori Holt on my Christmas list. I really love vintage decorating, quilts, and Christmas, so I was really excited when I received it.
Lori Holt is a very talented and prolific quilt pattern designer, but this was my first real experience with her work. The book is spiral bound and full of blocks and quilt patterns, all in a colourful and vintage style. I just love the vintage decor in the photographs of the quilts as well.
I love the sampler quilt featuring all the different blocks above. Also lovely are the pages of the two colour quilts, below, especially the red and white quilt. I adore red and white for Christmas!
But there is one quilt that’s my favourite of the bunch!
Bringing Home the Christmas Tree Quilt
My favourite quilt of the whole Vintage Christmas book is the Bringing Home the Christmas Tree Quilt. The retro station wagons with trees on top are so magical to me. It has a true vintage vibe, and also evokes memories of bringing home our own tree on top of our own wagon.
I have always wanted to make one of these quilts over the past couple of years, but usually I don’t think of it until it gets closer to Christmas. Then I’m always too busy to make a full quilt. Christmas would come and go, and the last thing I wanted to do after Christmas, was to make a Christmas quilt.
And so the book has sat on my shelf until now.
Christmas Pillows, Reimagined
Usually, I like to do a couple of Christmas crafts each year to add to our Christmas decor over time. When I was planning out my Christmas content, and thinking about what I’d like to craft this year, I decided that our Christmas pillows on the couch were really due for an upgrade. I had one set of sad, red, plaid flannel cushion covers that were faded and pilled.
I decided that I wanted to do three types of Christmas pillows for the couch. I’m going to sew some fabric covers with a beautiful holiday linen-blend canvas. And I’m knitting some pillows, which I’m going to share soon.
And for the last set of pillows, I decided that I would resize the Bringing Home the Christmas Tree Quilt to pillow size for a pair of vintage style pillows. I was really excited about this idea, as I figured it would be much easier to make two pillows than a full quilt, and would be much cheaper because I could use scraps.
Resizing Quilt Blocks
I shared a previous post a few months ago about how to resize a quilt block using my free Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet. You can also get your own copy of the worksheet at the bottom of this post too.
I do love resizing quilt blocks smaller for a number of reasons. First, everything looks more adorable when it’s miniature. Resizing also brings an added challenge and I enjoy using math in addition to creativity in my projects. I also love knowing that I’m doing something different and making a project my own. And finally, I have so many small scraps, and a resized quilt is perfect for using them, thus making it very economical.
However, there are challenges with making smaller versions of quilts. The biggest challenge is that all the pieces are so darn small! You have to be careful to keep things orderly so that you don’t misplace small pieces that look like scrap cuts. As well, it can be tricky to press the pieces without burning your fingers. And a lot of the seams end up quite bulky because they are just so close together.
I’ll share some tips for working small below, but I do find that the finished resizing project is always worth all of the challenges of working small.
Resize a Quilt to Pillows – Calculations
I won’t go through the formula for doing each resizing calculation again, as you can find all that in the quilt block resizing post. However, I’m going to share my calculations for how I figured out what scale to use to resize the quilt to pillows. As well, I needed to reorganize the blocks in pillow form.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to change up the block layout to work for a new shape or size, or to change the sashing sizes as needed.
I have two sets of pillow forms I can use for my Christmas pillows. One set are 16″ square, and the other set are 18″ square. I thought it might be helpful to have options for whatever fit best with my resized blocks.
The Bringing Home the Christmas Tree Quilt consists of the car blocks and the tree blocks. In their original sizes, the car block is 15″ x 26″ and the tree block is 15″ square, without seam allowances.
Resizing to Half Size
To look at making the blocks at half size (or dividing by two), divide each measurement by 2. For example the car block would be 7.5″ x 13″ at half size, which already doesn’t leave room for a 7.5″ tree block to be placed beside it. Therefore, I didn’t explore the half size option any further.
**Remember: Divide finished measurements of the blocks only. For resizing each cut of a block or quilt, there are extra steps involved. Please see the full step by step method in the resizing quilt blocks post, or follow along on the worksheet, which you can find below.
Resizing to One Third Size
For one third size, (or dividing by 3), divide each dimension by 3. The cars become 5″ x 8.66″ and the tree blocks are 5″ square. This seemed promising, so on grid paper I drew up 16″ and 18″ squares for the pillows with 1 square as 1 inch. Then I cut out tree and car blocks to scale to move them around the paper.
It seemed like 3 cars and 3 trees were a good fit, but only on the 18″ square pillow. The 16″ pillow would not have enough room for sashing between all the blocks, and enough room around the outside edges to make sure that the blocks weren’t going to be ending right at the side seams of the pillow.
So I proceeded to do calculations for a one third scale using my quilt block resizing worksheet. However, nearly all the measurements did not convert back exactly to a nice fraction, and needed to be rounded up to the nearest 1/8″. This is something that I note on the bottom of the worksheet.
