Cute as a button! Or four! Or five! – A mini charm friendly pattern

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons! mini quilt 2015-09-18

Hi there and welcome to my blog! Chances are you’ve found your way here today due to the on-going Mini Charm Challenge blog hop.

In this tutorial:

  • What are mini charms and why a challenge?
  • Overview of Cute as Four Buttons! and Cute as Five Buttons! patterns
  • How to make the quilt (Stage 1-5)
  • Where to find the other blog-hop participants

* * * * *

What are mini charms and why a challenge?

Most fabric-crazy quilters out there are already familiar with mini charm squares by Moda Fabrics, but in case you have no idea of what I’m talking about yet, these pre-cut squares are sold as packs of of 40-42 sqares, often featuring a whole fabric line. The original size is 5” x 5”, and those are called charm squares, whereas mini charm squares are 2.5” x 2.5”. Of course you can cut your own (mini) charm squares, too, and in fact there are quite a few swaps online where stacks are sent to others, then received in return, to increase the diversity of one’s stash.

At this point, there are many patterns out there for charm squares, but the situation is a bit different when these newer minis are concerned, and so Kylie of Sew Kylie started a Mini Charm Challenge on Instagram (hashtag #minicharmchallenge, what else :) ). The lovely KviltStina gave me a mini charm pack last year, but I had yet to find the perfect project for it, and here we are.

Overview of Cute as Four Buttons! and Cute as Five Buttons! patterns

As it happens, the mini charm pack I received contains only 40 squares, which is rather unusual today. Most packs consist of 42, and to accommodate that number, I now present to you two NM Patterns – Cute as Four Buttons! and Cute as Five Buttons!:

Nina With Freckles - Cute as Four Buttons 2015-09-18     Nina With Freckles - Cute as Five Buttons 2015-09-18

The four-button pattern will use 38 mini charm squares, whereas if you have the larger pack of 42 squares, feel free to make five buttons to use up all of them.

The number of mini charms per button:

  • Large button: 16 squares
  • Medium button: 9 squares
  • Small button: 4 squares

The mini quilt itself will end up at around 20” x 20”. If you have all tools gathered, and opt to bind the mini by machine, this project is quite a quick one, despite appliqué possibly being a new method to you (as it was to me prior to this project!).

How to make the quilt

Materials you will need:

  • For quilt top:
    • For buttons:
      • A pack of mini charm squares
      • A scrap piece of background fabric for button holes
      • Fusible web, my piece was 45 cm (width on the roll) x 50 cm (approximately 0.5 yards) with quite a bit left – I used Bondaweb / Wonder Under, Vliesoflix
    • Background fabric: 20” x 20”
  • Batting: around 21” x 21” (or larger if you think you need more to work with)
  • Backing fabric: around 21.5” x 21.5” (or larger, as above)
  • Binding: approximately 7.5” x WOF (width of fabric; quilting cotton at least 42” wide)

Tools:

  • Sewing needles:
    • For piecing, what you normally would use
    • For appliqué, Microtex of size that fits your thread
  • Thread:
    • For piecing, what you normally would use
    • For appliqué, 50-wt or thicker if that’s a look you want
  • Other tools normally used in quilting
  • Compass and pencil (see Simplicity, Block 8 IQCB tutorial for more)
  • Pressing cloth

So how do we make this button mini quilt? It comes together in the following stages:

  1. Open mini charm pack and decide how to spread out squares over buttons
  2. Sew squares into a grid
  3. Attach via fusible web buttons to background fabric
  4. Quilt by doing raw-edge appliqué
  5. Bind

Stage 1 – Open mini charm pack and decide how to spread out squares over buttons

The mini charm pack I received is Eden by Lila Tueller for Moda Fabrics, and the first thing I did after having opened the wrapping was to check the measurements. It’s a bit vague regarding the size, as I’ve heard the 2.5” referring to both the outer and inner tip of the cut zigzag edge. In this case, the measurement wasn’t perfectly at the outer tip but somewhere nearby. But since my sewing machine is really bad at creating an accurate quarter-inch seam allowance, I’ve given up on being completely on “a scant quarter inch” anyway.

