What Shapes Tesselate?

In addition to the practical way of designing tessellations presented last week by Jean Larson, there is a whole field of mathematical theory and practice related to tessellations.  I loved geometry in high school, but the theoretical stuff quickly gets beyond me.  Here is a summary of more practical implications.

A shape is said to tessellate if it can cover a plane without gaps, extending to infinity in all directions.

The regular polygons that will tesselate are:

  • Triangles.  All triangles will tessellate.
  • Quadrilaterals (4-sided shapes) all tessellate, and all can be divided into triangles, just by drawing from corner to corner.
  • Hexagons (regular hexagons) will tessellate, as we know well from English paper piecing.

From there it gets complicated as to which figures will tessellate and which will not, but to go on with practical information:

It’s perfectly OK to draw lines inside your tessellating shapes, which may mean they don’t all look alike anymore.  An excellent example is this pattern by Alison Glass.  The design is composed entirely of equilateral triangles, all the same size, BUT she has drawn lines within some of the triangles to create secondary designs.

Illustration from AlisonGlass.com

It’s OK to use more than one shape to cover a surface, or more than one size of the same shape, as long as the whole pattern can be continued to infinity.  (Who knew?)  Here’s are examples, drawn in EQ8:

This tessellating design is composed of squares of 2 different sizes

This tessellating design is composed of 2 different shapes.

Many of our traditional quilt patterns are actually tessellating designs.  The second example above is just a recoloring of Tumbling Blocks.

There are many, many ways to create tessellating designs, and I’ll direct you to some additional resources next week.  Meanwhile, one of my favorite easy ways to create tessellating designs is something called “pattern blocks“.  The link takes you to a fun site where you can develop patterns consisting of one or more shapes.  This works because the angles of all the pieces are either 30, 60, 90, or 120 degrees.  I just love that the site is intended for kids–it’s all I can do to wrap my head around it!  And I have no idea how to tell which combinations will tessellate except to try.  Here’s one I made on the site that I think will tessellate:

And FYI, the MQG published a brief article on tessellations back in January.  Access it here.  You’ll have to log in with your usual password first.

Next week: more resources to help you create tessellating designs.

Tessellations again!

In a moment of madness, I agreed to do a program on tessellations for my MQG in Greensboro.  I’ll be posting the same information here so we can all share it and so that these blogs can serve as “handouts” for my presentation.  To start, here’s a blog written by my friend Jean Larson, who has designed and made several award-winning tessellation quilts.  To view some of Jean’s quilts, click HERE.  –MJP

Tessellating designs make me happy.  Tweaking those designs is even more fun.   I want to share the joy of starting with a very, very simple design and watching it blossom.  

Start with a simple gridded block and create a light/dark design.  Here, I’ve started with a 3 x 3 grid.  Then re-color the same block with the lights and darks reversed

.The grid lines are only for design purposes, and each block can be constructed with a single square block with 2 corner triangles attached using any method you prefer.

Here are some design possibilities…Quilt_1A simple “cat head” quilt using only 2 colors.

Different looks can be achieved with variations in the color placement.

Blocks can be inverted and turned for even more quilt designs.

Just imagine all the possibilities with color in these!!!!!

It’s even more complex when you design with a 6×6 grid.  Here are the positive and negative versions of another block.

These blocks can be constructed using half-square triangles integrated with larger fabric pieces.  If these blocks were to finish at 6 inches by 6 inches.  The center column on each block would be a single 3.5 inch wide by 6.5 in long piece of fabric.  The side strips would include some half-square triangles.

A couple of the quilts that can be made:

Looks like spools, some gray, some white, all standing up.  Same quilt with alternate blocks turned a quarter turn yields a different  clearly recognizable tessellation.  Reminds me of tessellating doggie rawhide chews 😉

Now back to the spool quilt from above.  The “thread” areas have been colored in.  No blocks have been turned.

Jean spool 5This shows the power of color and value (lightness and darkness).   The colored part, being next to the gray and being closer in value to the gray, unites those parts of the block, and gives the illusion that we have all gray spools on a white background, some standing up, some lying down.

I hope these examples can be the seeds to sprout some design experimentation with tessellating shapes.

  1. Start with 2 square grids
  2. Create a positive design, and its negative design
  3. Alternate them in a quilt layout
  4. PLAY!
  5. And play more with color!

Happy Quilting (and Designing)!!   –Jean Larson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tula Update

After finishing the first 100 Tula blocks, I tried out various layouts using EQ8. There are, of course, multiple layout options in the book, but I wanted MANY options. Also, I wanted a queen sized quilt for the bed in our new house, which will be finished some time.

