Many people ask, “what is a tessellation?” A tessellation is a shape or combination of shapes which will indefinitely cover an area without any gaps or overlaps. Even though we tend to think of tessellations only as interlocking motifs, any quilt block that repeats itself can be considered a tessellation. But it is interlocking patterns that are intriguing, and once you know how to create them, a whole world of design will open up.
Jinny has made several quilts based on tessellating designs.
Squares, triangles and hexagons are tessellations since, when placed side by side, they will cover an area without any gaps or overlaps.
If you take a chunk away from any of these shapes, they are no longer a tessellation because the shapes will not fit perfectly next to each other — there will be gaps where the pieces were taken away.
The secret to creating tessellations is this: if you take away a piece of a shape, give the piece back to a another part of the shape. You will once again have tessellation because the piece you give back will fit into the hole where it was taken away.
Jinny’s book, Designing Tessellations: The Secrets of Interlocking Patterns (now out of print but often available used on amazon.com or ebay), describes this simple process of creating tessellating shapes. It covers how to create geometric-style interlocking patterns suitable for patchwork, as well as more realistic-type tessellations which would be suitable for all types of surface design.