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 1 Fabric 2015-09-18

Laying out all the squares was interesting, because I wasn’t familiar with this collection, and had no idea of what to expect. A few themes unfolded quickly.

My original layout for each button was scrapped due to an unrestful impression they gave, and in fact this step turned out to be the most time-consuming of all. Don’t be afraid to let your own first choice sit for a while, before you finalise it.

Stage 2 – Sew squares into a grid

Time to sew! The photo is clickable so you can see the collage closer. I’ll start with the large button consisting of 16 squares, so you get the idea of how to chain piece, should you not yet be familiar with this concept of speeding up sewing.

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 2 Chain piecing 2015-09-18

Step 1: Place 16 squares (or 9 for medium and 4 for small buttons) on your table. Step 2: Place the second column on top of the first, right sides together. Place column 4 on 3 the same way. Step 3: Sew all seams without cutting in between, remove from sewing machine, clip threads, and place back to where they were before. Step 4: Open as books with right side up, so you have two columns now. Step 5: Place right column on top of left, right sides together. Step 6: Chain piece all four seams, clip threads, and open in original layout.

Now it’s time to press before continuing to sew (collage is clickable).

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 3 Pressing 2015-09-18

Step 1: Set the seam by giving it a quick press. Step 2: The seam is flat rather than “tight”. Step 3: Scoot over the row by lifting up the left end of the row (the dot fabric), and set the next seam. Step 4: Scoot over as before and set the last seam. The reason I’m showing this is because the less you have to shuffle, lift, and move stuff, the quicker you finish with least amount of energy lost. Step 5: Once all seams have been set, press them open. I have a nifty tool to reach in between the fabric layers, and it can be used to poke corners out when sewing pouches or such. Since I’m right-handed, I keep it there, poke into the seam allowance, and finger press with the left hand. Then steam press gently with iron. Step 6: I usually work the whole column of seam allowances at a time. Rinse and repeat for remaining seam columns.

The last steps of assembling the button block remain (clickable collage).

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 4 Block assembly 2015-09-18

Step 1: Place all rows according to original layout. Step 2: Place row 2 on top of row 1 to sew along bottom edge. Step 3: For increased accuracy at points, push pin through both seam allowances. Step 4: With first pin in place still, place second pin in seam allowance. This will prevent puckering closer to feed dogs. Do remove the pin rather than sew over, though. Repeat pinning of remaining seam allowances and consider pinning also at end of seam (to be sewn). Step 5: Sew rows 1 and 2 together, and rows 3 and 4 together. Then sew rows 2 and 3 together. Step 6: Set seams and press open as before. Step 7: Make remaining button blocks.

Stage 3 – Attach via fusible web buttons to background fabric

Now that all four (or five) button blocks are done, it’s time to work on attaching buttons to background fabric.

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 5 Preparing appliqué 2015-09-18

Collage is clickable. Step 1: Gather your supplies. Step 2: The radius for the small button is 2” (4.5” block), medium 3” (6.5” block), and large 4” (8.5” block). I used the cutting mat to find the radius. Step 3: Draw all circles for buttons (four or five) and tiny circles for button holes, however many you want to add. I made 4 for the large buttons, 2 each for medium, and 2 for small button. When drawing button holes, it helps to steady with one hand the centre, whilst loosely floating the pencil over the web (or the radius might shift). Step 4: Cut out roughly outside of the drawn circles. Save the small scraps of web, you might get excited about appliquéing tiny hexies or such! Scissors? There’s fabric and there’s paper and there’s glue, so don’t ruin your best pair. Photo 5: The button sizes chosen were a bit smaller than 1” and 0.75” respectively. I winged it. Photo 6: See how the button circles show the seam allowance of the blocks.

Now we’re ready to fuse the web to the fabric, then buttons to background.

