Last week I told you about my trip to Costa Rica and showed some photos of the decorative ox cart wheels that are an important part of the culture. It might be difficult, at first glance, to look at these awesome designs and figure out how to adapt them for use in a quilt. This week I want to show you images of more wheels and tell you how you can create your own design using some of the techniques that the artisans of Costa Rica use.
Each wheel is divided into 16 wedges. The design is painted onto the wedge and that motif is repeated 15 more times to complete the decorative wheel. Each artist makes their own design, all similar in style but unique to the artist. Notice the wheel shown here. The white lines indicate one of the 16 wedges.
1. This particular design has six circles. Other designs might have more or less. The distance between the circles is arbitrary, according to the artist’s whim. Start with 32 spokes and draw the first part of the design.
2. Increase the spokes to 64 and draw the remaining portions of the design.
3. Make 16 identical wedges to complete the design.
Look at these additional photos of ox cart wheels and see if you can find the “wedge”
The thimble has become an indispensable sewing tool to me through the years although that wasn’t always so. I never remember learning to sew. I’ve been doing it all my life. As a child, I never used a thimble. In fact, as an adult, I pieced my first quilt top without one. That all changed one day when the eye end of a needle went through my finger. (If you have ever done this, you know how much it hurts.) Ever since then, I have worn a thimble to protect my finger from the eye-end of the needle. Wearing one has become so natural to me that I often don’t realize I have it on. I will never forget finding a “lost” thimble in the freezer. I must have forgotten I was wearing it and it fell off when I was preparing dinner.
Finding the perfect thimble is like finding the perfect pair of shoes. What fits for one may not be right for another. Sometimes the hunt is brief but sometimes it seems to take forever to find a good fit. Here, then, are some things to consider when you are on the hunt for your perfect thimble.
Which finger do you use? Most use the middle finger of their dominant hand. Others use their thumb which requires a totally different type of thimble. The motion of your finger and whether you are piecing or quilting also affects your choice. Do you push with the tip of your finger or the side?
Are your fingernails long? If so, you will probably opt for an open thimble over a closed one.
Thimbles are made with a wide variety of materials. Metal, plastic, leather, rubber and even porcelain are popular. Some cause fingers to sweat and some wear out quickly. There are even pads which stick on your finger. Of course, different materials have different costs which is also a consideration.
How do you find the right fit? It’s a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You want a thimble which is not too tight, not too loose. Put the thimble on your finger, hold your hand down at your side, move your hand around a little. The tip of your finger should rest gently at the top and the base should fit comfortably on the sides of the finger with no pinching. The thimble should stay on but be comfortable enough that you don’t really notice it is there. (Remember the freezer story?)
Also, at different times of the year you may need to change sizes. We have many customers who use two different sizes of thimbles—a larger in summer when fingers swell and a smaller size for cold winter months.
It seems like a lot of fuss over a humble little thimble, doesn’t it? But if you wear one for hours and hours, you will soon realize how important it is. As with so many of our quilting tools, it may take a lot of trial and error before you find what works for you. Next time, I’ll talk about the thimble I use and love.
Through social media such as Facebook and this blog, I have had the opportunity to be in touch with so many quilters around the world. Many of you have recently discovered our website and the techniques I’ve been teaching for years. I’m very excited that through this blog I’ve been able to share my methods of quiltmaking with you. This week, I would like to cover a basic topic, one which you will find in most of my quilts, namely, border prints.
I started quiltmaking when I lived in India and was using Indian fabrics exclusively. Most Indian fabrics have some type of border print and I loved using them. However, when I returned to the United States, few could be found. When I started designing fabrics, I made sure that each collection and my quilt designs incorporated these border prints.
What is a border print?
When you look at my border prints, each one has a wide and narrow stripe. To make the best use of each of these stripes, I put a one-half inch area between them. When you cut down the middle of this area, you will have a perfect one-quarter inch seam allowance on each side of your stripes.
All of my border prints also have at least four repeats of the stripes across the width of the fabric. This allows for at least one stripe to go around each side of your quilt. To estimate the yardage necessary for your quilt, just measure the longest side of your quilt and add 18” for mitering and centering the design.
The designs also always mirror-image meaning that each side of the design is identical to the other but reversed as in looking in a mirror. Some are vertically imaged motifs (single) and some are both vertically and horizontally mirrored (double).
