Sunday, October 28, 2012

What's not so old is new again

When things are new to you, even when they are not so new to the rest of the world, they feel new. In our rush-rush instant information internet world sometimes we feel out of it and second rate if we are not on the leading edge. That tends to take the fun out of it. Well, I'll be the first to admit that I am NOT on the bleeding edge most of the time or maybe even ever. Despite being 'out of it', I do not intend to let that stop me from enjoying the newness and exploring things that are new to me.

Here is an example of something new to me: A friend bought a bunch of books at her church's buck a book exchange fund-raiser, including several quilt books. One of the books is "One-block Wonders" by Maxine Rosenthal ( This is a very cool idea, and the quilts are beautiful. The idea is to use repeats from a large print to cut 'identical' hexagon (or octagon) triangles, and to reassemble them to make kaleidoscopes. Since each kaleidoscope is comes from a different part of the pattern, each one is different, and sometimes very surprising. While surfing the web in preparation to write this, I also ran across entries from Jan Krentz that show her 'one block wonder' quilt. 

The quilts are very complex looking and at the same time serendipitous. It looked like fun, but most of the quilts in Maxine's book are quite large, and I don't make large quilts. The size comes mainly from using a fabric with a large repeat, and then needing to cut-up and make all the possible kaleidoscopes. You end up with a lot, and then they all need to go into the quilt. Maxine's design style also suggests arranging the kaleidoscopes so that they grade into each gently (no abrupt color changes, etc), so that the edges of the individual kaleidoscopes disappear. I thought I might get a feel for the process by using a smaller repeat with lower overall contrast. I found a beautiful leafy fabric from Kona Bay with an 8"x8" repeat. I bought 2 yds (not the 4.5 yds recommended in the book), and will probably have enough left for a border.

Kona Bay fabric showing repeat
I carefully cut 6 8" wide 'width of fabric' strips to capture the repeat, used Maxine's pinning method to get all the layers (right side up) aligned exactly on the repeat motifs, and then cut 60 degree triangles. As you can see, half of an 8"x8" square (i.e. 4"x8" rectangle) yields 2 triangles, nestled together, parallelogram style.
Two triangles cut from half of an 8"x8" square

I used a pyramid ruler with the pointy tip cut-off to maximize fabric use. By cutting 8" squares and then cutting them in half vertically or horizontally, by sometimes putting the 'right-side-up' pyramid on the left and sometimes on the left, and  by sometimes skipping an inch or so before cutting the next 8" square, I got 20 different triangles. That should be enough to make a wall size piece and get a feel for this process.

16 of my kaleidoscopes in a first pass of arranging
One trick to making this quilt top is to make half-kaleidoscopes, pin the two halves so you can see how they will look, layout the top, and then sew the quilt together in strips of half-kaleidoscopes. This also gives the possibility of using leftover half blocks to fill in elsewhere.

Quilt festival starts in Houston on Monday, so I don't know how much further I will get with this for a while. I'm taking several classes, and you know how distacting that can be. More new to me stuff...