Artists, writers, crafters, architects and designers are alike in that each employ the creative process in their work. Many books have been written on left brain/right brain thinking processes. And most attribute the right brain to creativity. Thus, the left brain is relegated to the “boring” stuff. Like math.
However, as a quilter, I know you need both sides of the brain. Especially if creating a new design or adapting an existing pattern created by someone else. Such is the case with my current quilt project.
Recently, I found a quilt that looks perfect for the newest baby in the family. The discovery occurred while searching through my quilt books and old magazines. The little guy is almost six months old and still trying to catch up…preemies take a bit longer to develop. Since he is finally doing a bit more than eating, sleeping, and well you know-he needs a quilt to play on.
But the quilt in the magazine is bigger than desired and the companion infant quilt is not what I want. So, alterations need to be made. Cue left brain action!
Math and Quilting
Long ago when learning fractions, someone in class asked why? What is important about partial numbers? I don’t remember the exact answer, yet I am sure quilt design was not included. It should have been.
Quilters normally use quarter inches as seam allowances as opposed to the 5/8ths used by clothes designers and seamstresses. Of course, the quarter inch applies to all sides. So, blocks are actually a half inch bigger at the cutting stage.
Things get quite complicated at times. Such is the case with my adaptation of Family Tradition from McCall’s Quilting Vintage Quilts Spring 2014 edition. (In turn, the pattern was originally published as Easy Breezy in their Fall 2001 release.)
The finished size as published is 71” by 77 ¼” which is much bigger than I want. Therefore, mathematical adjustments need to be made before the creative process can take over. Cutting the size down by half would make the resulting quilt smaller than I want.
Since I like baby quilts to equal the width of standard fabric, I need a width at or below 44 inches. So, reducing the size by a third was also out of the question. Complicating things further, the original squares called for 3 5/8” (the laptop doesn’t even recognize this fraction!)
Creative Process-More Than Art
The creative process includes thinking outside the box. Therefore, I counted the squares on the top border and divided the number into the desired finished width. A slight adjustment was made, dropping the measurement to the next lowest eighth of an inch. Then, the seam allowances were added back in.
Next, I adjusted the width of the inner borders and made multiple calculations. I decreased the 6 ¾” (with allowances) to 4 ¼” and recalculated the length based on the nine patch squares. As you can see in the photo, the measurements were spot on.
The hardest equation involved the right-angle triangles in the corners. Basic algebra and a scientific calculator helped. I hope my math will be correct when I reach that point. The hypotenuse is known and the base and perpendicular sides are equal, so I divided the hypotenuse by the square root of 2. Tweaking will need to be done since again the number is not a nice fraction. And the seam allowances can’t be forgotten.
Design with Color and Direction
The magazine depicts the quilt with a lot of pastels. The little guy will receive a version with earth tones sparked with vibrant teals and greens. My inspiration is more of ocean meeting land and rugged rocks. The nine patches in the middle have the same brown. Since the brown has directional lines of gold, red and teal, placement was intentional. My creative process requires a certain structure in the design. I like a top and bottom and consistent direction when possible.
Two additional fabrics complete the center square. Although both feature greens, they differ in tone and style. One is a child print, a traditional green plaid background with sail boats, fire trucks and the like. The other is a pebbly abstract in various shades of teal. Both complement the brown.
My last decision will involve whether or not to include a top and bottom single row border as designed. Or I can leave the quilt as a square within a square. So many decisions in the creative process!