Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Patterns: A Rant

The Basic Technique
Before I go on any rants, I should explain how I make my quilts.

I wrote a computer program in Excel to generate the quilt patterns. It takes 3D shapes, rotates them, calculates the shading, and breaks them out into patterns. I should also confess that I have no life and enjoy math a bit more than I should.

I then stiffen fabric with freezer paper, and print the pattern onto the fabric using my inkjet printer. I cut the pieces out, and sew them together using a combination of machine and hand piecing depending on my travel schedule, the difficulty of the pattern, and what kind of mood I'm in.

I always quilt by machine. I can't make a quilter's knot, no matter how hard I try.

Some Notes on Patterns

I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to generate a pattern (note that I have never claimed to have a life...). This is the system that I have come up with:

the bias: I have read a lot of opinions about how to deal with the bias of the fabric, and the conclusion seems to be "don't". Obviously that doesn't actually work. Hence, I rotate my pieces so that the longest side is along the grain.

cross-hairs: I don't know if I can call my corners cross-hairs. I mark the corners and the mid-point of every side with a line that is perpendicular to its side. That makes it easier to check that the sides line up properly.

sewing lines: I like sewing lines. I think mine are a bit thick as it stands, and I am testing out how thin I can make them before I miss them...

numbering: The piece number is repeated in each corner. The neighbouring piece is indicated on the mid-point line. This system makes it really easy to put everything together. I can't bring myself to use any other system any more.

Admittedly, my algorithm for finding adjacent pieces still has a couple of bugs, so sometimes it doesn't find the neighbours. Work is ongoing.

corners: Obviously, my pieces are irregular sizes. Sometimes I end up with sharp corners. They can be really annoying when adding 1/4" edge, so I cut them off.

wasted fabric: it happens. I am never going to be as efficient as Linda Franz, due to the nature of the shapes I make.

wasted ink: considering all the money I spend on fabric, gadgets, books, etc, I refuse to worry about spending some money on inkjet ink. That said, I get my cartridges refilled, which saves a lot of money.

Soon I will get together a pattern that I am brave enough to share.



  1. I'm really surprised to hear you piece by machine. Somehow I thought with all those angles and such you did it by hand. Also, knowing it's more difficult to do some of those odd angles by machine, I must take my hat off to your sewing skills. :-) You might not have a life, but you sure have some astounding skills! :-)

  2. I usually do the easy angles by machine, and then follow-up with the difficult ones by hand. If you look at the "ring" quilt in the first post, I did the inside of the ring, the ring itself and then the purple outside of the ring by machine, and then joined the three parts by hand.

    But thanks for the compliment!

  3. If you ever get to where you want someone to "test" your designs, let me know! I'll give them a whirl! :-)

  4. I will definitely keep that in mind!