Elizabeth’s Fabric Focus ~ Quick-Piece Tiny Squares

on October 12 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 145 Comments

Elizabeth from Oh, Fransson! does it again with a fabulous project for your scraps. Enjoy this quick-piece technique and don’t forget about Elizabeth’s Charm Squares Baby Quilt for Scrap Busters Month.

You can find all of Elizabeth’s other monthly tutorials on our blog: Advent Calendar, Stack & Nest Quilted Blocks, Laptop Sleeve, April Bags, Pincushion Organizer, Ponytail Scarves, Sawtooth Stars. Elizabeth also has a great selection of PDF patterns for sale in her Etsy shop and lots of fun projects and helpful sewing resources on Oh, Fransson!

From Elizabeth: I do a lot of quilting and, consequently, end up with a lot of scraps. To keep things under control, I generally save only those scraps that are at least 5” square. However, there are some smaller scraps that I just can’t let go. Some are out of print, some are more difficult-to-find Japanese imports, and some are just prints that I really like. I love the idea of patchwork piecing tiny scraps, but it can take a whole lot of time. (And that’s saying nothing for how difficult it can be to match so many closely-spaced seams!)

The shortcut I’m going to show you today uses lightweight fusible interfacing to help quick-piece tiny squares. Using this method, I was able to piece the 81 squares in this mini quilt in less than 1 hour.

Start by determining the size of your finished block and how many squares you want to use. Calculate the finished size of your squares and blocks using a 1/4″ seam allowance, just as you would for conventional patchwork. That means, if you’re using 2” x 2” squares, your finished squares will be 1-1/2” x 1-1/2”.

I used 81 squares 2” x 2” (41 red and 40 aqua) to make a finished block 13-1/2″ across.

Now, on to the interfacing! I used very lightweight Pellon. (Some stores also carry a gridded interfacing designed especially for this purpose.) Cut a square of interfacing large enough to accommodate all of your fabric squares, including seam allowances. For me, this was 18” x 18”. Use a fabric marker and ruler to draw a 2” x 2” grid on the non-fusible side of the interfacing.

My ironing board would not accommodate an 18” square, so I created a makeshift ironing area by laying towels on my worktable. Lay the interfacing, fusible side up, on your ironing area. Starting in the center, use the grid you just drew (or the one printed on the interfacing) to arrange your fabric squares as you’d like them to be in the finished block.

Once all squares are in place, press to fuse them to the interfacing. Rather than ironing (i.e. moving the iron from side to side) pick up your iron and put it down on the block, using even pressure and a quick burst of steam. Continue across your block, until all squares are fused. Flip the block over and, iron (moving the iron back and forth this time) the back using very light pressure and several quick bursts of steam.

Note: This is what works with my iron and the interfacing I use. If you’ve had trouble fusing interfacing in the past, I recommend practicing with some less-precious scraps to get a feel for what will work for you. I don’t recommend laying a protective cloth over your fabric squares before pressing, at this is likely to disrupt their position.

Starting at one side of the block, fold adjacent vertical columns toward one another, matching right sides. Press fold and use a 1/4” seam allowance to sew columns together. Repeat until all vertical columns are sewn.

Use scissors or a rotary cutter and ruler to carefully trim a miniscule amount from each of the seam allowances you just created – just enough to allow you to press each of the seams open

Use the same method to fold and sew horizontal rows together.

Once again, trim a miniscule amount from each seam allowance and press seams open.

And that’s all there is to it. Square up your block and you’re done!

Because of the interfacing, blocks made using this method may not be appropriate for a quilt that’s going to be used as a blanket. However, they’re perfect for anything that will benefit from being slightly rigid. I used my block to make a mini quilt for my kitchen wall, but it could also have been used to make a bag, an oven mitt a hot pad, or even part of a placement or table runner.

Have you tried this method? Do you have other ideas for quick piecing scraps? Show them off in the photo pool!

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145 Responses to Elizabeth’s Fabric Focus ~ Quick-Piece Tiny Squares

  1. Rachel says:

    Cool idea! Gonna have to try this! I’m just curious, though, whether the interfacing method changes the look or feel (bulkiness, drape) of the quilt after it has been washed. In other words, is it better to use this method on a wall hanging or table runner or something that will not necessarily be washed (or at least does not need to drape well), or does it work equally as well on a quilt that will be washed and dried? I like my quilts to be soft…. Elizabeth, can you comment on that?