Of course, I don’t believe in limiting the use of these borders to simply framing a quilt. In future blogs, I hope to open your eyes to the endless possibilities I’ve discovered in using these wonderful designs. In the mean time, go to www.jinnybeyer.com and look at the images of the border prints themselves. When you click on each image, you will be given the number of repeats and the width of each stripe.
It’s been quite busy here at the Studio. Even though two new lines of fabrics have just come out, I’ve been working on several new collections for the coming year. I’ve been designing new projects to go along with all of this fabric. I’ve been traveling. And, I’ve been sewing.
I’ve had a so much fun piecing my latest design, a quilt for our annual shop hop, Quilters’ Quest, coming in November. If you read our September newsletter, you saw a little peak at it. Here is a little bit more. I should be able to show the quilt with some of the appliqué background in the next couple of weeks.
This Lone Star quilt will combine piecing and appliqué. I first started doing this about 20 years ago with soft-edge piecing.
For another Quest a few years ago, the Midnight Garden quilt and tote combined beautiful appliqué created by staff member Diane Kirkhart along with my central pieced design.
The introduction of new appliqué tools to the market inspired me to create another quilt combining piecing and appliqué. The color palette for this year’s Quest is made up of vibrant jewel tones and I’ve used these colors to create my Lone Star. In what is normally just empty background around the star, I’m adding elegant vines and flowers. I’ve had the most wonderful time working on this project, always looking forward to the opportunities when I could sit down and sew.
We have recently started carrying Apliquick tools. I’ll admit that I tend to stick with methods I’ve used for years but I do find these products really do simplify the process, making it much easier to achieve success. We have an introduction to these tools under our “Tips and Lessons” tab.
The pattern for this quilt will be available during the Quest for free. You get a free pattern from each participating shop during this 10-day period.
Maybe more than the design process, I’ve simply been enjoying the sewing. In my Quiltmaking by Hand book, I quote Rose Wider Lane from The Woman’s Day Book of American Needlework, 1964: “Then you thread a needle and settle comfortably in your chair. The needle runs easily back and forth through soft cloth while nerves relax and useless worries fade away.” So when life seems a little hectic, I’m just going to enjoy my stitching every chance I get.
Often on our Facebook page, we show pictures of quilts our customers have made using my fabrics and, inevitably, someone will ask if there is a pattern for it. Of course, we are more than happy to provide them with a pattern if it is one we carry or send them to another source, but sometimes we just don’t know. What, then, is a quilter to do if she falls in love with a block but can find no pattern? You can draft it yourself. Really, you can do it. It is not hard at all.
I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I figured out years ago that most square patchwork designs were based on a grid such as a 2 x 2, 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 5 x 5, etc.
Through the years, I’ve written several books on patterns and drafting with my most recent and comprehensive being, “Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns,” which has over 4000 pieced block patterns. It gives quilters a way to recreate each and every block in quilts of their own without all of the complicated math. (Don’t spread this around, but I really don’t like math.) All you have to do is look up the name of the block and see what grid is used.
Now, here is something that even people who have owned the book for a while sometimes don’t notice. Hidden in the back cover, under the jacket flap, are two plastic sheets full of grids. (Be sure to pull off the protective film.) Find the corresponding grid on the plastic sheet, place it over the design, and…..viola! You can see which lines of the grid to connect to draw the design.
What do you do if you don’t own the book or don’t have it with you when you need it? I learned a valuable tip from a fellow passenger on an airplane years ago. Go to my “Tips & Lessons” page and click on “Drafting Quilt Blocks” for this easy technique.
*If you want to receive our free block-of-the-month patterns sign up for our monthly newsletter.
A few blog posts ago, when I talked about the Golden Ratio, (1 to 1.618 or .618 to 1) there were several questions about how the golden ratio relates to the Fibonacci number sequence.
Leonardo Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician (c. 1170-1250) who devised a number sequence where the relationship of one number to the next or previous one provided perfect proportions. Mathematicians and artisans have been using this number sequence ever since. Some quilters use these numbers to plan proportion for their designs.
Fibonacci’s number sequence goes like this:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, etc.
