Friday, March 4, 2011

Includes Sara approved Porn :)

Patterns are, if I'm honest, what I love doing more than anything else in quilting. Picking the fabrics, and doing the math, and seeing if it all works when I actually do it; that for me is the fun bit. I like the piecing, because that's the only way to find out if I was right or not, but the actual quilting and binding is only done because otherwise I'd just have a useless stack of quilt tops. And yes, I could send them off to be done, but that costs money*, which I could otherwise use to buy more fabrics to make more tops. Don't get me wrong, I love the finished product. And when I have some back episodes to get through, a bit of sit-down-and-quilt is wonderful. But to go from a pile of conceptual numbers to an actual, pretty object, even a currently useless object like a quilt top, is my fun thing.

I have never used anyone else's pattern. What, for me, would be the point? I've looked at other people's stuff, and thought, I'm gunna do something like that, but then I've gone off and done some maths of my own, changed it to fit my fabrics or my sizes or my style.

For me, the big thing with designing a quilt is how the bits all fit into the piece of fabric so there's not too much waste. For a long time I used fat quarters, and after I'd moved on from simple 10cm squares, almost all of my designs worked on the base of what I called the "neat 16th" - the biggest size I could get of four rectangles from a fat quarter - usually about 22 by 26cm. Sometimes this would get chopped down to a square 16th - 22 x 22cm but later on I got more used to the rectangles and could do more and more with them. I branched out, trying neat 24ths (6 rectangles per fat quarter) and neat 12ths (3 rectangles)

But really, it's coming up with patterns using fabric off the bolt that I really like. My first ever attempt was for a quilt I still haven't made any progress on because of it's half square triangles, but it was worked out in it's entirety, with detailed piecing and cutting layouts, before I'd finished my fourth quilt. It's easy to get 4 rectangles from a bigger rectangle, but getting different sized rectangles, squares and triangles from one piece of fabric, without having big wasteful gaps, that's the fun stuff. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, but with no pieces. The Two Tyred quilt is the one I'm most proud of, since it fits so so so perfectly and uses exactly the amounts of fabric I had. And while, yes, I would love the opportunity to sit and do quiltmath and play with the pretty colours all day and get paid for it, there is a slight problem.

I believe that knowledge, especially in the internet age, should be free.

Yes, I understand that it takes people a lot of time and effort to design a pattern. I understand that having a proper website (ie. not a blogger/wordpress) costs money, as do the pretty instructional photos and copyright lawyers. If you've got a pattern that has fancy shapes, or curves, or things that people couldn't work out for themselves with a $3 calculator from the stationary aisle at the supermarket, you should go ahead, and get a proper website, and professional photos of how-to-do-it taken, and print out pretty, informative patterns with all of the pieces carefully numbered. Get it copyrighted, because if it gets posted online, all your hard work won't be paying off.

But really, to my mind, I do math. I fit squares on a bigger square, and write down how big those squares are, and how to get to them without hurting all the other similar squares next to them. I really do use a $3 calculator (okay, it cost $3.13) and pretty much everything is done in MS paint. I draw up some grids, and use the painfill button to colour them in. Then I pick the bit I like, and count the pieces, and work out the most efficient way to fit them into some pieces of fabric so they can be put together again. Using software that's been around since Windows 3.1 and a calculator with 23 buttons, one of which is off.

I worry that a lot of newbies are frightened off by some of what's out there. Simple things can seem intimidating - Helen was worried about the bit at the end where it says to join your blocks into rows and your rows into a quilt top until I did one my way at her house and it seemed so much easier (I need to put my way up one day, but it's a bit too confusing in just words.) A lot of pattens that I initially though would be totally hard I now look at and realise I could have the math done for in 20 minutes. It would be a different size, and different fabrics would be in different spots, but when it comes to geometric, straight line piecing, there's only so many patterns out there. If I was to say no to people who understand quilting using my math, they could go do their own. So all I'd be doing is frightening off the people who I like to think my patterns are for - The newbies who are looking for something that's fun and easy, and, unlike a lot of other patterns I see out there, doesn't need a million billion little scraps of different fabrics. I was weird that I had a massive stash before I started quilting. What if I hadn't? What if I'd started quilting by going into the shop and buying some fabric for an actual quilt? I think my patterns would be a good place to start - "two yards of each please and one yard of batting" - no stash required. I see the beginner quilt pattern leaflets in Spotlight and they need way more complicated amounts than that.

I'm going back over some of my earlier quilts and giving them a do-over in my mind before I get into writing them up, to see if I can streamline them or make them fit the fabric better so there's less waste. When I started I was less confident about this, so Helen and Kelsey had lots of scraps to do their tickertape quilts, whereas now I have almost no scrap left over at all. To my mind this is a good thing, though others might disagree. But I've started feeling guilty about the size of my stash (that's a lie, I feel guilty about the unruly state of my stash) so if I'm buying fabric now, I want the exact amount I need, lest I end up with another piece hiding in the corner. If you just want to make a quilt, not become a quilter, this seems about right too.

So I'll keep posting my rainbow coloured grids and occasionally their associated math here, between the proper instructions when I get down to them and the lame excuses as to why I haven't . And they'll be free, for everyone to have a go at, regardless of talent or stash size. Because that's what the internet's all about.

And porn too, of course. My preferred porn looks like this.

*Of course, the quilting itself takes time, but less time than it would take me to earn the money at my real job. Also, I can watch the telly on the lappy when I'm quilting, which I don't get to do at work

3 comments:

  1. I should just say, I get my porn from http://www.unitednotions.com/fabric-collections.html which is excellent if you're a big fan of quilter's porn by Moda.

    Which I, obviously, am. If you click on the second row of dots it downloads images of the entire range... which is a million billion times better than downloading the Paris Hilton sex tape.

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  2. I for one am glad you're good at maths because frankly I'm quite hopeless.

    Isnt that united notions site fanatastic? When I cant afford fabric I go there to perve and sniff the screen. It's almost as good as popping into a quilt shop except you cant roll around the fabric on a computer screen

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  3. Sara Im sorry but your a quilt math savant. (not sure i have spelled that correctly)
    I do fabric, I do sewing, I do shopping, I do cooking, I DONT DO MATH! I hate math so you can keep it, Im happy to copy you

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