Cutting Novelty Charms for Postage Stamp Quilts

Curious Quilter Postage Stamp Quilt Charm Swap BannerCan 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.

A handful of charms cuts from novelty fabrics.

A small sampling of novelty fabrics cut in two-inch charms.

A postage stamp quilt can be very entertaining. At one large family gathering, when the children had worn out their interest in being with the adults, we started sending them to the bedroom with assignments. How many squares have bugs on them? Can you find any striped squares? Soon they were taking it upon themselves to count the purple charms, the charms with foods, and so on.

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.

Charm Preview Window Template

I carry this with when shopping for novelties.

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.

Previewing a fussy-cut bird for postage stamp quilt charm. The background makes a unique charm too. A red cardinal for fussy-cutting.

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.

Cardinal for smaller charm.

The same cardinal as above, but previewing as a smaller size charm.

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:

Fussy cut a 2 in square 1

Center the character on the one-inch crosshairs.

Fussy cut a 2 in square 2

Recenter and make the other two cuts, leaving the face centered.

Fussy cut a 2 in square 3

This will make one cute little charm in a postage stamp quilt!

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.

Special Charm view 2

A renegade rectangle is going to show up in this quilt!

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!Needle and thread line copyright The Curious Quilter at WordPress dot comSignature©2012, The Curious Quilter,,

About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
This entry was posted in PostageStamp Quilts/Charm Swaps and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Cutting Novelty Charms for Postage Stamp Quilts

  1. J. Johnson says:

    Oh, I like the “special” size charm – I would hate to cut the legs off the cute fairy!

    Great advice, thanks!

  2. Astrid says:

    Thanks for the advice! I’ll be more careful when cutting novelties from this day on! :))

  3. What a clever idea, thank you so much, now of to find some cardboard 🙂

  4. pat p. says:

    Thanks so much for so much great information and inspiration all in a few paragraphs! I’m going to keep a copy of this and I’m sure I”ll refer back to it often. Now I’ve got to go make my very own preview window! Come to think of it I think I’ll make several-Great gift idea!

  5. rutigt says:

    Thank you for that idea with the fairystamp. I´ll keep it in mind.
    Gun, Sweden

  6. Elizabeth McDonald says:

    Great post – full of ideas! Thank you!

  7. Pingback: Stamp quilts | Fotolimb

  8. noreen hartmann says:

    i wanted to make a postage stamp quilt you have been a great help thankyou .now i can use up a lot of my novelty scraps

  9. Pingback: Time for the April PSQ Charm Swap – Sign up now! | The Curious Quilter

  10. Pingback: Ready to Swap? Just Thinking About It? Read On! | The Curious Quilter

Leave a Reply to Astrid Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s