  2. Kristal says:

    I did this for a table runner and a charm pack. Worked brilliantly. I love having seams that lined up perfectly!

  3. Lea says:

    Love it!

  4. Katie says:

    Hobby Lobby carries a wash out fusible. I think it only comes in 8×11 sheets. Maybe it could work. I might have to get some and try it. Great tutorial.

  5. Andi says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial.

    I have used it today and blogged about it here:
    http://patchandi.blogspot.com/2010/09/my-new-favourite-recipe.html

    Andi :-)

  6. eileensideways says:

    love the method, love the color palette. so sweet. thanks for sharing

  7. Tammy says:

    This is great, thanks so much! I was able to piece together a bunch of scraps using this method today & put together a quick eye-glass case.

  8. Sarah S says:

    GENIUS!

  9. This is why I read blogs! Absolutely amazing. Gotta do that one! Soon.

  10. Melanie says:

    that is truly the coolest idea I’ve seen in a while! thanks!

  11. relaine says:

    Fantastic! I must try this right now!!!

  12. Karo says:

    wow, this is genius!

    i’m gonna have to try this as soon as i have my other current projects finihsed.

  13. MaggieD says:

    I did try this with the new Tear Away/Wash Away Biodegradable as I want to have soft quilts. (This product is not fusible, so I used a fabric glue stick instead, which worked well). It did tear and wash-away as advertised, but the seams were very bulky for sewing. I am, however, going on a quest for a lighter-weight tear/wash-away fusible that will result in a soft and drapy quilt. Thanks for the great idea!

  14. PamelaA says:

    Excellent Tutorial. I’m into miniatures and want to use teeny squares so this will be perfect and a lot easier than the way I was thinking about doing it.

  15. darlene says:

    OMGosh … whowuddathunk??? what a fabulous way to make a block with scraps … i love it!!! thank you for the great tute.

  16. Sarah says:

    Just genius! I cannot wait to try this.
    You are so clever!

  17. Margaret says:

    What an absolutely clever idea! And sooooo simple!

  18. Oh my gosh – that is a brilliant idea. I have millions of charm pieces that I needed to sew together and couldn’t bring up the courage to tackle. This has given me some hope! Thank you very much :-)

  19. eva says:

    NOW i understand what fusible interfacing is used for…..

    i’ve heard other quilters using it….but never understood HOW it was used.

    thanks!!
    eva

  20. Corinne says:

    This is so great. Thanks for the idea. I made one of these for each of my kids and nephews, and they all had a BLAST playing with them over Christmas. Tents, dollies, hats….a million uses and they loved that they were each different. And I loved that they were so fast to make – one a night between bath and bedtime, zip zip. Thanks again.

  21. Holly says:

    Brilliant!

  22. Ali says:

    This is so clever!

  23. Ooooh! I love anything that is “quick and easy”! I linked to this on my roundup of favorite scrap buster posts, the link is under my name. Thanks!! (though I’m pretty sure my cut squares wouldn’t be as sqare as yours . . . but I’m getting better as I go and also learning to embrace imperfection. :>))

  24. Stephanie says:

    You’re freakin brilliantt!! I sooo have to favorites this!!

  25. Kristin says:

    Oh my gosh this is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing.

  26. Stephanie says:

    Oh my gosh! This is the best quilting idea ever – I’m excited to try that tonight after my baby falls asleep! Thanks!

  27. sarah gaylor says:

    AMAZING!!!!

  28. Gisele says:

    SO SO SO CLEVER!!!
    Amazing!
    Thank you so much!

  29. christine says:

    shut up! this is so amazing. so clever. i’m so pleased.

  30. Jackie Morgan says:

    Love your idea. I am going to try that tonight. I love those tiny block blocks, but they are really hard to sew straight individually!!
    Thanks so much for a cool idea.

  31. Renea says:

    Wow. I can’t bear to part with any of my scraps. I love this idea. I will be able to use up my tiniest of squares that I have saved. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Jessica says:

    I had to try this….so far, so good, and so easy! Thank you for a great tutorial!

