If you don't already know me, my name is Karen. I studied International Business with an unofficial minor in German. After working a few years in Germany as a productions planner/controller/analyst, I tied the knot and opted for the simpler life as a mom. I now live in southern Germany with my bi-national family close to Ulm which is between Stuttgart and Munich (or closer yet, Augsburg). I do not have the opportunity to talk too much to other Americans, since I am totally integrated into the society and don't live in a major city where other Americans live. So, I use my blog, website and Instagram account to keep my English active. I discovered my passion for "patchwork" over a decade ago and have been trying to learn every technique known in the quilting world since then; I love learning! Some of you might know me as a mini quilter, but I truly love all techniques, as well as traditional and modern quilting.
I have been posting lots of pictures lately on Instagram of a technique that I have been using on pincushions, mug rugs, and pillows that I call "sew pixel play." A lot of your have been asking how I do it. This is actually a very old technique. I am very happy to be bringing it back again, because it brings up so many new possibilities.
First, let me tell you how I learned about it... I had always seen gridded fusible fleece in the stores for sale and wondered about it. I remembered seeing a video or demonstration about adhering squares to the fleece and sewing in rows with one long seam. I couldn't really understand why someone would use this technique, because I thought this was just too time-consuming for "normal" chain piecing rows together. So this technique logically didn't fit into my repertoire. At this time, I was also participating in the Doll Quilt Monthly swap and wanted to learn more about miniature quilts. Then I found this fantastic book by Paula Doyle called Mini Mosaic Quilts. It re-explored this technique and used it for making small, miniature quilts. Since then, I have been incorporating it into my patchwork when I can break down a design into pixels or squares. For sewing on a small scale, this technique is quick and extremely accurate. Some of you may know this technique as "Quick Piece Tiny Squares" or "Using a Quilter's Grid." Since I do it usually on a small scale to get my seams perfect; I call this technique "Sew Pixel Play."
Now onto the step-by-step tutorial for making a pincushion using this technique.
You will need the following materials in addition to your basic sewing notions:
- Lightweight scraps
- Gridded fusible fleece
- or graph paper + glue stick
- or waxed paper + ruler + pencil
- Small grain for filling the pincushion + funnel
For the pincushion, I used the one-inch fusible grid. I prefer to use waxed paper and draw lines on the rough side with a regular pencil and ruler. Although this is more time consuming, it is more accurate when you crease your lines. You may also use regular paper and a glue stick. Draw your own grid at one-inch intervals or print out from EQ7. Make sure you are accurate when you crease along the lines. Use a good light source.
Cut 7/8 inch squares
- 5 white
- 5 magenta
- 5 dark green
- 4 light green
- 4 red
- 4 pink
- 4 purple-blue
- 5 single misc. colors
Cut one backing fabric 3 1/2 inches.
Cut fleece or prepare your paper to get a 6 x 6 grid. No need to worry about added seam allowance; it is already included in the one-inch squares.
Lay out your squares onto your fleece making sure you have the fusible side up! You will not be able to see the lines very well. If you are using waxed paper, your lines will be on the backside. If you are using paper/glue stick, your lines will be also be on the backside as well; you need these lines for folding and sewing later.
Fix with a warm iron. And yes, my ironing board cover looks this crappy. I go through a new one about every two months, because I am so hard on it!
Fold over the first column inward right sides together (RST). Make sure your "fold line" from the gridded fleece or paper is exactly in the middle when folding over. This is to ensure you sew an accurate line.
Take it over to your sewing machine. Reduce your stitch length. I reduced mine from 2.5 to 1.5 stitch length. This is to keep the seam together when press the seam open to reduce bulk.
Feed your sewing machine. Sew an exact scant 1/4 of an inch.
When you are finished with the first vertical column, flip your piece over front to back. Fold your next column inward matching up the line again which becomes a guide for sewing. Sew the next seam.
|Flip front to back. Fold next column inward using your line on fleece as a folding line. Sew.|
Continue sewing, flipping and creasing until all columns are finished. If you forget to flip your piece, don't worry, it will just bow to one side. ; )
This is what you get when all columns are finished.
