Saturday, June 30, 2018

When Pythagoras Met Jane: Ancient Math Magic Comes to the Rescue of a Damsel In Distress

NOPE, I haven't been working on my Jingle BOM, my Pineapple Log Cabin, or anything else that I promised the whole Internet I'd be working on this week.  Instead of sewing, I've been busy designing a NEW project, one that will use up leftover strips that had been cut for pineapple log cabin blocks.

I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to quick-and-easy, down-and-dirty string pieced projects that would be oh-so-sensible for this purpose.  But alas, I am not a sensible girl.  I'm an impractical, wish-upon-a-star, dream-up-something-different-to-drive-myself-crazy kind of girl.

And so I have camped out in my office with EQ8 quilt design software, brainstorming, browsing the block and layout libraries for inspiration, exploring all of the cool design tools like Merge Blocks, Clip and Flip, Add Frame...  Finding photos on the Internet that simulate what my string-pieced fabric sections will look like so I can treat those areas as if they were a single fabric...  Trying out different layout and color schemes and oodles of different colors and fabrics...  

And after all of those hours of design labor bliss, I ended up with three quilts that I might (or might not) make with my leftover 1 1/2" strips of fabric.  In an effort to get away from the computer and up to my studio sooner rather than later, I'm going to share one of the designs with you today and will share the others over the next few days.  This one is my current favorite:

Option One, Great-Grandbaby Jane, 52 x 52
This design began with one of the 4" applique blocks from the historic "Dear Jane" sampler quilt.  I blew up the scale of the applique and will be using strip pieced fabric for the petals.  Then I added a Storm At Sea frame around the giant applique  (I will be strip piecing the large diamonds as well), and set that block on point in the middle of my quilt.  There are smaller versions of the Dear Jane applique block in the four corners of the quilt, with different pieced frames around them, and the borders of the quilt are from my strip-pieced pineapple scraps as well.  In real life, my scraps will be more mixed up than they are in the design picture, using my leftover blue and green pineapple strips as well as some bright solids, and I think I'm going to chop up some pink and orange strips out of stash fabric as well.  I don't want to be working off the exact same color palette as the pineapple quilt -- enough is enough, if you know what I mean.  I'm so excited about this one that I have already printed off cardstock templates for the center applique and foundation paper patterns for the Storm At Sea border.

Some people will tell you that design software takes the math out of quilting, and that's true to a certain degree...  I mean, for most users it's probably true.  It depends on what you want to design.  But my personal experience is that math skills + fab design software  = QUILTING SUPERPOWERS!  When I tried to print foundation paper patterns for my Storm at Sea border directly from my quilt design in EQ8, this is the wretched print layout the computer came up with:

EQ8 "Doing the Math For Me"
Yuck, right?  Because the block for which I'm trying to print foundations is on point in my quilt, EQ8 plops my foundation sections down on the paper oriented exactly how they are in the quilt -- in this case diagonally, rather than aligning them so their straight edges are parallel to the edges of he sheets of paper.  Normally, quilters are not trying to paper piece gigantic blocks that do not fit on sheets of paper like what I'm trying to do, but I love the accuracy of paper piecing and I have my heart set on doing it that way, so there you go.

I have already adjusted this whacked layout the best that I can using the Rotate option to turn my sections in the screenshot above, but EQ8 only lets me turn the pieces in preset "chunks" -- it's not an infinitely adjustable rotation, and there's no "snap to grid" or "fit the bleepin' page" option.  Sometimes we are grateful to our computers for doing the thinking for us, and other times we need to put on our thinking caps and figure out how to outsmart the computer!

I went back into my project file for this quilt, called the Sketchbook, and opened up the center block I'd created all by itself in the Block worktable, to see if EQ8 would print the foundation sections straight if it didn't know I was secretly planning to set the block on point in my quilt.  YES!!  However -- (don't you HATE when there has to be a "however"?!) -- since I was no longer printing the block from my beautiful quilt design where everything is the right size to fit together nicely, in the Block worktable EQ8 is looking at that center medallion as if it's any old ordinary block, and the default size was something like 6".  And of course, I can easily change that -- but only if I know the actual finished size my block needs to be to fit into my quilt design.  Helpfully "doing the math for me," EQ8 tells me (when I'm looking at the Quilt Worktable) that this block measures 48" x 48".  Unfortunately, however, that is a corner-to-corner measurement, NOT the length of the block sides.  I need to manually enter the length of the SIDES of my block, not just the diagonal measurement, in order for these foundation patterns to print out at the correct size.  It's time to put on my Big Girl Panties and do the math myself.

