Can you hear the rotary cutters slicing out there? People are cutting charms to share in the current Postage Stamp Quilt Charm Swap. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so through January 18, 2012. Click here to get the details, and to sign up!
I love including as many novelty fabrics as I can in my own Postage Stamp Quilts. Like little gems waiting to be discovered, they add a real element of delight. One quilt was for a cat-loving librarian, and I put in snippets of every cat and book-related fabric I could lay my hands on. She figures I wound up with over 100 cats in the little charms! Book fabrics were far more challenging to find, meaning there were only a handful of those included. But the quilt was also full of other novelties, from apples to zebras, and much more.
Try to include a wide range of these fun fabrics in your own charm collection. If you find you normally avoid novelties, but would like some for this project, consider buying only 1/8 of a yard piece of fabric. I have even been known to buy an individual 2.5 inch strip from sites that sell by the strip. You will have excess fabric, but may be surprised by how much of it you can use. Ask your friends for small scraps too, and share.When shopping for novelties, whether in the store or in your stash, having a previewing template can help you decide what is suitable. I made myself one that includes previews for two inch and 1.5 inch squares, simply cut from light cardboard. The trick is to remember to cut the preview window at the FINISHED charm size, not the cut size. If you are working with two-inch squares, your window will be 1.5 inches, for one inch squares, your window will be only one-half-inch. It is helpful, though, to draw the seam allowances on as well. That comes in handy later, as you fussy-cut, so you remember to layout and allow for seams.
Some novelty fabrics will yield many unique charms–for instance a zoo print might give you several different animals. The dinosaur included above was one of twelve different dinos on that fabric. Unless you are making a quilt for a kid who adores dinosaurs, you may choose to only use one or two. From this wintry bird print, I can cut cardinals and chickadees, but also some nice charms featuring pine needles.Granted, the smaller the charm you are using, the more challenging it can be to find novelties. Watch for small prints, but remember there are no rules. See the owl in the bottom row of those little charms? His entire body was on the fabric, but I cut only his head. The same cardinal shown above in a two-inch charm would preview well in a 1.5 inch charm as well.
Non-novelty fabric can surprise you sometimes too! In the set of novelty charms shown above, the green one with the brown milk-weed pod was cut from a fall floral fabric. Many florals have little bugs scattered about, you will find all sorts of novel treasures if you keep a watchful eye.
When fussy-cutting your novelty charms, take a minute to plan. You want to get as many charms as you can out of that little piece of fabric. Even the background might work, or make for great swapping pieces. With the preview window in place, I use a disappearing marker to mark the corners of the charm. Alternately, you can center the object on your ruler as you cut, for example, if cutting a two-inch charm, set the cross-hairs of the one inch marks on your ruler in the center of the object. Do not forget that you will lose the edges to seam allowance. Here is one way to fussy-cut a two inch charm:
Sometimes the design needs to be cut on the bias or off-grain to get the object in your window, and that’s fine too. You can spritz the charm with a bit of starch if you are worried about stretching it. But they are small, and these are very forgiving quilts.And I have cheated from time to time too! This lovely rectangular charm will take the space of two standard charms, I cut it at 2×3.5 inches. I simply could not cut it in half, it was delightful just as it came.
I hope you will dig through your stash with an eye for little treasures to include in your own postage stamp charms. Perhaps you will find some to share in the current charm swap as well, or one of the ones coming later this year. Happy cutting!©2012, The Curious Quilter, thecuriousquilter.net, maryeoriginals.com.