Mirror, Mirror

Recently I showed you how I made a mask, starting with a six-sided paper cut-out. The framing for the face, shown in burgundy, started with a single piece of paper. Even though there are pieces cut out of it, the frame is continuous around the outside edge.

It certainly doesn’t have to be. Consider using, say, three pieces of paper that are the same, but arranged symmetrically around a center point. It would give the same type of symmetry as you see with the mask.

Here’s another paper cutting I did in six sides. I cut it into thirds. Hmm, I like the separation. Then I wondered, what if I only had one of them but wanted to see what it looks like with three? And what if I change direction? That’s something I can’t do if it’s all in one piece.

In the last two of those photos, you are seeing one segment of the original cutting, as reflected in mirrors. Using mirrors gives me a lot of flexibility. For one thing, I don’t need to cut multiples of an intricate design in order to see the possibilities; I can have just one. Also, I can see more than three images (two in the mirrors plus the actual paper one.) For instance, I can see what it looks like if I have four images.

Using mirrors isn’t my original idea. I’d already been thinking a lot about symmetries and playing with paper cutting when Toby Lischko visited my guild. Her presentation to us was about using pairs of mirrors to find interesting patterns in our fabrics. I also took her New York Beauty workshop and used her mirrors to choose the focus of my block center.

The turquoise fabric offered an infinite number of choices for fussy cutting, and I could try them out with the mirrors.

Toby offered mirrors for sale, but she ran out before I had a chance to buy mine. She also has them on her website, shown as Marti Michell Magic Mirrors. Not surprisingly, Marti Michell also has them for the same price, $13.98.

I was so impressed after the workshop, though, that Jim and I searched online for a substitute solution, at a lower price. 🙂 We didn’t find just the right thing, and other priorities took over. I had a bit of serendipity recently, though. While walking through a department store, about to close because of bankruptcy, I noticed two small mirrors hanging on a costume jewelry rack. Everything in the store was for sale. Everything! So I asked how much they would cost. I bought two mirrors for less than $4. (Last week my 14-year-old granddaughter bought two mannikin’s arms for 50 cents apiece. Because who doesn’t need two mannikin’s arms?)

Handy for scratching your back! Photo credit to my daughter.

The next challenge was how to get the mirrors to stand up at the correct angles. (Toby’s/Marti’s mirrors come pre-hinged, but you still have to set the angle.) After trying different possibilities, Jim and I both thought of using velcro (hook-and-loop) to hold them together. Between the two of us, we had both self-stick squares of velcro and also strips. We put squares of hooks on the back and cut short strips of loop-tape to grab them on either side. The angle can be set either with a protractor or simply by checking for how many images are created. (Remember, there are 360° in a circle. There are 120° in each third of a circle; there are 90° in each quadrant; and there are 60° in each sixth. To see three images, including the actual thing, set the mirrors to stand at 120° apart.) If needed, a simple piece of tape can be run across the top to hold the angle desired.

I have some other projects in mind that can make use of the mirrors, so while I wasn’t prepared to spend $14 and shipping for them, they are well worth the investment made.

Some people make the kaleidoscoping “stack and whack” quilts. I can’t imagine doing that, even though some look fabulous. I’ve also seen a lot of fussy cutting for hexagon projects, and mirrors could help visualize those. Have you ever explored shape symmetry in your quilts? Have you used mirrors to do so? Tell us about it in comments. 

16 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror

  1. Pingback: Creative Juice #108 | ARHtistic License

  2. zippyquilts

    I, too, have seen those mirrors and declined to pay the price for them! I have instead color-copied fabric and arranged it to see how it would look, and that works fine for the few occasions on which I’ve done this type of symmetry thing. But the mannikin arms…

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      🙂 Yes, those arms! I don’t have a color printer so that won’t work for me right now, but it’s a great idea, not one I’d thought of. (And now it seems so obvious…) Also I think there are apps you can use to “kaleidoscope” like that. However, I think there is a Kaleidoscope app that has nothing to do with it, so I’m not sure what’s the best way to track them down.

  3. KerryCan

    I haven’t used mirror for quilting but I worked for years as a picture framer and we used mirrors to show customers how the frame and mat corners samples would look surrounding the piece. It helped a lot!

  4. Paula Hedges

    You are an inspiration! I bought 2 mirrors at the dollar store and thought I would duct tape them along the spine and see if that works. Figured it was worth a try, especially for infrequent use. If not, I have two mirrors I can always etch and hang!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yeah, seems no harm in having a couple of small mirrors, right? If nothing else, you can use one to reflect more light on the floor, when you need to find a dropped needle… 🙂

  5. Cindy Anderson

    I have never used shape symmetry in my quilts. My style wouldn’t call for it. It is awesome that you found the cheaper alternative for your mirrors and were able to find a solution to connect them together. Very interesting to see the possible combinations of your paper cutting. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That’s cool. I looked at a lot of similar ideas last year when I was investigating tessellations. I didn’t actually create any myself, though. Thanks for the link.

  6. Andrea R Huelsenbeck

    Melanie, the first white cutout reminds me of Hawaiian applique (though that’s usually four-sided, I think).

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I think they are 4-sided, Andrea. The Hawaiians have been doing this style of quilting for a very long time — they do it right! Thanks for taking a look.


Thanks for your comments. I don't check them often. Please email me if you have questions.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.