Can you see how the numbers are determined? Here’s how the sequence works. Start by adding our first two numbers: 0+1=1. Go to the second and third numbers, 1+1=2, then 1+2=3 and so on. Each successive number is the sum of the previous two numbers. You can select any number in the sequence. It is always the sum of the previous two numbers. For example 21 is obtained by adding 8 and 13.
But in actual fact, this is virtually the same as the Golden Ratio. As the numbers get higher the relationship between two adjacent ones approximates the golden ratio. In fact from the 10th number on, you will get a value of almost 1.618 or .618 every time!
The rectangles and spirals shown here, illustrate exactly how the Golden Ratio relates to the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.
Fibonacci begins with two squares, (1,1,) another is added the size of the width of the two (2) and another is added the width of the 1 and 2 (3). As more squares are added the ratio of the last two comes closer each time to the Golden Proportion (1.618 or .618). Put quarter circles in each of the squares to get the Fibonacci Spiral.
The Golden Spiral begins with a square and a rectangle is added whose width is .618 of the first square. Another square is added that is the width of the first square and rectangle (1.618) This proportion continues so that all the relationships are either .618 or 1.618. Once again the spiral is achieved when quarter circles are drawn in each of the squares.
Comparison of the two spirals:
An overlay of the two spirals shows that at the beginning they do not match up but as Fibonacci’s numbers grow the two spirals are virtually the same. The Golden Gauge Calipers show that the spiral is in perfect Golden Ratio proportions, 1 to 1.618!
All of this fascinates me. And I discovered that you can do the same type of number sequence starting with a different number. For example, we can call this one “Jinny’s Sequence”.
3, 3, 6, 9, 15, 24, 39, 63, 102, 165, etc.
Once again, by the time you get to the 10th number, and divide the 10th by the 9th you get very close to the Golden Ratio….1.6176
It seems to come out this way no matter which number you start with. So you may be asking yourself, do quilters really use this? My quilt, DaVinci was something of an ode to the proportion with the strip widths determined by this mathematical ratio. I am a huge fan of the work of Caryl Bryer Fallert, who has created an entire Fibonacci series of quilts. Why don’t you give it a try?
If you find all this fascinating check out the previous blog posts on the Golden Ratio.
How many of you have never played around with our Design Board? Did you know that there are 223 free patterns in three different sizes (6, 10 and 12 inches) and that a new pattern is added each month?
The blocks are grouped by how they are drafted such as 4-patch, 5-patch, 8-pointed star, etc. First, choose a block. You can print out templates for three different block sizes along with a template guide. Then the blocks can be put into a quilt and borders can be changed. There is a yardage calculator that gives the style numbers of the fabrics used in the block and also will determine how much fabric you need based on how many and what size blocks you want to use. It will even give you an estimate of the cost and put your fabrics directly into your shopping cart.
This months’ block is Golden Tile. First and foremost, the block gets its name because it contains the Golden Proportions as was explained in a recent blog post. If the Golden Gauge Calipers are opened so that the smaller space fits on the shorter segment of the design, the larger opening fits on the longer segment.
The design board is limited and is not meant to take the place of your graphics program but serves as a jumping off point. There are some wonderful software programs available which provide you amazing design possibilities. For blocks such as Golden Tile which are directional, you do not get the chance in the design board to see some of the other possible layout variations. If you have a graphics program that allows you to tile, rotate and flip blocks, experiment with different layouts. Here are some variations.
I hope you take the chance to play around with our Quilter’s Design Board and don’t forget to send us pictures of the quilts you make from it.
P.S. Golden Ratio by accident or design?
Dana, our staffer who did the layout for the blog sent it to me for approval. As soon as I saw her layout, I couldn’t help myself. I had to get out the calipers. So often when we are doing design or layout work, we select the proportions that are most pleasing to us and so many times it seems to fit the proportions of the golden ratio!
It’s been said that the golden ratio (also called the golden proportion, golden mean or Phi) is the perfect proportion. The golden ratio certainly seems to have magical properties. It occurs in nature, in the human body and in animals, in ancient art and architecture, even in many of our quilt designs. Let’s do a little test. Pick out the illustration you find the most pleasing in each row.
I have given this test many times over the past decade and usually 75% will pick A, B, and B. If you picked these, you picked the shapes which have the Golden Ratio. So what is the golden ratio? OK, here comes some math. (Warning! Your eyes may be in danger of glazing over and your mind may wander. Never fear: it is only two sentences long.) It is the division of a line segment where the ratio is 1 to 1.618, one being the shorter length and 1.618 the longer one. It can also be the ratio of .618 to 1 where .618 is the shorter segment and 1 is the larger.