I searched the internet and found a number of ideas.  Here are the options I drew in EQ8, obviously with EQ’s standard blocks instead of my Tula blocks.  It’s so easy to audition various layouts with EQ that I just played for a while.

And here is a start on the layout I selected.

I love this layout, but it’s turning out to be a bear to piece!

I decided to assemble the quilt top in 4 quadrants then join them to avoid those loooong rows that would have to be assembled if I did the whole thing a row at a time.

Here’s a start on the first quadrant, shown on the makeshift design wall:

It will be done some time, maybe before the house is done and maybe not!  A race, perhaps?

More Exercise and a Swap Top

After laying out the blocks for my second swap quilt on the living room floor, I had to move them to the spare bedroom upstairs to make room for people to walk.  (Some people just don’t understand that it’s a design floor, not a walkway!)

That led to more trips up and down stairs as I sewed the blocks into rows and returned each row to the layout so as to keep them in order.  That’s where the exercise came in 😀

Finally I added borders, so here’s the finished top (twin size), ready to go to the quilter.  (Are you reading this, Julia?)

This is the second quilt made from blocks I’ve swapped with friends when we couldn’t get together to quilt due to you-know-what.

What have you been up to lately?

Extra Tula Blocks

Tula Pink is clear in the intro to her City Sampler book that users should modify or skip blocks as desired.  I’m not a big fan of tiny blocks with many, many pieces, so I’ve skipped some of hers and invented my own as well as modified some of hers.  Here are a few of mine, just in case you want some alternatives, too.

These are slight modifications of her designs:

And here are some that I made just for the sake of using novelty fabric:

Here are a couple I made from other patterns:

Finally, here are some I made improvisationally, mostly from scraps left from the other blocks:

 

Show me yours?

A New Toy!

Photo courtesy of Electric Quilt

I’m a fan of Electric Quilt (EQ) software, having used it for many years. It allows me to design my own blocks and quilts, try out layouts and color combinations, and print yardage requirements. And star blocks of all sorts are just about my favorites, so when I saw recently that EQ has a new add-on featuring star quilts, I was sold!

The “Star Power” add-on is based on an out-of-print book by Judy Martin. I’m not sure how I missed this book, but I do not own it. (Are you hearing another excuse to buy the add-on?) The add-on includes all the blocks AND quilt designs from the book. Once the add-on is part of your own EQ you can edit the blocks and quilt designs or make your own quilt designs using Judy’s blocks.

The add-on includes many beautiful star blocks.  (In fairness, the basic EQ program has a lot of star blocks as well.)  I gravitated immediately to Judy’s collection of “simple stars” because I’ve never made stars like this!  Here’s an example, exported from EQ (with a few color changes by me, of course).

Block by Judy Martin, modified in EQ8 by me

And once I’d seen those blocks, I integrated them with a chain block that came standard with my EQ8 software, changed colors a few times, added some borders, and generally fooled around with it until I had this:

Quilt design in EQ8 by me; star blocks designed by Judy Martin; chain block is part of EQ8 block library

The add-on includes a number of stunning designs by Judy, most of them more dramatic than my simple design. Here’s an example:

Example courtesy of Electric Quilt

I’m looking forward to making more star designs in EQ8 and then some quilts from those designs! 

Do you use EQ?  Other design software?  I’d be interested to know.

Please note:  This post is NOT sponsored by EQ; I choose products to review for this blog based solely on my own opinion.

 

I’m In, But…

The “My Favorite Color is Moda Sampler” came to my attention because Studio Stitch is offering it as a block of the month this year.

At the same time, I decided to abandon my temperature quilt, which left a lot of solid color yardage to be re-purposed.

Voila!  I went to Studio Stitch and got the pattern booklet to re-purpose the temperature quilt fabrics!   Of course I don’t follow directions, so I re-drafted Block 1 to change the color scheme and construction methods.

My re-drafted block is constructed as a medallion rather than as the complex 9-patch construction in the Moda booklet.  It’s neither better nor worse, but presents different challenges.  Here are a few tips for having all those points “come out right”:

  1.  Of course you already have cut carefully and obtained a uniform scant 1/4″ seam allowance.  Alas, that isn’t enough!
  2. Where points come together, lay the blocks right sides together (RST) as they will be stitched and stick a pin straight through at the point where two fabrics interesect on block 1 and into the point where fabrics intersect in block 2 in order to match up these points.  Keep the pin vertical while you insert pins on either side of it to hold the blocks in place.  Then remove the vertical pin.
  3. Baste part of the seam, starting about 1″ before the intersection and ending about 1″ after the intersection.  I just use the longest stitch on my machine for this.  Gently open the seam and check the points.  If the match is perfect, return to regular stitch length and stitch the whole seam.  If it’s not perfect, just remove the basting and try again.
  4. When joining rows where multiple points need to match up, do steps 2 and 3 for each of the points!  If one side is a little too long between points, stitch with that side down and the feed dogs will take up the slack.
  5. Set your own standard for what constitutes a perfect match!  If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for anybody else!