  33. Megan says:

    You’ve already gotten lots of praise for this, but I just have to tell you that I am sitting here with my mouth hanging open. This is the most genius thing I have ever seen!!!

  34. Katy says:

    Holy Crap! That’s genius. Why I have half a mind to skip work and march straight home to try that right now. Thank you so much! That brightened my day.

  35. Jamie says:

    So Stinkin’smart!!! I love it. I was just thinking I wanted to make a scrappy bag, but was putting it off, considering the amount of work I knew I was getting myself into. But now that it’s so easy, I’ll get right on it!! Thanks for sharing!

  36. Tsh says:

    This is a genius idea. I know I’m not saying anything new, considering the rest of the comments, but I just had to throw in my thumbs up. Thanks for sharing!

  37. Anjeanette says:

    Now why didn’t I think of this? This is brilliant! I am totally going to have to try this. Thank you so much for sharing (and taking the time to write it all up with pretty pictures too!)

    I just love this!!!!

  38. Gigil says:

    Ooops, just realized that I forgot to say that we didn’t sew the seams together, just put the trims on top and secured the seams that way. Much easier for both of us.

  39. Gigil says:

    Great job and great minds think alike. IT’s also a great project to do with your kids. My 7 yo granddaughter made one with me recently. I had 4″ squares of knit from a clothing company swatches. WE cut out a piece of lt wt interfacing to cover the top of her little table. Then I gave her the scraps and she designed a pattern, keeping the squares closely touching. After pressing, and ironing on the back side, We picked out pieces of trim and rick rack that I had, and she “designed” the seams. She helped me sew that over the seams and we attached some leftover coordinating fabric (about 6-8″ wide) to form the overhang. It turned out really cute and she was very proud. It also was a great way for scraps to be used, and for her to gain confidence in her ability. In fact when I asked her if she wanted to change the squares because 2 alike colors were together, she said no, that’s the way she liked it. What confidence and I’m glad I didn’t squash her creativity.

  40. Carolyn says:

    You are such an inspiration. I LOVE this technique. Gotta try it out this weekend.

  41. Christian says:

    Whoever thought of this…..I love you! I’m gonna buy some charm packs and make a patchwork in no time!

  42. Elizabeth says:

    Holly, My first thought on stabilizer is that there are too many seams and intersections of seams for it to be successful (or a time-saver, as tearing stabilizer out of so many finished seams would probably take a while). I’ve never tried it though.

  43. Gretchen says:

    OK, that’s just genius!

  44. mjb says:

    Ohhhhh, now I get it.

  45. Holly says:

    I have never tried this, but I wonder if you could use a fusible tear-away stabilizer instead of interfacing? That way you could use the same process but remove the stiffness afterward?

  46. bec says:

    what a great idea! wow. i am going to use this.

  47. Karen says:

    Fantastic
    I absolutely love this & am off to give it a go – will try using this technique to make a knitting bag/basket which will suit the stiffer feel of the blocks
    Thanks again for a great tutorial

  48. Concha says:

    WOW!! This is so fantastic!!

  49. Heather says:

    Wow, thanks for this method – I’ve got a tiny squares project in mind, and this’ll be fabulous for it.

    Cheers!

  50. Lauri says:

    What a great idea! Why didn’t someone think of this earlier? Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  51. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks, everyone, for all of your wonderful comments! I first tried this out 7-8 years ago and hadn’t used it since, but it seemed like a good one for scrap month.

    I had no idea Alicia had a pattern for making pillows using a similar technique. You can find it here: http://rosylittlethings.com/summerhousepattern.html

  52. Erin H. says:

    Wow! This is such a good idea—and the little quilt is gorgeous!

  53. Beautiful scrap buster!!

  54. Jennifer says:

    I LOVE this idea! I wonder if I could make it work for a bed quilt if I used the lightest weight interfacing possible…

  55. laura says:

    uh. brilliant.

  56. greeblygreebly says:

    So clever and so cute!

  57. Rachel says:

    BRILLIANT!! I think I now know that I CAN actually make that postage stamp quilt I’ve always wanted to make.

  58. suzi says:

    Love, love, love this I am thinking this would be wonderful to do for some quilted placemats or table runner.