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 6 Fusing web 2015-09-18

Step 1: Following manufacturers guidelines, fuse web (sticky side down, paper side up) to button blocks and button-hole fabric (back of fabric). I was told to press shortly (without steam), for 5 seconds, to have the glue stick to the fabric. Step 2: Cut along all circle lines. Step 3: Pick your placement of buttons and button holes. Since my fabric is visibly directional, I went to the next level and oriented the button holes to the background grid, even snapped a photo for the largest button :) The thing you see underneath is my pressing board, to avoid excess handling. Step 4: Carefully peel off paper from web. It can be helpful to start at button seam allowances, and use a seam ripper for the button holes. When peeling, keep buttons in place by pressing fingers on seam allowances as you go, whilst removing paper with the other hand. I also was told to use a damp cloth for pressing, and kept moving from one button to another for a total of around 20 seconds, then did the second batch of buttons. I pressed both buttons and button holes simultaneously. Check that the web holds.

It is quite thick at this point, but this won’t matter if the quilt is a wall-hanging one or a table topper. Consider another method if you’re making a quilt “to use”.

Stage 4 – Quilt by doing raw-edge appliqué

The raw-edge appliqué will double as quilting in this project. I wasn’t sure how it would look once the buttons were done, but the reason for moving around them compared to the original drawing was that I thought I might fit a second small button, quilted only, somewhere on the quilt top, but then decided against it. Feel free to experiment!

Assemble your quilt sandwich and baste, then quilt.

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 7 Appliqué quilting 2015-09-18

I chose to circle the buttons three times with a dark purple 50-weight thread. Go slowly, stop with needle down, lift presser foot, pivot, lower presser foot, and sew. Rinse and repeat.

The button holes are trickier due to their small size. If you lowered your stitch length for the button perimeters, consider an even smaller one. Mine was around 2.0 mm, which turned out to be a good setting on my machine. I stopped after every second stitch or so, and it helped to manage the quilt with the left hand, and work the presser foot with the right hand. Toward the end I had a whole dance routine figured out. Since the button holes are so challenging, I circled the larger ones twice, and the smallest pair only once.

This type of quilting hit home. I absolutely loved the freeform messiness of it, and most certainly will do raw-edge appliqué in the future. Earlier I mentioned that this was my first time doing appliqué, and I seriously have no idea of why I thought it would be scary. Have you tried it yet? Like it?

Square up your mini quilt and move on to binding it.

Stage 5 – Bind

To begin with, I’ll recommend the Robert Kaufman quilting app (for iPhone at least), which has several, nifty calculators. In this project, I used it to figure out how much fabric I would need for the binding. Recalling that the quilt top is 20” x 20”, which in itself would require around 80”.

I wanted to try a 2.25” wide binding strip, and had no idea of how wide my fabric would be, so I threw in 42” to be on the safe side. This is supposedly the minimum width of quilting cotton.

NM Patterns - Cute as Four Buttons - 8 Calculate binding 2015-09-18

The calculator suggested I make 90” of binding, using 3 WOF strips of 2 1/4 inch width. In the materials list, I mentioned 7.5”, which will accommodate also a 2.5” wide binding strip. If you have hoarded skinny quarters, this could be a project, as they are 9” tall and WOF wide.

I chose to use the same purple thread to pull together visually the project. It seemed fitting due to the whimsical fabrics and appliqué. The first binding seam was sewn onto the backside of the quilt, and I’ll have a tutorial for fresh ideas on how to bind with bias binding and double-fold binding here on the blog tomorrow, so make sure to stop by again :)

All done! Would you consider this for your collection of mini quilts in the sewing room? If 20” x 20” is a tad too large, simply decrease the background size and tighten up the space between the buttons. Or make fewer buttons, too. Hope you liked this tutorial! Feel free to ask questions and comment below.

* * * * *

Where to find the other blog-hop participants

Nina With Freckles - Mini Charm Challenge 2015-09-18

The rest of the blog-hop participants with their wonderful projects you can find here:

I do hope you’re enjoying this blog hop, because I am!

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