The Pythagorean Theorem Saves the Day!
When I was sitting in a high school geometry class so many years ago, bored out of my mind, I had NO IDEA how useful all those formulas would be for art and design.  They should offer a course called Math for Design Majors that would cover all of the same content as the regular algebra, geometry and precalculus, except all of the problems would use examples from art, architecture and design instead of those dumb word problems about calculating batting averages, trains traveling in opposite directions at different speeds, and the likelihood of winning at dice games.  My math class would be team taught by the Art Department and the Math Department, would have twice as much class time as the regular math class because students would be actually applying the math they were learning to hands-on art projects for reinforcement, and the class would satisfy both the math requirement as well as an elective fine arts credit...
Today's EQ8 Tech Support Solution is Brought to You by Pythagoras, c. 570 - c. 495 BCE

Anyway, did you see that crazy number my magic math came up with?  My center block needs to measure 33.941" x 33.941" in order to fit in my quilt.  Not exactly ruler-friendly, is it?  And that's where it's such a godsend to be able to type a weird measurement into EQ8 and print out foundation paper piecing patterns of the exact size needed, with no rounding or fudging required.  Here's what the print layout for my Storm at Sea block frame looked like when I printed it from the Block Worktable, setting the block size to 33.941":

THAT's More Like It!
MUCH better!  Now each of the Square-In-Square corner blocks fits on a single page, and each of the diamond sections will be taped together from only two sheets of paper.

What Paper Does Rebecca Use for Paper Piecing?

Carol Doak's Foundation Paper on the Left; Saxs Newsprint on the Right. EXACTLY the Same Stuff.

When I write about paper piecing, I often get emails from readers asking what kind of paper I use.  I have tried LOTS of different papers, and my favorite is newsprint.  Some people recommend vellum because you can see through it, but my paper piecing method doesn't require see-through foundation paper and I find that vellum is awfully stiff.  The thicker weights can actually crack along the stitching line as you're sewing the seam.   Plus vellum has a slippery coating that encourages your fabric bits to scoot around without your permission.  Newsprint paper is ideal -- like the kind of paper that cheap children's coloring books are printed on, and that's what kind of paper that paper piecing superstar Carol Doak's recommends as well.  Newsprint is strong enough to hold up throughout the paper piecing process without tearing easily, yet thin enough to tear away once stitching is complete.  Newsprint also has a slight rough texture that helps to "grab" your fabric and reduces slipping -- that's a huge help since you are "sewing blind" when you paper piece, with your fabric completely covered by a sheet of paper under the presser foot of our sewing machine!  

The only challenge with newsprint is that our modern printers are spoiled by printing on fancy copy paper all the time, and sometimes they throw a little tantrum when we ask them to print on lowly newsprint.  For instance, the printer may beep at you and complain that the paper is jammed when you can see with your eyes that there is NO jam, or sometimes multiple sheets will feed through instead of just one piece at a time -- it's that slightly rough texture of the newsprint that "grabs" the fabric and holds it still, so we LIKE that quality in our foundation paper!  Check your printer's paper type settings.  My moderately priced Epson WorkForce inkjet printer/scanner has a Recycled Paper setting that seems to feed newsprint more smoothly than the Plain Paper setting does.  And if an extra sheet or two of newsprint gets stuck in the printer occasionally and gets wasted, I don't worry about it anymore because I found a SUPER cheap source for my newsprint foundation paper. 

At first I was using Carol Doak's Foundation Paper, and it's great stuff.  Although it doesn't say so on the package, it is definitely newsprint and it comes in a pack of 100 8 1/2" x 11" sheets that retails for $12.95 (but Amazon usually has it discounted).  You can probably find that at your local quilt shop or even at JoAnn's.  But then I found the exact same paper at a fraction of the cost -- instead of getting a dinky pack of 100 sheets of Carol Doak's newsprint paper for $12.95, you can get a whole ream of 500 sheets of Sax Plain White newsprint for only $9, with free shipping.  

Now, I love Carol's design aesthetic, I have purchased several of her books, and I would be thrilled if I ever get to take a class with her, but I am not going to pay seven times as much for my foundation paper just so it can have her name on the package.  Newsprint paper isn't fancy stuff, y'all -- it's the stuff your newspaper is printed on, it's the cheap scrap paper they used to pass out for standardized tests in elementary school, for goodness' sake.  It should not cost more than regular copy paper!  I bought my 500-sheet ream of Sax newsprint two years ago, and I still haven't even made a dent in it.

This is the book by Carol Doak that taught me how to paper piece, by the way.  Unlike her newsprint paper, her book was worth every single penny.  She has a paper piecing class on Craftsy that has stellar reviews, too.  So, buy Carol's books and sign up for her classes, but get your newsprint from Sax!

