Math, Patterns, and Quilts

This morning, I happened upon this video on Youtube. Generally, I am not mathematically inclined, but this discussion of infinite patterns fascinated me. Some of the language went way over my head, however, I loved how the golden mean (1.618…) appeared in the patterns. The golden mean is the proportion that shows up in famous works of art.

I am a quilter and quilters work with patterns. Most often, we sew together simple geometric shapes like squares, triangles, and rectangles to create larger designs. Circles and curves are trickier, and I’ve only attempted one quilt that involved those.

The underlying connections in the world, the spirals of shells and leaves, the snow crystals, the frost on windows, delight me when their structures are revealed.

The video about infinite patterns got me wondering if I could cut a template for dart and kite shapes, and make a quilt with an infinite pattern. This might be a recipe for insanity. I’ll think about it.

My most recent quilt: a chain.

The Fan Quilt


Several months ago, I embarked on a Big Project: a king sized pieced quilt for our bed.  I was tired of the quilt I’d made over ten years ago, and I had a stack of Asian fabric to start with.  I knew I’d need to buy more, but that is the quilter’s best excuse.  I love fabric.  Sometimes a beautiful pattern or texture of cloth can elicit a visceral reaction.

For this quilt, round edges were my new challenge.  I cut the fan blades and slowly, over weeks, sewed ninety-four fans.


Once I had cut the white squares, I laid out the center pieces on the design wall (see above).  But the quilt was too big for the wall, so I moved to the floor.  The only space large enough proved to be our bedroom, and even then, I had the corners under the dresser and the bed.

With the top done, I took all the extra fabric, plus some new yardage, and stitched it together to make a back.  The quilt top measured 107″ square.  In the end, I was wrangling a huge amount of fabric in and out of the sewing machine.

When front and back were done, I sent it off to a local long-arm quilter, who did a magnificent job sewing the “quilt sandwich” together.  Then I put on the binding, and VOILA!  A very big finished project.


I won’t say, “Never again!” But it will be a long time before I take on anything as big as that fan quilt.