  59. Krista says:

    Thanks – great photos in your tute!

  60. Aimee says:

    This is fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  61. janet says:

    This is a great technique, its funny I posted a tutorial on how to piece this way on Craftster almost exactly a year ago.

    http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=276594.msg3130698#msg3130698

  62. That is amazing. I would never have thought of doing that. I was just trying to make a tiny quilted heart and it came out all wonky. I am going to start again using your method. Thanks so much for sharing!

  63. Krystina says:

    This is the BEST idea ever! Thanks!

  64. That’s so cheating! I love it. :)

  65. Sarah says:

    Ok, this is amazing….I’m doing this tonight. PILLOWCASES!!!!

  66. Kathy says:

    I had completely forgotten about this method! It’s a great way to arrange your squares in a very particular pattern – they stay put because of the fusing and you don’t have to worry about getting them out of order when you pick them up to sew. I really like the idea of slicing a bit off the seam allowances in order to press the seams open. Before I pressed them to one side, which makes it bulky on top of the stiffness of the interfacing. I think I might try this out again!!

  67. Kirsten says:

    How very clever! I’ve got to try this.

  68. susan says:

    Thanks for taking the time to make such an excellent tutorial! Great pictures and explanation!

  69. Jen W says:

    she is my personal hero. who else would call that quick?

  70. georgia says:

    pure genius. I might even keep some small scraps just to do this!

  71. Veronica says:

    Brilliant! I knew I was saving those precious bits of fabric scraps for some good reason and this is it. Thanks so much! Now I know I wasn’t being a pack rat for nothing.

  72. Candice says:

    Beautiful! I love the interfacing technique- thank you!

  73. Christine says:

    What a great idea! I keep small squares for applique projects but now I want to try this method for all my bits and pieces.

  74. This is awsome. I have a million thoughts on how to use this swimming in my head!

  75. Stacy says:

    That is awsome! Thanks for sharing!

  76. Christine Bolin says:

    Awesome! Great tutorial!

  77. Elizabeth says:

    This is a great idea! I never would have thought of it–and it looks great too! Thanks for sharing :)

  78. Ellen Ban says:

    Perfect timing, as I was just starting to sew 2″ squares together to make patchwork pieces for some little projects! I remember seeing this done to make watercolor quilts.
    Thanks as always for sharing your ideas and methods!

  79. upstatelisa says:

    wow! what a great idea!

  80. Kerneknop says:

    This is one of the best ideas I have read for ages – why haven’t anyone ever showed me this before? Great idea – I’m soooo going to try this out.

  81. Bethany says:

    That is great! I have not seen this method before, but I will have to try it!

  82. simone says:

    Fantastic!!! I will definitely try this for a mini quilt! Thank you so much!!!

  83. Jen C. says:

    Awesome! I’ll definitely have to try this.

  84. Jen V says:

    brilliant! thank you for sharing. oh, the fun we shall have with those tiny squares!

  85. Jane Swanson says:

    YOU are a creative genius!

  86. Christine says:

    I totally forgot about this method!!!! I’m going to arrange my huge pile of 2.5″ squares. Thank you!

  87. Rochelle says:

    What an awesome way to piece those tiny squares! I’ve gotta try that.

  88. Elizabeth says:

    That is so brilliant! I love it because it will keep me from accidentally messing up the order of my squares.

  89. Sheila says:

    Please disregard previous comment. I was unable to post picture.

  90. Kimberly says:

    Gorgeous! I love this.

  91. jackie says:

    wow! i will be doing this soon for sure!

  92. Sheila says:

    I have used this method for many projects. I just posted a picture of a “watercolor” quilt I made using this method, in the flicker quilt photo pool.

  93. Suzanne says:

    Wow! This is amazing! Now I have something to do with all these teeny tiny scraps I can’t seem to throw out :)

  94. Re: Quick-Piece Tiny Squares Is there a particular palce within Flickr photo pool when I should post images of Quickly Pieced Tiny Squares? I’m Flickr naive.

  95. kathy h. says:

    Too many ideas, not enough time.
    Love the patchwork tutorial.

  96. Mary H says:

    I’m so impressed! That’s adorable!