Okay, kiddos (of all ages, including ME!) -- somehow it is now after midnight and my "quick little blog update" has spiraled out of control once again. I actually have a red owie on the edge of my wrist where it has been rubbing against the edge of my laptop keyboard as I type!

So, NO TYPING for me tomorrow!  Instead, I'll be either:

  • Working on my Jingle BOM, tweaking the pieced block border, trimming the center medallion and adding inner borders
  • Starting the new design I shared with you today using the foundation patterns I printed out before getting sidetracked by a neverending blog post
  • Removing the foundation papers from my pineapple log cabin blocks and joining them into rows
  • Breaking my no typing vow, and writing another post about the SECOND cool design I came up with today using my EQ8 software!  ;-)
Happy stitching, and have a great weekend!  I'm linking up with :


Jenny K. Lyon said...

You crack me up-what a title! We both suffer from the inability to KISS, sigh. Delightful and informative post!

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

math and I do not get along - glad to hear that some people are good at it!! When I have done any paper piecing I have used newsprint too it works great.

Dogwood Lane Rambles said...

I could not agree with you more about your new math/art/design curriculum. My high school math teacher has crossed my mind countless times since began quilting 30 years ago. She is laughing her head off in heaven, I'm 71 yrs old after all, as I struggle with angles and fractions and wtf all trying to make borders fit. I apologize Sister Veronica and I wish I had paid better attention but it just didn't seem relevant at the time.

Barbara Sindlinger said...

Thanks for the tip about the newsprint paper. I have it on my wishlist for my next amazon order. I have Eq7 - but haven't really done much with it. I think I will need to take more classes. I see that you use it a lot and for paper piecing it sure would come in handy.

Katie said...

Cool! Thanks for the link to the newsprint. Woohaa! :-)

PaulaMu said...

You are such an inspiration! I love your blog! Hopefully I can figure out to get my comments to post . . .

chrisknits said...

You say that's what you're planning to do, but can we really trust you after you've already lied to us with the last post? Hmm, can we?? I love your design!!! It will be so awesome when done.

Bonnie said...

Wonderful design. Amazing scholarly geometric work. Great info on paper... I've put it on my wish list to buy after I use up the wonderful Carol Doak paper. I'll be back later this week to see what other wonderfulness you have designed. I used EQ7 but mostly for fairly easy quilt ideas. Thanks for sharing all of this!

Alison V. said...

This is such a fun design and I'm so impressed with your EQ skills! I am really excited to see this quilt come to life!

Cherie's Quilting Journey said...

I can't wait to see that design become a quilt. So lovely!

Susie H said...

Wow! That was intense buy I love what you came up with in Version #1. Can't imagine any prettier versions.

Vesuviusmama said...

It's lovely! And yes, I use my high school math every time I quilt - I wish the kids here at the school where I work would realize how valuable these skills are, even in areas where they aren't likely to imagine that they are.

Bobbi @ Snowy Days Quilting said...

Such a fun design! I'm definitely familiar with the trials of making software do what you want it to do. I also find myself doing a lot more math than I'm "supposed" to do.

As a developmental math instructor, I absolutely adore your idea about the combination class in math and art. It's brilliant, and might just get people more interested.

Susan said...

You are too funny! I think I would go with labor not bliss after seeing that layout EQ spit out. You're quilt design is very lovely - it's making EQ do what we want that's the labor.

JanineMarie said...

Oh, this is so neat!! And it boggles my mind a bit because I don't have any computerized quilt planning programs except the lowly Quiltography app. But I love that you used your high school math. My dad was a math teacher, and I took his classes, but math did not stick with me--except "a squared plus b squared equals c squared." I would get really frustrated and usually grumble (or whine) "Just give me the formula." Anyway, a math class for artists/quilters would have been awesome! I have used Carol Doak's paper, too, but it was not always as big as I needed. Now I have a big box of packing paper (which is just newsprint) from a moving store. It's about 24 by 30 inches and came 200 sheets to a box for less than 10 dollars. I haven't tried cutting it down to feed through a printer, but I might just try that sometime.

Emily @ Quilt Pimp said...

I cannot wait to see this finished! Thanks for the tip on the newsprint. I need to get back into my EQ to plan more quilts. This is inspiring!

Denise said...

This is beautiful, good job.

Glenda said...

Great blog and great quilt top, I saw this straight away in Kay Fassett fabrics. specially those huge centre pieces. Hope you do make it, it will be a sensational quilt. Thanks for the laughs and the lesson on how you approached making this beauty. Cheers Glenda

Janice said...

This post made me grin big. Several times. Not only are you an amazing designer and quilter, you are an entertainer. :D

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