    My personal standard is “if it’s less than 1/16th inch off, leave it alone! I can see the slight mis-match in the upper left, but really, who cares?

Have fun!

And a big THANK YOU to folks who made suggestions for how I can re-purpose the strips I’ve already made for the temperature quilt.  I almost threw them out!  Now I have some nice ideas on what to do with them.  To be continued.

Design Floor/Exercise Tool

Sitting quietly,
doing nothing, spring comes
and the grass grows by itself.
–Basho

OK, it’s not exactly quilting, but this is one of my favorite haiku, and we certainly need spring. Enough said.

On to quilting…

We’re presently in transitional housing while our new home is being built, and I’m putting nothing on the walls. Here are a couple of improvised design wall alternatives as well as a report on the progress of a couple of quilts.

The Temperature Quilt

I love the idea of a temperature quilt and started this one early in 2020.  Then we got going on the new house and my attention was elsewhere for several months.  Finally I got back to the temperature quilt and hung the first 6 strips (January-June) on my improvised design wall.  FYI, this beige flannel backing fabric (108″ wide) makes a great design wall when hung over the stair rail.

Unfortunately, I found it tedious and not every interesting to carefully transcribe temperatures to colors and arrange them in order.  Therefore, this quilt has been abandoned.  I have no idea what I’ll do with these strips, but the remaining yardage has been repurposed already 😀

The 9″ Swap Blocks

One of my quilt groups has been exchanging swap blocks each month and we now have more than enough for a quilt or two.  Here’s a layout for my first quilt, shown on the design floor.

The design floor has been a feature of several of our houses.  As long as there’s a loft  on the second floor that overlooks the first floor (usually the living room) I can get both a design floor and an exercise plan.  Here’s how it works:

Lay out blocks on floor

Run up the stairs and look down to evaluate the layout

Run down and move some blocks

Run up and re-evaluate

Run down and move some blocks

Repeat, repeat, repeat…

So you see, having a design floor is a great exercise tool 😀

And here’s the quilt top sewn together:

Anyone else have quilting exercise programs to suggest? 😀

Bad*ss Women!

One of the fun books I’ve received from C&T recently contains transfers to be used for either embroidery or painting.  The title is Bad*ss Women and it includes a variety of prominent women both contemporary and historical.  Here are a few of them (photos courtesy of C&T).  You can click on each one to see it better.

A friend and her granddaughter are making a quilt from these transfers, painting the pictures with fabric pens. I love this idea and would be doing the same if I had a granddaughter.  I was very pleased to see Nancy Pelosi included.  I would have included Mother Theresa, but perhaps the author (or editor) thought calling her a Badass Woman would have been disrespectful.  Anyway, I just love the idea of traditionally female fiber arts celebrating prominent women.

C&T has similar books with transfers of pets (Domestic Divas) and plants (Urban Jungle) as well, but the Bad*ss Women are my favorite!

More Donation Quilts

Before I show the latest group of donation quilts, I want to say how happy I am that my long-time blogging friend Melanie has started posting again.  She’s an expert in medallion quilts and does beautiful work, so you may want to check her out here.

These quilts are going to Ronald McDonald House, so here’s a last look at them before they go.  

improvisationally pieced quilt

“In Fairyland”, original design, 2013.  53″ x 67″.  I like it, but it’s never been used, so off it goes.

 

Serendipity I”, 2020, 51″ x 61″. Pattern is from Love Jelly Roll Quilts.

 

Black and floral quilt

Unnamed, 55″ x 69″, 2011.  Made to use some of my huge stash of florals, but never used.

Kaffe Leftovers, 48″ x 60″, 2020.

I designed “Spring Sun” using piecing papers from a Judy Niemeyer pattern, 2012-2014.   It was juried into an AQS show but has never been used, so it’s time to donate it.

“Elizabeth’s Village”, 40″ x 40″.  Center design is by my friend Elizabeth and pattern is available in her Payhip store. I added borders so it would finish crib size, 2020.

“Baby Stars”, 45″ x 45″, 2019.  Pattern is “Lucky Stars” by Atkinson Designs.

Star Swap Quilt, original design, 2019. 40″ x 40″.

I hope the families at Ronald McDonald House get enjoyment and comfort from these quilts.  They were just stored in a closet here, so they need to be used.