Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Tips for miniature hand pieced patchwork by Christine Hayward

This is a dressed bed that I made for Hollyhock Cottage, my miniature home set in the 1940s. The quilt is hand paper-pieced in the traditional 1930s grandmother's garden design using old hankies (ordinary ones - I started collecting for this project and most were just too nice to cut up, so I now have a lovely hanky collection!) and fussy cutting each hexagon. The pillows are from the remnants of an old white trimmed hanky and show some wear despite using the best bits (it was the same problem with the white hankies I collected - too good to use) but wear would have been appropriate immediately following the war.

I have had a few people ask for tips on how to make a patchwork quilt like this, so here we go.


If you have never done English Paper Piecing before, here is a real size tutorial found on the web - thank you Lizard of Oz . I would recommend printing out all 4 pages and reading several times.

To miniaturise  first pick a simple pattern. If you haven't tried it before, start on something small using squares before you try different shapes - you can always turn it into a cot quilt or a pet blanket. 1/2 inch is a comfortable size and translates to 6 inch squares in real life.

When you are ready to move to shapes this site is excellent for your paper pieces - choose the size you want and print it out!
Free printable graph paper 
Before printing make sure you are looking at it at 100%. The measurement is the length of one side, not across the entire piece.

Print out 3 or more pages - one to draw up and colour in your quilt - this will give you an idea of size, although the finished one will end up slighter bigger, and will remind you where you are going if you aren't doing a repeat pattern. Most of my hints will be directed at hexagons now.

For hexagons don't drive yourself batty trying to cut out individual hexagons - cut strips and then trim to shape. 



Fabric: Use as fine a weave as possible. I found hankies from our local op shops to be perfect - soft, cheap and very tightly woven. The newer ones are coarse by comparison. Beware before you cut though - some are highly collectable and you could be hacking into something which could fund your entire dollshouse collection - check ebay first. If this doesn't worry you, hack away!
The quilt with 1/2 inch squares  uses patchwork fabric. I wouldn't use this for anything smaller. 

Spray starch is now your best friend. Starch like mad until your hanky/fabric feels like stiff paper. This eliminates the need for tacking the individual hexagons when you fold it around the paper and who wants to tack a shape smaller than your little fingernail?! Finger press the folds by pinching.

Don't worry about cutting hexagons from the fabric - squares are fine, make them about 2 1/2 - 3 times as wide as your hexagon. This gives plenty of fold size and some thickness when finished. Trim off any bits that poke out.

Ideally centre your squares around a motif on your hanky - one hanky can usually be used to make numerous different pieces and angling these different ways will give you a new look as well (see the pink stripe blocks in my quilt). This will require all your squares to be cut with scissors and the hanky will look like it has been through the censors when you have finished. You will need 6 same and 1 different squares for each flower. 



Making the flowers: This part is the hardest. You have your 7 wrapped pieces in front of you and you want to be able to do it with one thread, so holding firmly, start by sewing the first outside hexagon to the centre with about 4 or 5 whip stitches. Slip your needle and thread to the top of  this outside hexagon, going inside the fold, and attach the next outside hexagon on to the 1st outside hexagon, then onto the centre. Slip your needle and thread back to top, making sure you aren't pulling too tight, and attach the next and so on. Once all 6 are joined to the middle, break the thread off and with a new thread tack the outside in place. Put aside and make a few more flowers.


Medallion layout front.                          Medallion reverse.


Once you have done this, you have all the skills needed to join the rest in whatever pattern you want.

When you have your quilt top assembled, undo your tacking and remove all the tiny paper pieces. Some will have already liberated themselves. Keep checking it against a lighted surface because others will remain in hiding. (I still have one tucked away inside!) Iron (being careful of your edge pieces) and starch again - it will be limp from handling by now.

Applique it onto a piece of fabric allowing for 1/4 inch seams around the outside and cut a back the same size. Right sides together, sew around outside like making a cushion, turn right side out and slip stitch closed.

You can bind it with fine bias binding instead.

If sewing is beyond you, starch some cotton fabric to paper stiffness or iron onto a piece of freezer paper, cut to A4, choose a quilt and run through your printer! Use pellon for padding and quilt. 

I'm not sure how well this will work but here goes:

R-click to copy to your computer and I think you will need to play with the colour if you want to print this quilt onto fabric. It was originally saved in a high resolution, but necessarily the internet has to turn it into a downloadable size. (If you visit my blog, you can click on this photo there for an enlarged version.)

When printing onto fabric, I have found it better to have the colours too strong as they print a lot more faded. 

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