  97. Linda says:

    I love this idea…so simple and yet not so obvious. Thanks!

  98. Erin Compton says:

    That is SUCH a good idea. Perhaps some placemats are to come out of my bag o scraps!

  99. Angela N says:

    Yep, genius. Thanks!

  100. Lisa says:

    Oh! I bought some interfacing that had large squares on it but didn’t realize that this is what you do with it. Somehow the instructions were lost. NOW I understand! Thanks. Great idea.

  101. sarah says:

    Best. Idea. Ever. !!!!

  102. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the lesson, I would have never thought of this…I save scraps much smaller than 5in!!

  103. Lea-Ann says:

    genius as usual!

  104. 2hippos says:

    Brilliant.

  105. Jessica says:

    I agree, that is genius.

  106. Queen of Procrastination says:

    WOW!

  107. Ramona says:

    Wow! Great idea. I would never have attempted this before but now I see some cool pillows in my future or hot pads.

  108. Erica K says:

    Cute…I love the colors!

  109. doing this tonight. ironing and sewing in 2 steps…sold.

  110. Kristin says:

    test

  111. ~Helena~ says:

    Wow!Thats a great tip. I couldn’t imagine putting the top together in an hour. But now I see how. Cute quilt.

  112. Kris says:

    what a great idea!! Thanks!

  113. Cascade Lily says:

    Genius! I have such a problem with pressing seams the wrong way that I think this is the best idea I’ve seen/heard in a LONG time!

  114. Ariane says:

    l love this idea. It’s wonderful. I have so many scraps that I could use this way. Thanks for sharing.

  115. amanda says:

    this is ridiculously ingenious.

  116. Tong says:

    Such a great idea!

  117. Kaye Prince says:

    This is awesome – you’re amazing Elizabeth!

  118. Lara says:

    Now THAT is an excellent idea! So simple and so effective. I’d never have bothered with tiny squares before, but now I definitely will! Thanks so much.

  119. This is so gorgeous–I love the color combination!

  120. Rachel says:

    I have visions of many hot pads for Christmas presents. I’ve already have a ton of squares that I can work with.

  121. Leigh says:

    oh my goodness – this is BRILLIANT!!! And I LOVE the fabrics!!!

  122. ms.cleaver says:

    A brilliant idea indeed!

  123. That’s awesome! I would never have thought of using interfacing like that. Thank you!

  124. Sade says:

    So smart! I would have never thought of it.

  125. Celeste says:

    This is so, so cool!

  126. qsogirl says:

    wow, just wow. that is so fabulous!!

  127. Megan says:

    that’s brilliant!!! can’t wait for a free moment to give this a try.

  128. lysaj says:

    Brilliant! Fantastic idea! Thank you so much for this.

  129. SparklePetal says:

    This is so simple and yet so clever like all the best ideas! Thanks for sharing it!

  130. Elena says:

    What a great idea!! Is a perfect way to sew little squares, all the corners are perfecty matched. Can’t wait to try it :D.
    Elisabeth, thanks again for another fantastic tutorial

    Elena

  131. Andi says:

    Wow! This is wonderful! Thanks so much!

  132. Katie Bowlby says:

    This is GENIUS!

  133. Alice S says:

    What a great idea! I’ve never thought of doing something like this, but will try it out someday.

  134. grace says:

    Beautiful!

  135. wendy says:

    My kids could even help with this one. Thank you!

  136. Kim K. says:

    This is a fabulous idea! I love it! Thanks so much for sharing!

  137. Jess says:

    My jaw just dropped!
    This is the greatest idea I have seen in a long while!
    Thanks so much!

  138. Melissa says:

    Whoa. This is brilliant!!

  139. Kolleen says:

    I have used this for pillows, and it works great! Nice tutorial.

  140. Kelly K says:

    I love finding great ideas like this!

  141. Amy says:

    That’s a great idea. I will have to try this method. I think it is a lot more sane and gives nice results. Thank you for the idea!

  142. Coralee says:

    this is such a great idea! I can’t wait to try it out!

  143. craftytammie says:

    amazing. I would never have thought of that. Love it!

  144. ack!!! are you kidding me? this is the most awesome thing i have seen in months! yay, for elizabeth!!!!

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