Most spirals found in nature fit the proportions of the golden ratio.
You will find that this ratio has been used throughout history. Some examples include the Greek Parthenon, the Great Pyramid at Giza, the paintings of Leonardo DaVinci. However, a truly fascinating aspect of this magical ratio is that it occurs so often in nature. For example, in a beehive there are fewer male bees than female bees. The ratio of males to females is the golden ratio! A pinecone has two sets of spirals, one with less spirals than the other…..the relationship between them is again the golden ratio. Look at the photos above of the shell and Romanesco broccoli as another example. The golden ratio is even evident throughout the human body, in the measurement from the top of the head to the chin and from the chin to the navel and from the navel to the floor. Measurements from the elbow to the wrist and wrist to the tip of the middle finger also fall into the golden proportion. If you are like me, you don’t like carrying a calculator around all the time and doing math, but you might be curious as to the proportions of various objects. Because of this I developed the Golden Gauge Calipers. This is a handy tool that eliminates the math and lets you see the golden proportions in objects. As the calipers are opened the shorter segment in relation to the longer one is the golden ratio and vice versa. When the calipers are opened so that the narrow space is the size of the width of oval A you will see that the wider portion of the calipers is the height. The same is true with triangle B. If you open the calipers to the narrow portion across the base of the triangle, the height will be the space between the wider portion of the calipers.
With the calipers on the Mariner’s compass B notice that the width of the smaller center circle is in “golden proportion” to the distance from the edge of that circle to the edge of the larger circle. Many patchwork designs contain divisions that are either very close to or exactly the golden ratio. Are designs with golden proportions more pleasing to the eye? Take a look at Duck and Ducklings and Whirling Five Patch, shown here. It is apparent that the designs have the same basic pattern. The difference is that one is drafted on a 5 x 5 grid and the other on a 14 x 14 grid. Which one is most appealing to you? I personally find Duck and Ducklings a little clunky and like the fact that Whirling Five Patch contains divisions that are not all the same. The Golden Gauge Calipers placed on the design shows that the width of the center division to the adjacent one almost fits golden ratio proportions.
Unknowingly, quilters when planning widths for borders automatically choose this proportion because it “feels” right. In one of the upcoming blogs we will take a look at borders and how to determine a pleasing size.
In the last few years, I’ve been revisiting the diamond shape in patchwork, exploring new design possibilities and experimenting with shading and color. Although I love my chalk and scissors, I had to admit that rotary cutting fabric strips and patches was much faster. But I soon became convinced that there wasn’t a good ruler available to streamline the cutting, trimming and marking of diamond patches. (Trust me, I tried a bunch!)
Finally I decided to design my own ruler, which I call the 60 Degree Perfect Cut Ruler. With it, you can measure and cut up to six inch diamonds, as well as equilateral triangles for six-pointed stars, that come out perfect every time.
You can also use the ruler for strips, so you don’t need one ruler for diamonds and triangles and another for strips. This ruler is great for cutting strips of the desired width, cutting out diamond or triangle patches, and trimming points. You can even mark intersecting angles when cutting Y intersections: simply mark the dots with a chalk mechanical pencil and then sew between the dots. It’s so easy! (There’s a video on my website where I demonstrate how to both machine sew and hand sew inset seams.)
The ruler is small enough to slip into your bag when you travel but large enough so you can cut up to six inch fabrics at 1/4 inch intervals.
Some people have asked me why I chose the green color for my ruler. The color may seem bright, but we experimented with many different colors, and this one shows up on any light or dark fabric – including prints.
My latest quilt, Florentine, includes 60 degree diamonds you can quickly and accurately cut and mark using my Perfect Cut 60º Diamond Ruler. The pattern is a free download from either RJR Fabrics or our website, and you can choose from two rich colorways. The quilt is made from fabrics from my Milan fabric collection, which is available from your local quilt shop.
I also make two additional sizes of diamond templates for cutting, trimming and marking seam intersections when cutting diamonds from 2 1/4″ or 2 1/2″ strips. They are available separately, as a set of two or in combination with my Perfect Cut 60 Degree Ruler.