Category Archives: Tessellation Quilts

Monkey Wrenches and Snail’s Trails

Two patchwork blocks, Monkey Wrench and Snail’s Trail, share a construction method that alternates between the two.

Both begin with a 4-patch block:

4-patch block

A square cut diagonally produces two half-square triangles. Sew four half-square triangles to the sides of the 4-patch block. The 4-patch block rotates and stands on-point. This block is called Monkey Wrench:

Monkey Wrench
Monkey Wrench

Sew a round of half-square triangles to the sides of the Monkey Wrench block. The 4-patch block rotates and sits flat. This block is called Snail’s Trail:

Snail's Trail
Snail’s Trail

Sew a round of half-square triangles to the sides of the Snail’s Trail block and produce another Monkey Wrench block:

Monkey Wrench, level two
Monkey Wrench, level two

Sew a round of half-square triangles to the sides of the Monkey Wrench block and produce another Snail’s Trail block:

Snail's Trail, level two
Snail’s Trail, level two

The two blocks can build on each other indefinitely. They are limited only by the size of the initial 4-patch block (each round of half-square triangles requires a smaller 4-patch block than the block before).

Monkey Wrench, level three
Monkey Wrench, level three
Snail's Trail, level three
Snail’s Trail, level three
Monkey Wrench, level four
Monkey Wrench, level four
Snail's Trail, level four
Snail’s Trail, level four

Notice anything? For each round of half-square triangles, the arms spiral further inward.

When four of these blocks rotate around one corner they produce unique blocks that appear organic when placed next to each other.

Metamorphosis (alternating columns of Monkey Wrench and Snail's Trail blocks)
Metamorphosis (alternating columns of Monkey Wrench and Snail’s Trail blocks)

When four half-size blocks are superimposed on a full-size block, an interesting thing happens. The resulting blocks can be displayed three different ways: as a half-size pattern only; as a full-size pattern only; or as a combination of the two, with the smaller motif centered on the larger one (I omitted the smaller motif that centers where the larger ones come together).

Two scales, three patterns
Two scales, three patterns

I will do more with this . . .

Tessellation Transformations

All my patchwork uses the same patch:

FKOQR 3x3
FKOQR 3×3

What would happen if I changed the grid the lines were drawn on?

same lines, different grids
same lines, different grids

The relationship of the lines to each other remains the same, but the angles change.

Each of these patches would work well on their own, but what would happen if I stacked rows of them together?

1-1-1-1 Transforming
1-1-1-1 Transforming

You get a tessellation that changes shape before your eyes!

"Tessellations" at Urban Eats Cafe

Urban Arts Collective, October, 2015

Last Sunday, I opened my quilt show “Tessellations” at the Urban Eats Café as part of the Urban Arts Collective.

Here’s my display:

"Tessellations" at Urban Eats Cafe
“Tessellations” at Urban Eats Café

Prayer Shawls All
Prayer Shawls All
Copyright 2015 Raymond K. Houston
70 inches by 47 inches

Everything Against Orange
Everything Against Orange
Copyright 2015 Raymond K. Houston
47 inches by 70 inches

Flapping Birds
Flapping Birds
Copyright 2015 Raymond K. Houston
24 inches by 24 inches

The theme for October is “Tessellations.” The three pieces shown use the same basic unit, rearranged and recolored to make completely different patterns.

I have added November and December dates to my Tour page.

“Everything Against Orange”

Late last year, I challenged myself to make quilts only from the fabric I have on hand before buying any new fabric.

I had acquired a stash from various fabric swaps and grab bags (or boxes) . . . Not all of the fabric would have been my choice, but I was stuck with it.

My first piece was called “Prayer Shawls, All.”

"Prayer Shawls, All"
“Prayer Shawls, All”

Next, I revisited an earlier design, and made “Birds of a Feather.”

Birds of a Feather quilt top
Birds of a Feather quilt top

I kept to the bird theme, and made this untitled piece of blue birds and orange birds.

Untitled
Untitled

I wasn’t entirely happy with this piece because I had to buy additional blue fabric to complement the orange (did I mention I have a LOT of orange fabric??).

But something clicked as I neared completion. My stitching improved. Mind you, I’ve been sewing this particular patch for YEARS, but somehow something changed. All the pieces fell into place; I stopped pinning pieces together before sewing; and, the patches turned out nearly perfect (except for trimming dog ears around the patch).

But, why get better at the END of a project??

To get ready for the NEXT project!!

I gathered all the leftover pieces from these three quilts, and sorted out the cool-colored fabrics: blue, blue-green, and green. There wasn’t much. And, I cut as much orange fabrics as I could (and I STILL have a lot of orange).

This is the design I’m gonna use:  Do-Si-Do.

Do-Si-Do
Do-Si-Do

This design calls for a single patch colored two different ways. Here’s one:

Do-Si-Do colorway one
Do-Si-Do colorway one

I stitched these patches in a random way.  I picked the first two pieces from the top of the stack and stitched them together, and so on. I ended up with these patches.

Colorway one patches
Colorway one patches

Now, some of these patches are single, and some have multiple copies.

First, I set them out, grouping like fabric together to form the trunks of the pinwheels.

 

Pinwheel trunks
Pinwheel trunks

Here’s the other stack of patches to sew.

Do-Si-Do colorway two
Do-Si-Do colorway two

I stitched these patches just like the first set: randomly. I set up a flannel design wall and put the original patches on it. Then I started matching the colored diagonal bars in the new patches with trunks.

Working on a design wall
Working on a design wall

When I ran out of matching “arms,” I improvised and substituted colors. After that, I put patches where they’d best fit in.

"Everything Against Orange" patches ready for stitching
“Everything Against Orange” patches ready for stitching

What do you think of it??

Call me the M.C. Escher of quilts . . .

I love making tessellation quilts. It doesn’t hurt that the unit I use to create all my patchwork quilts makes it so easy.

Here’s a peek at my latest quilt from the tessellation nation . . .

. . . from the "Birds in Flight" series
. . . from the “Birds in Flight” series

I don’t have a name for this piece yet, but it brings to mind a piece by the Dutch graphic artist, M.C. Escher.

I tried to keep the fabric consistent for each bird, but I simply didn’t have that much fabric. In the future, I’m not gonna worry about it. I’ll have a stack of cut pieces that I consider a single color, and mix-and-match the fabrics interchangeably.