Math Hater?

We all learn and think a little differently. Some people’s brains absorb images easily, while other people work in words. Still other people process numbers nimbly. But rarely do I ever hear of someone who hates pictures or hates words. They may say, “I learn more easily when I can see it done.” Or, “Pictures confuse me, but when it’s written out, I can get it.”

Frequently people from all kinds of backgrounds say, “I hate math,” or “I can’t do math.” It’s absolute, not just an expression of preference. Often they give an excuse, such as, “I’m an artist … a writer … a musician … just a mom … ” or “I had bad teachers in grade school” or “I never learned anything I would really use.” Often the math-aversion is expressed as a boast, rather than a regret.

Consider, many people are willing to say, “I can’t do math.” Few of those same people would proudly admit, “I can’t read.” Why do you think these lead to different responses?

Perhaps you wonder why this discussion belongs on a quilt blog. It belongs because quilting is full of math. Begin with buying fabric. How many yards do you need? Why do you need that many? Do you need to worry about shrinkage? (YES.) How many patches or strips can you cut from your purchase? How much will it cost? Do you know if the clerk rang up your purchase correctly?

Then move on to more complicated stuff, like when you’re designing your own projects. Maybe you have a bunch of blocks you’ve made or collected in swaps or purchased at an estate sale. How big of a quilt can you make from it? What if you use sashing? What if you turn them on point and use sashing? How many blocks do you need to make a queen-sized quilt? Or how about very complicated stuff, like how much should you charge for a quilt you are selling?

There are various ways to answer questions like these. Alternatives for the quilt size question include laying out all the blocks in various configurations and estimating how much disappears within seam allowances. Or you can draw it all out on graph paper or in quilt design software like EQ7. You can look it up in charts, if you happen to have the right resource and understand how to use it. Or you can do the math.

Very little of the math is actually hard to do. Almost all of it is very simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, stuff we learned to do in grade school. There’s some geometry with shapes and areas, and a little algebra from time to time. But I’ve never had to write a geometry proof to quilt. And all the formulas are easy to find, and easy to calculate with your handy dandy electronic calculator (or computer or smart phone app.)

A few days ago I read a question from a quilter about how many blocks she would need, given a few assumptions. I wrote out the process she could use to calculate it. It’s a few steps, but by doing a few steps she can use the same process regardless of size of blocks she has, or size of quilt she makes. She can figure it out. SHE HAS THE POWER.

When you add basic quilting math to your set of quilting skills, you make yourself more powerful. You are less dependent on someone else’s patterns and instructions. You are freed to be more creative. You can figure out whether the remnant in your stash is enough for the patches you will cut, or if you’ll need to find something else. You can charge a fair price for your work when you sell your quilts.

Are you a math hater? What math quilting skills do you need to improve? Do you want to improve? Are there formulas or processes you would like to see here?

My previous blog posts with mathy stuff in them include:

Fraction Conversions
Economy Block ANY Size (With Cheat Sheet!)
How to Set a Block On Point
Design Process — Border Size Problems and Solutions
Tutorial: Straight-Grain Binding

Let me know how you see yourself in the math arena. If there is interest, I can build some tutorials on quilt math, and help you be more powerful.

Color Resources

The other day I was trying to describe what happens to RED when grey is added. I stumbled through several great websites as I did so.

Color Matters gives a brief overview of color theory that covers complementary and analogous colors. But spend some time with the various tabs across the top. This is a rich, deep resource of color information, including use of color in design, the meanings of different colors, the impact of lighting, and many other aspects.

Design Seeds — This site gives a new color scheme every day to inspire you. And if you’d like to customize your color scheme, try the palette search. — Mix up colors in any proportions. This might not be very useful for quilters, but it certainly is entertaining.

Rapid Tables — Again, perhaps not useful for quilters, as it uses the “light” color theory rather than the pigment color theory. On the other hand, if you’re a blogger, you may enjoy playing with the colors that create your blog background.

