Monday, February 9, 2015

Micro-Stamps Pixelated Quilt Tutorial

Tutorial revisions of May 19, 2015 in italics

I am a bit overwhelmed by the number of views that my post about Son #1's ring bearer pillow has received. I feel like I should share the process I used to make that little pixelated heart.

My inspiration for the technique came through several sources. 

First, the pixilated heart. It is a fairly common theme and I couldn't even begin to decipher the original source. 

Second, in order to achieve such small piecing I was inspired by Elizabeth Hartman's Stamp Collection tutorial (no longer active) on her blog, Oh, Fransson. The difference is that her unfinished squares are two-inches whereas mine are one-inch.

This pillow is only eleven-inches square and I wanted a lot of detail. I knew that would not be possible with a larger pixel. I am so excited about how well this turned out and I have plans to do more experimentation.

I do not like poly-fil pillows so I cut down a 16x26 inch feather and down pillow form that I purchased from Ikea. It was messy but it worked. I covered my little 11x11 inch form in muslin to make it pretty. I still have a 16-inch square pillow form to play with. Maybe another Micro-Stamp is in order?

So, here is the series of photos that I took while making the pillow.


Light Weight Fusible Interfacing. (I used Pelon 906F)
An assortment of One-Inch fabric squares. (I used snippets of all the shades of red and pink I had in my stash.  White was my only allowed exception.) 
Pen to mark grid. (I found that a thin Sharpie left a nice quality line.)
Ruler to mark grid lines
Clover Mini Iron (a full size iron could be used in a pinch but I found the mini iron to be much easier to use with the tiny pieces)

Step One:

The first thing I did was mark my grid.
I marked one-inch apart the first direction but realized that two-inches would suffice since I could use the four corners for placement. I used two-inches apart on the perpendicular lines.

I'd skip the muslin and mark your Pellon if you do not plan to ever repeat this technique. No sense making a gridded muslin for a one-off.

Next time I do this I think I'll try making a muslin grid like the Oh, Fransson tutorial so that I can reuse it. I also think one of those marked June Tailor pressing boards would be a time saver.

I am now using the muslin grid. My squares are marked at two inches.

Step One and a half:

Cut your interfacing to a scant under two times the size of your desired finished piece. This will keep your iron and cloth clean.

The pellon piece above is cut at seven inches and will yield a three and half inch finished piece.
(I colored the edges of the Pellon red so you could see them easier)

Step Two:

Quickly press any all your little squares flat. This can be done in in groups and clumps.

 Lay out your design.

Notice my revised layout below. The Pellon is completely covered by the one inch fabric squares.

Add in your background grid pieces.

Fill the entire grid to the size square or rectangle you desire for your finished piece. 

Step Three:

Lay an ironing cloth over your grid and press. I was able to eliminate the need for the mini-iron and the piece was much flatter with the pieces were more strongly adhered.

Look how flat it lays and it only took a few seconds! 

Use your iron to fuse down each square in its place. This is where the mini iron was a life saver. These little one inch pieces have a mind of their own. They are a bit stiff and just sort of float above the interfacing. A breath can send them flying.  

I tried setting my full size iron on them as per the Oh, Fransson tutorial but there was too much movement. I broke out the mini iron and went to town. I started in the middle and worked out.

No photos here. I dropped the ball.

Step Four:

Sew your seams. Fold on the lines, right sides together, and sew all the seams with a 1/4 inch allowance going in ONE direction on the interfacing side.

I had a lot of warpage on my first few goes that required quite a bit of pulling and teasing with the iron to work out. I discovered that if you alternate the direction you sew each seam the warpage is pretty much eliminated. See photo bellow where I have marked the seam directions.

 Step Five:

Trim your seam allowances. No photos again, sorry.

I tried several techniques.

First I tried my small embroidery scissors that fit into the seam allowance. This didn't work for me even though I was using a nice pair of Ginghers.

Second I tried using my rotary cutter, mat and a ruler but it slipped around too much on the interfacing.

My third attempt, and the one I settled on, was using a standard pair of scissors to trim off a sliver of the seam allowance. This was safe, fast and worked perfectly for me.

It is important to trim off about a sixteenth of an inch of the seam allowance fold. This allows you to iron the seams open and reduces the width of the sides so that they do not touch or overlap.

Step Six:

Iron your seam allowances open. This is a must as the bulk is considerable. The seams will remain strong since they are continuous from end to end so there is no need to worry about squares coming loose. I used a considerable amount of home-made vodka starch during the process.