An Important Note About Rounding Up Cuts to the Nearest 1/8″
Rounding up and cutting to the nearest 1/8″ is fine when it is a few cuts out of the whole block. When you line it up with adjacent cuts while piecing, you can trim down so they are even, and keep the block in proportion.
However, when ALL (or nearly all) of the cuts need to be rounded up, that will not work. Not only will the block become larger than intended, but some cuts will be rounded up by more or less than others, which will make piecing difficult and frustrating.
Tip: Therefore, if more than a few cuts do not work out to even 1/8s of an inch and need to be rounded up, I would suggest trying a different scale to reduce by.
I decided to abandon 1/3 scale as a viable option for this project.
Resizing to One Quarter Size
Since half size was too large, and one third size didn’t yield nice measurements, I was really hoping that one quarter size would work well.
Dividing the finished measurements by 4, a car became 3.75″ x 6.5″ and tree blocks were 3.75″ square. I again drew out the 16″ and 18″ squares on grid paper, and cut out cars and trees to play with.
It became clear that I had room for more than one tree block in a row. Therefore, I chose 1 car and 2 tree blocks for each row. I would like there to be sashing in between each block, and also around the outside of the blocks. That way, none of the blocks disappear into the pillow seams.
The 16″ pillow seemed a bit tight in that regard, but the 18″ pillow looked great. There is extra height in the pillow which I’ll just fill with wider sashing. I decided on a diagonal line of the station wagons with the trees filling in the remaining space.
Planning this layout helped me to know how many blocks I would need of each type. I hoped that the resizing calculations would work out better for one quarter size. And they were! There are a lot of calculations to do, but luckily a lot of measurements repeat frequently. And fortunately, each calculation converted back perfectly to 1/8″ (or larger) fractions.
Then I multiplied out the cuts for each block by the number of blocks I was planning to make.
Working With Small Quilt Pieces
When I’m cutting small quilt pieces, I like to use a smaller cutting mat and quilting ruler. And I put my trimmings in my Blooming Along thread catcher basket.
Then I like to carefully organize all my cuts on my sewing table so they’re within reach and don’t get lost. I took a big sheet of tissue paper and laid it out behind my sewing machine. Then I laid each small pile on the tissue as I cut them. I used a pencil to label the cut beside the pile. Since the photo below doesn’t even include all the cuts for the two pillows, it’s important to be organized!
When I’m sewing diagonal seams, especially tiny ones, I do not enjoy having to draw diagonal lines on the back of squares. If you haven’t discovered it already, Cluck Cluck Sew’s diagonal seam tape is a huge time saver. This is especially true for the large number of small diagonal seams required for these pillows.
You can buy it straight from the Cluck Cluck Sew website, from Amazon, or check your local quilting store.
I generally stick down one length of the tape on my sewing machine for each quilting project. I then lift and re-stick as needed to access my bobbin.
Resize a Quilt to Pillows – Not Less Work
I realized part way through cutting out the cuts for my pillows, that I was making more blocks than were in the original quilt. They may be smaller, but that also meant I’d be sewing and pressing more seams than for the quilt itself. That’s when I began to feel like I was absolutely crazy for dreaming up this project. But once you start to see the blocks coming together, it’s so worth it! They’re going to be adorable.
I like to save time by chain piecing as much as I can, including all the units that become the trees. Next, I laid out the pieces in a layout that was random and scrappy. Then I can simply moved one set at a time to my sewing table and quickly pieced them together. By planning all the layouts at the same time, I can make sure the fabrics are evenly distributed. And it’s easy to quickly lay them all out on a table top because these blocks are so small.
Here’s where I am at now. I’ve finished all the blocks for one pillow. It definitely took more time than I’d imagined to resize a quilt to pillows. But they are turning out to be so cute. I can’t wait to add some sashing between the blocks to turn it into the front of the pillow. And I’m looking forward to sewing the second one.
To see how these quilt blocks turn out as finished pillows, check out my post about DIY Christmas cushions.
If you’d like to take on a quilt resizing project of your own, please check out the quilt block resizing post, and get your free copy of the Quilt Block Resizing Worksheet below.
I want to hear from you. How do you feel about working with itty bitty pieces? Would you resize a quilt to pillows? What other craft projects are you planning for the holidays? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,
Anna McMullen says
My mom was a quilter. I never learned the skill but love quilts. This is such a great tutorial and I think after reading the post, I could possibly do a pillow. Maybe not this detailed of one but could start somewhere. Thanks for sharing!
That’s great Anna! I would definitely start with a more simple block with larger pieces to learn – and no resizing. But absolutely – a pillow or a quilt is a great first project. It’s a much more manageable size to try out, less unwieldy, and less expensive. I’ve got a tutorial for making a mini quilt that you might find helpful to get started. Thank you for your comment 🙂