MacMillan Dictionary — Do you need the right word for a specific color? You may find it here.

Words to Use — “Find creative ways to describe colors! These long lists of names for colors include words for red, yellow, blue and every color of the rainbow.”

This was a fun excursion into color. Do you have favorite color resources and inspirations? They could be books, bloggers, websites, or any other source. Let us know.

Word(s) of the Year

This year my “word of the year” is EXPERIMENT! I have been experimenting and exploring, and have farther to go. I’ve done things I’ve never done before, in both my “personal” life and in my quilting life.

Part of my quest for the year was power, personal power, the kind of power that grows when experimenting, pushing my boundaries, allowing myself opportunities to succeed and to fail.

In my studio my friend, the Incredible Hulk, helps me remember the two are linked.

A Medallion in Solids

Tuesday I delivered a finished quilt and a top to one of my favorite quilt shops, Inspirations in Hills, IA. I’ll be teaching a five-week class there beginning October 16. The pieces I delivered will serve as samples, and hopefully will attract a few more students to join the fun.

My original design incorporates some great basic lessons in some simple blocks. We’ll make puss-in-the-corners, snowballs, flying geese, half-square triangles, and variable stars. Combined with reinforcement on that 1/4″ seam, cutting and pressing, and careful construction, the students can look forward to success.

Unquilted sample

Here is the EQ7 drawing I used to plan this one:

EQ7 drawing

Take another look. The half-square triangles are placed differently in the drawing than in the fabric sample.

And the other, quilted sample, with a completely different look:

A more modern take

One of the lessons for students will be trying those triangle squares a number of different ways before sewing them together. It’s a good design lesson, along with those in construction.

I’m looking forward to this class, and seeing how different these quilts will turn out given different colors and patterns.

UFO Review

I’ve come to a standstill for the moment, after running full out for a few weeks. I haven’t posted a lot because … well, BUSY. And also I just can’t show pix yet of a couple things I’m working on.

So, catching my breath. And it seems like a good time to review my UFO stack. There never are many as I’m a finisher. Right now I count seven.

  1. Southwestern Sun — needs binding. This is one of the projects I can’t show yet.
  2. Ethnic wall-hanging — needs … something. My thinking was to break up the bronzey-green border with an appliqued strip. But I took a great workshop last Tuesday with Debbie Bowles on curved piecing. I know a lot of you do curved piecing as a matter of course, but I never have. So I’m considering unstitching the orange border and rebuilding it with a curved contrasting piece.
  3. Amish medallion class sample — not done because I’ll use it for my class next month.
  4. John Deere panel quilt — need to get granddaughter back so we can work on this some more.
  5. Six-pointed star — still more of an idea than a plan
  6. Panel medallion — I know what I want to do to finish, but it will take a bit of time so has been pushed down the list
  7. Tablecloth — needs to be quilted and bound. This is a pieced tablecloth I made for my dining room several years ago. I decide to quilt it. I have backing fabric and just need to commit a little time and a big piece of batting.

Besides the UFOs I also found three stacks of fabric to sort back into stash. YES, there are more stacks than that, but I’m keeping a couple of them out and separate for now. Likely they will work their way into projects before the end of the year.

One thing that’s happened this year is my stash has grown. I bought a bunch of fabric at my guild’s auction early in the year, mostly largish yardage that is good backgrounds, or perhaps backings. But I’ve also bought more new this year. My stash is not large, relative to most quilters I know. And I want to keep it that way. That requires using what I have, not adding to it. Fortunately I like multi-fabric quilts. And I don’t much like shopping.

How’s your UFO and stash inventory? Have you done a good review lately? Do you have plans for managing what you find?

