Thursday, 18 September 2014

Decipher Your Quilt - Tessellations

Leanne of She Can Quilt and I are back to writing our Decipher Your Quilt posts after a fairly lengthy break. We only have a few more posts planned in this series, so if there is anything you would like us to talk about that we haven't already covered, please let us know. 

Today Leanne and I will both be talking about tessellating quilt patterns. There won't be much maths to talk about this week, it's more to give you some examples of tessellating quilt patterns so you can identify them.

According to Wikipedia, when we talk about tessellation in geometry, the tessellation of a flat surface (ie a quilt) is the tiling of that surface using one or more geometric shapes (tiles) with no overlaps and no gaps. If you go on to read the rest of the Wiki article on tessellation, gets pretty complex (but it is a really interesting read for those of you who are interested in geometry). My interpretation is that tessellating patterns can be broadly grouped into two categories: regular tessellations and irregular tessellations.

Regular tessellations can only be formed by three shapes: equilateral triangles, squares and regular hexagons (those with six equal length sides and angles). So even a simple patchwork quilt made from squares is a tessellating pattern. 


Even quilts made of more complex quilt blocks are often sewn together as squares - so although each block may be constructed using lots of different shapes, the method we use to join them together employs the concept of geometric tessellation of squares with a regular size.

Equilateral triangle quilts are another common example of a regular tessellation. An equilateral triangle is a triangle that has three equal sized edges and angles - so the angles are always 60 degrees. These triangles are incredibly versatile, and can be arranged to make a huge variety of tessellating quilt patterns. When placed randomly with a range of different fabrics, they appear to be made of lots of triangles - for example these beautiful quilts made by Adrianne of On the Windy Side. In this first example the randomly placed colours make the use of equilateral triangles quite obvious.


But the beauty of these triangles is that they can also form other patterns within the quilt, such as hexagons, like I did in my Beach Ball Baby quilt.


And like Adrianne did in this mini quilt. 


Irregular tessellations can be formed by almost any kind of geometric shape. These kinds of quilt tend to be less common - I think because they normally involve a lot of y-seams and bias edges (not things that are especially tempting in my book ;o)). There are examples of quilts with irregular tessellations though - one beautiful example of an irregular tessellation is this amazing Rose Star quilt by Lucy at Charm About You. Although it uses several different polygons, they all tessellate to form a pattern with no gaps. Lucy paper pieced this quilt


As you can see it uses regular hexagons, and several different quadrilateral shapes (those with four sides). It is a beautiful example of an irregular tessellation I think :o)


Please head over to Leanne's blog to read her thoughts on tessellating quilt patterns - her take on this is a little different from mine, and it is a really great read.

xx Jess


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