Cut your seams open by cutting the back of the seam allowance as shown. Repeat for all columns.
Finger press and then set all seam allowances OPEN with a hot iron with the steam off. Sorry about that ironing board again. It really looks used up!
Now lets work on those rows.
Fold your first row inward RST, making sure you see the "fold line."
Sew using your fold line as a guide. Pull your piece slightly taut as you sew.
I find it easier to keep the rows straight by lining up the outer edges and pinning in place a couple of times. Flip and repeat sewing as you did in the columns.
This is what it looks like when you finish all rows.
Now it's time to cut open the seams for the rows.
Press all of the seams open. Press the hell out of the front so it lays flat. Leave all paper and fleece inside. Do not attempt to tear it out. It won't hurt the pincushion but only stabilize it more. Square up and trim to 3 1/2 inches or whatever you get. (Mine measured 3 1/4 inches in the end.)
Trim backing fabric to the same size.
Lay Front on the backing fabric, RST. Sew around pincushion leaving an opening for flipping. Backstitch at start and stopping points.
Trim the corners and flip right side out. Use a pair of scissors to get the points sharp.
Thread a hand stitching needle with thread matching the backing fabric. Start to stitch the opening closed using a blindstitch. Stitch half of the opening closed. Carefully fill the pincushion using the funnel and cornmeal or other grain; shake some grain into the pincushion shaking it down and pushing into the corners with the small funnel. (I used polenta or cornmeal.) Continue sewing the opening shut and adding more grain until the pin cushion is nice and plump.
It is now finished! The possibilities of this technique are endless I look forward to seeing what you make with it. Please share with us all using the hashtag #sewpixelplay.
I hope you enjoyed this Sew Pixel Play Tutorial.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. You can always email me directly. Thanks for stopping by!
thank you Karen! ❤️ that seems to be fun to make :0)ReplyDelete
have a great day und liebe Grüße
sure a perfect way to get exact squares. Thank you for showing.
thank you Karen what a great tutorialReplyDelete
After seeing your tutorial, it clicks now. I even saw this at a quilt show vending booth as they were selling the quilted grids. Check out Whims Watercolor Quilts online. They use the same technique to create a background for applique. However I really like your small scale and can see the possibilities with this. Thanks for the tutorial. I am going to try this!ReplyDelete
Excellent tutorial, Karen! I love using this method for small squares. Everything comes out perfect!ReplyDelete
thanks for the tutorial not seen this method before but can see for such small pieces it works very wellReplyDelete
What a great little tutorial! So, freezer paper makes it into my suitcase every trip back home, but where in the world do you get the gridded fusible fleece here? Your pillow on IG was just absolutely amazing. Really has me thinking about an in between distraction!ReplyDelete
A wonderful tutorial! I made a little mini quilt years ago using this method with gridded fusible fleece... Already forgot about it :-)ReplyDelete
Thank you for the tutorial. That´s a great idea to make blocks tiny and precise. That would be a great to thing to swap at our bee meeting ;)We all bring one and then we have a lottery...ReplyDelete
Thank you for this tutorial! I didn't remember this nice technique at all. Really cute pin cushion :)ReplyDelete
This looks like fiddle fun! I can't wait to try it! How sweet of you to take the time to do up such a great tutorial! XOReplyDelete
das probiere ich aus - Freezer Papier habe ich und Stoffreste auch... Super vielen Dank!!
I love this method also, I like to do two at a time so then you can chain piece them. So much fun and great tute!ReplyDelete
Ok! My grid is prepared! I'll choose my fabric and cut the little one inch squares while I work today! I'm so excited to give this a try. XOReplyDelete
Oh, Karen, what fun! And it didn't take any time at all! Abet I can't make just one! Thanks so much! XOReplyDelete
I tried this once and was a little off with square placement hit it didn't really matter in the end. Pretty fun when you get to the end and its soooo much smaller! LOL! As I was reading the supply list I was glad to see a picture cuz I couldn't figure how you used the "rough" side of "wax" paper, then saw the pic of freezer paper! 😆😆😆ReplyDelete
Revisiting this tutorial again, and this time, might not be able to stop at just one! XOReplyDelete