The increased adhesion with the pressing cloth and alternating seam directions eliminated the need for starch and the mini-iron! Just start on the edge of the outer seam and carefully use your fingertips to fold open the seam as you go. Then move inward until you get to the center seam. Flip the piece and do the same from the other side.

No photos again but this was the second time the mini iron saved this project. 

Once again I started out trying to use my standard iron but it did not allow me to maneuver among the tight seam allowances. I used the mini iron to initially tease the seams open and then once they were under submission I pressed the stew out of them with my full size iron. 

Step Seven:

Repeat folding on the seam line and sewing all the seams in the perpendicular direction as per Step Four.

The above shows a block finished in several stages for a demo.

Step Eight:

Repeat trimming the seams as per Step Five.

Step Nine:

Repeat ironing your seams as per Step Six.

Give the finished block a good starch and press, front and back. Only if desired.

I was quite happy with how flat I was able to get the piece. I wish I had a photo to share here. The seam allowances come just short of touching all the way around. It really looks cool.

Here's the block I made for the Augusta Modern Quilt Guild's banner. 

Step Ten:

Trim block to square and stay-stitch around the outside edge within the quarter-inch seam allowance if desired.

I'd love to get feedback from anyone who tries this tutorial.

Once I had my block complete I made a removable cover using Essex Linen and a red zipper. I didn't end up using the blue Kona but opted to do some simple quilting in blue in its place. The bridesmaid dresses are Navy so I wanted to emphasize the blues in the Carolyn Friedlander bits.

Thanks for visiting!

Linking up with:
Quilt Story's Fabric Tuesday (This project is one of their features this week!)


  1. That is awesome! Such teeny tiny piecing .. .it looks great!

  2. That is awesome! Such teeny tiny piecing .. .it looks great!

  3. Wow. It's a statement pillow for sure, (but not sure I'd want to deal with all those floaty pieces!) You've created a beautiful, original project here by tweaking the norm. Congratulations!


    1. Thank you. I picked up the mini iron at an estate sale a few days before tackling this project. I didn't even know if I would ever use it, much less so soon.

  4. Having seen this in person I can say it is gorgeous and so precisely put together! I am so glad to see this tutorial, when you explained it in person I lost visual imagery at step 4. This would be a GREAT program for the AMQG! Thanks for the tutorial!

    1. Thanks. Just give me the date and I'll get a presentation together.

  5. this is a great the little pillow. The linen is perfect for the borders!

  6. This pillow is so fab! I just love the colours with the contrast of the black and white. Thanks so much for the tutorial too.

  7. I love the scrappy low volume background.

  8. Nifty technique. I love the low volumes too.

  9. Excellent ! Have machine pieced 1.5" squares to make a similar heart but I think your 1" squares might just push me over the edge! Well done it looks gorgeous. Thanks for joining us at #scraptastictuesday

  10. Love this - and your extra tips for the method are very helpful. You've addressed the little, maddening problems we all face when we try a new method. I have a new Linky party for Tips and Tutorials on Tuesdays. Would you consider linking this one up to the post I did yesterday on Tuesday? The linky is open all week, and your project is so great, I'd love to see it there!

  11. Okay, this is a seriously cool technique - when I first saw all the tiny squares I clicked on your website to see if you were a crazy person to sew all those things together - yikes, But this is doable, and really cool! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Oh my! This is so impressive! You're such a dear for sharing the step-by-step! It's lovely!

  14. Wow, what an amazing process and technique this is. Thanks for sharing this tutorial!!

  15. Those are some teeny, tiny squares! I'm pinning this tut for future reference! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Such little piecing! What a wonderful little pillow.:)

  17. I am in AWE! First of all with the results. Your pixilated heart pillow is gorgeous and the precision piecing is amazing! And secondly with your awesome tutorial! Pinning this AND Bookmarking this!!!

  18. Thanks Mom! The ring bearer is going to be well equipped for his job.

    - Son #1

  19. Beautiful pillow and it will fit the bride's color scheme beautifully.

  20. A very very cute pillow - but what a fidgeting. I read the tutorial and will try it too.
    Liebe Grüße,

  21. This is an amazing idea! I would love to try something like this. You've put my wheels in motion. :)

  22. This is so delightful, in every way! Thank you for going to all the work of making a tutorial to share!

  23. Looks great! I tried this technique with 2inch squares, this is really tiny but awesome :)