Tutorial: Patchwork Mini Hoop
Last week I had this crazy idea. A fresh load of shiny new fabric arrived on my front door and I guess the patchwork virus got me. Patchwork is not my strong suit. I ALWAYS manage to confuse something and end up cutting seams that should not hold together the pieces I just attached to one another. But – just take a moment and imagine a quilt or patchwork thing you have, shrink it in size and put it in a mini hoop – just for a moment – isn’t it adorable? Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Also, tiny things always look good even if you screw up something (which I did – it’s me and patchwork, but we did fine this time, I did not scream … as loud). So the idea of a patchwork mini hoop was born!
On Instagram, I asked if you would enjoy a tutorial on how to make a mini patchwork hoop and there was an overwhelming ‘yes’. So, let’s dive into the patchwork creation mode. If you decide to make your own patchwork mini hoop, make sure to tag it with #pwminihoop so I can see it!
How difficult is it?
To sew the patchwork mini hoops you can sew by hand or with a sewing machine. I highly recommend using a sewing machine, as there are many tiny seams to do making it quite a lot of work to start and end the thread by hand. Especially with the lone star pattern, using the sewing machine is way easier and faster. For the brick and 3 stripes, pattern hand stitching is no problem.
If you are a beginner: the 3 stripes version is the easiest of all. You don’t need much experience with sewing for this.
The brick pattern is a little bit trickier to do but is totally doable for a beginner.
Regarding the lone star pattern: it actually is not very difficult to do, but sewing at such a small scale is challenging with this pattern. If you are a total beginner, I would advise you to try the brick pattern first to get the hang of it.
Which fabric should you use?
Keep in mind that the hoop you are going to fill is very small. With all the seams on the side (especially with the lone star pattern) there are many layers of fabric to push in that small embroidery hoop. Because of this use a thin, untextured fabric like quilting cotton. Otherwise, it will be very tough to get all the seam allowances down and into the hoop.
Fabrics that fray a lot are problematic, too. The seam allowance is very thin, so everytime major fraying occurs it can loosen your seam.
I have used fat quarters of Kona Cotton by Robert Kaufman for the patchwork mini hoops in this post. Colors are peapod, ultramarine & pool.
- sewing machine or sewing needle
- rotary fabric cutter + cutting ruler
- fabric scissors
The Mini Hoop
If you would like to use something different here is a list of shops with unusual mini hoops.
How to make the patchwork mini hoop
Cutting & sewing the strips
For all three patterns cut out strips of fabric measuring 0.5inch/1.25cm in width. The length of a fat quarter (22inch/56cm) is enough for all three patterns together.
Sew the strips together following the order of color you see below with a very small seam allowance of 0.15-0.2inch/4-5mm. Iron all strips after sewing from the back and press the seam allowance open. As stated above, this step is necessary to prevent bulking layers later.
Below is a graphic to show you how to cut the fabric strips then. The measurements display the widths to cut.
Project #1: The 3 stripes pattern
This is the simplest one of all three. Take the square piece of sewn strips and put it into your embroidery hoop (scroll to the bottom to see how to finish the hoop). That’s it. Yup. I told you it was going to be the easiest.
Project #2: The brick pattern
For this pattern, you will sew a little bit more.
- Sew together two of your square strips facing in different directions like in the picture below.
- Repeat this with the other 2 squares.
- Iron the seam allowances open or finger press them.
- Sew together the 2 pieces so that they meet the complementary ‘brick’ on the other side.
- Iron the seam allowances open or finger press them.
Project #3: The lone star pattern
Ok, now things will become a little bit more challenging, but you can do it! The most important thing with this pattern is to iron the seam allowances flat. Yes. This is the most precious advice I can give you on this. Either use your iron or finger press (meaning, use your fingers to press on the seam for a couple of seconds, then go to the next spot on the seam) if you don’t have an iron at home.
The reason pressing the seams is so important is the following: The pattern is really small and has a lot of seams. The seam allowances will bulk up if you sew over them without separating them in individual layers on each side. This will result in a wonky patchwork in the front and makes it harder for you to get it into the hoop later. So please do yourself a favor and press it.
The lone star pattern consists of 8 rectangular shapes. Each shape consists of 3 pieces that are sewn from the 3 strips of fabric we put together in the cutting and sewing step before. Assemble 2×4 of those bigger rectangle like in the picture below. If you want your star in the middle of the pattern to be one color instead of two, make 8 of the color you want instead of 4 of 2 colors. The pointy end will define the color of your star.
Step 1: sewing the rectangles
To sew the individual pieces together there is one thing to be aware of: Don’t lay the 2 pieces on top of each other in a way, that the fabric edges meet exactly. You can see in the picture below, what happens if you do this. The thing is, if you do it the way how it’s shown on the left the stripes line up at the edge – not where the new seam is made. I made this mistake myself – told you, me and patchwork – so I can tell you now how to do it differently.
Instead, line up the pieces to meet where the stripes would meet. This means you have to put the top layer a little bit lower, than the bottom layer. I would say it’s about the same amount of space you use as seam allowance. To double check, press the two pieces between your fingers and open on the left side to see if the stripes line up.
This is the trickiest part of this pattern and let me say: you will most probably not make them line up perfectly for every single seam. And that is ok. It is difficult enough to get things perfect for the large version of this pattern, but at this tiny scale it really is difficult to get it perfect. So instead of ripping your hair out or getting angry when the stripes decide to move a bit further up or down, take a deep breath and let it be this way.
Look closely at my star! There are so many mistakes and wonkiness going on! Try to remember this: nobody will take out a magnifying glass and criticise this 2inch hoop you have hanging around your neck, because it looks great anyways. So let’s move on to the next step!
Step 2: assembling the star
In this step you can sew together the 8 rectangles from the previous step. Remember to align the stripes where the seams are, not at the edge (like in the previous step). First, sew two rectangles together that have different colors at the point (if you want to make it like the one below). Repeat for the other 6 rectangles.
Then sew together two of the new and bigger rectangles. Repeat for the other two pieces. Now you have two halfs of a star. Make sure to line up the middles of both halfs first, then line up the other lines. Getting the middle right is the most important thing visually. If the other segments don’t meet perfectly, it’s ok. You can see below, that my star is not nearly perfect. But because the center star is meeting in the middle, it’s not visually distracting. That’s if you don’t stare at it way too long of course.
Get the patchwork in the hoop
The 3 stripes and the brick pattern should cause no problems with getting it dressed into the hoop. However, the lone star piece has a lot of layers because of the many seams. This can make it too thick to fit into the hoop. This was the case with my 2” mini hoop by Dandelyne. It fits in, but I can’t put in the screw because it’s too long, also it was a pain to get the fabric in there. At some point I thought the outer ring could break – it didn’t.
I thought very hard about it, because I don’t want you to break your hoops or buy longer screws because of my tutorial. Here is my workaround:
Option A: get out your sanding paper and reduce the circumference of the wooden plate to make more room for your fabric. This takes a while depending on how much space you need.
Option B: use some sturdy cardboard – or 2/3/4 layers of cardboard glued together – and cut a circle in the size you need to fit in the fabric and use it instead of the wooden one that comes with the hoop.
Finish the hoop
Here is a brilliant video made by Sonia of Dandelyne showing you how to finish her mini hoops. Click this link if the video doesn’t show up below.
Now it’s your turn!
Try one or two patterns and remember to tag it with #pwminihoop so I can see it!
What patchwork pattern will you try first? Is there a patchwork/quilt block pattern you would like to sew other than the ones shown here? Share your thoughts in the comments!