Working on the New List

Progress report:

  1. Get dress hemmed for Son’s graduation dinner.
  2. Load and quilt project as a favor for someone; return it to them this week.
  3. Quilt and bind Ice Cream sample. Changed quilt name to Sherbet.
  4. Make top for Amish solids sample.
  5. Make top for black and red sample. Later…
  6. Review lesson plans. Soon…
  7. Assemble lesson packet. Soon…
  8. Make back, quilt, bind African Star.
  9. Develop new projects/designs.
  10. Write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite… Have been rewriting…

And a new one:

11. Quilt and bind Southwestern Sun.

Five Good Ideas | Redux

I’ve been working on a new project, one I can’t show yet. I finished the top today and am really pleased with how it turned out. It’s BOLD! It’s BRIGHT! It’s HOT! Hot burnt orange, orangey-yellow, citrus green, electric blue. Hot.

The top was a lot of piecing with flying geese, diamonds-in-a-square, corner triangle blocks, an interesting center block. I was rushing, and you know what that means: I took several opportunities to make mistakes. My mistakes were in cutting, not piecing. This time.

Good idea #1: measure twice, cut once. Yeah, no kidding, huh? Fortunately I caught my errors before incorporating them into my work. And fortunately they were all correctable by trimming slightly, rather than starting over and cutting anew. Guess I should review my own tips on accuracy.

Good idea #2: consider the various ways to make a block. Sometimes one method will work better than another. Among my various blocks were flying geese. I made a few of them using up available scraps with the stitch-and-flip method. But to go more quickly than that for most, I used the four-at-a-time method. For me it’s slightly less accurate than stitch-and-flip. But it’s so much faster that I was willing to give up a little bit in accuracy to meet my deadline.

For some reason, I seem to forget that I’ll also need a back and some binding for each quilt. The way I buy fabric in smaller pieces — only more than a yard if it’s for a specific purpose, or an incredibly good deal — means I don’t have quilt backs lying in wait to be assembled. Okay, I lied. Yeah, sure I have fabric enough to make quilt backs. I have some metallic Corinthian leaves, a turquoise cartoon print, a forest green with cream sprigs that reminds me of passages in Little House in the Big Woods, a wine color. That’s about it. Nothing to go with my hot southwestern colors.

Yesterday I was in the neighborhood so stopped in JoAnn Fabrics. I found a hot orange-on-orange that would work. Big print, nice texture, $13 per yard. NOPE. Not gonna buy at that price. I didn’t have coupons with me, but I almost always have coupons at home. So I went back today when Jim and I ran errands and bought my four yards. $6.50 a yard. Much better.

Good idea #3: support your local quilt shop when you can. The prices at the local quilt shops in my area are better than $13 per yard. Most yardage ranges from about $9.25 to about $11.50. The only way JoAnn’s can price quilt yardage at $13 is by overpricing. They do so because they know most of us demand it cheaper and use coupons, or if not, it’s because we’re desperate.

Good idea #4: use a color catcher. After getting home with the fabric I washed it and the fabric for binding with a few other items of laundry. I cut a color catcher in half and tossed it in, too. This time it didn’t collect much. But several times recently they’ve been stained badly, and not just when washing reds or dark blues. I’m making a habit of using the color catcher. If you don’t already, consider it. By the way, if your catcher doesn’t collect much, you can use it again.

Once the fabric was washed, I needed to make the back. The back needs to be approximately 68″ square. I bought four yards. Fabric loses about 3% to shrinkage (did you know that?), or about one inch per yard. So … in total I lost about four inches out of 144. So I’m down to 140″ long. If I double my fabric over, I have 70″.

Good idea #5: use the Fast Backs method of making quilt backs. I did trim the ends so I would start with even cuts. I put a piece of blue tape on my machine to show me where the seam allowance would fall, and I cut off the selvage with scissors once it was sewn. Do, please, look at the link for a full explanation with photos. The whole thing, including only pressing after it was sewn and trimmed, took about fifteen minutes.

This isn’t the fabric I bought today! It’s from the tutorial.

Have you revisited any great ideas recently? Do you have favorite tips to share?