Amy 3-15-09: Attached are my first couple of trys at this.  Medieval Spin was first,  and Hybrids In Bloom was my second try.  Am I on the right path?

RaNae: Amy, you’re thinking in the right direction.  There is a technical mistake in your first drawings that I’ll point out below.

Below: Around the center of this mandala, you have three 7-sided spirals (see Markup 1 below), but within each spiral you have the spokes spinning in two different directions.  I’ve drawn in how the spokes in these spirals will actually spin — all in the same direction (Makup 2).  If you want them to go in two different directions, you have to split the shape and draw two separate spirals in mirror image to each other

Medieval Spin

Medieval Spin

Markup 1

Markup 1

Markup 2

Markup 2

Below: The way you have colored this shows me that you are still thinking about the outside edge of the shape as the defining structural element.  I’d like you to think instead about the CONNECTIONS between the shapes — color adjacent spokes from one shape into the next so that they flow and the edge of the shape is hidden — see the markup below.  The other thing I’d like you to explore is dividing the wedges into much less predictable shapes.  Watch the posts this week to  see what I mean.

Hybrids in Bloom

Hybrids in Bloom

Hybrids in Bloom Markup

Hybrids in Bloom Markup

 Amy 4-9-09:  I am still sketching. They took me a while, but I now have a better understanding of how the spirals join.

Amy star_flowerIn the colored one, I started with a 4 wedge mandala, and built from there. With the exception of the center uneven octagon, everything else is triangles. The coloring is not great, but I was able to achieve my overall goal of looking slightly like intersecting oval. I might play with actual ovals next.

Amy star_04-09_1With the uncolored one I was trying my hand at an odd number of wedges. Not sure if the one with the points is still really a mandala.

Let me know your thoughts.

 RaNae:  Amy, these both show progress.  I like how the colored one uses compound symmetry, and I like the variations in scale and proportion in the second one.  Of all the designs you’ve sent, I think the colored one above is your strongest.

Amy 4-12-09: After playing around today doing some sketches and trying to use a 12 pointed spiral in the center, I decided to “go back to my roots” and try something simpler. Plus, since I’ve never done this before, this may be a better option for me.

Amy D Child's Play 1Here are 2 sketches, Child’s Play and Child’s Play 2 which is a slight variation of the first one. I named them this because they reminded me of the pinwheels I played with as a child.

Amy D childs_play2RaNae:  Amy, if you go with one of these, something you need to keep in mind is that there will be large areas without detail, and you’ll need to make color and fabric choices that give them texture, detail and variety.

Of all the designs that you’ve done so far, I think your Star Flower above is the most interesting — it’s not too complicated, and it uses symmetry in some really interesting ways.  If I have a vote, I’d go for that one.  Whichever design you choose, it’s now time to think about  delineating the flow forms, and introducing more texture, detail and variety.

Amy 5-6-09:  As you know, I gave my design to several people to color (including children). The trunks, points and fans were lost on most people even though I brought this to everyone’s attention. Some were very interesting, but I think I have my final coloring. I have attached the following for your review:

Amy D Final-Colors1. Final Color – the only problem I see with this is in the center where the artist used the circle as a guide. My thought is to continue out both light orange and light green, ultimately matching the next triangle side of dark orange or light green. While I like the circle type division, I think it may look too fragmented in the end. What is your thought on this?

RaNae:  If you like the center division, go with it — when you draft the actual spirals, you’ll see that you can make it happen just by changing the colors of the triangles in the spoke at that point.  The way that the spiral is constructed, you won’t have a circle there, you’ll have an octagon.

Interesting color scheme here — it will be interesting to see what fabrics you come up with.  You mention that you felt the design might be “too fragmented” and that is something to keep in mind as you actually choose and audition colors.  Many of your flow forms are split at the sides of their adjoining shapes, but many are not as well.  If you feel you need to “calm down” this design a bit, I would look for opportunities to combine these split flow forms, either by making them a single color or by using a gradation to gradually move from one color to the next.

Amy D Final-wedge-division2. Final Wedge Division – This one shows how I believe I will need to divide the mandala in sections to begin paper piecing the individual shapes. Because of the way I came out of the center with the eight sided spiral, I was not able to split the mandala into “wedges of a pie”. The mandala is basically split into 4 wedges, and then the wedges are sectioned.

RaNae:  Amy, the divisions that you have shown indicate how you would put the mandala together after you paper-piece the individual shapes.  I think this is what you were trying to say above, but just to be clear: you have to sew each individual shape/spiral first, then join them along the green lines you show in this diagram to put together the whole mandala.  Good planning, by the way!


Amy D Final-center-error3. Final Center Error – When dividing the design, I noticed what I think is an error. I have highlighted 4 triangles coming off the spiral that I did not make spiral. I was thinking that I could just continue paper piecing out logs out from the center spiral to make it continue. Please advise if this will work, or if these need to be spirals, and if so, how these should be spiraled to make them flow out as part of the center since I seem to have a mental block regarding these.

RaNae:  Amy, not every shape in a mandala has to be a spiral.  These will be okay, I think, as long as you use the space in some way that enhances the overall design.  (You don’t want them to stick out like a sore thumb!)  It will also depend on how you color the spokes around them — color the adjacent spokes the same color, and they’ll get curved sides from those neighboring spokes.

I’ve mentioned several times that one way to add interest to the overal mandala design, as well as to unify it, is to use a large-scale print and fussy-cut it to appear in various parts of the design.  These shapes might be just the place to do that.  Look at the quilt on the cover of SASQ (and look at the full view inside) to see how Rhonda used a large-scale print in the border, then picked it up in the center and also in some of the triangles of the “blades” in the center.  You might want to take a page from her book, using a large-scale print in these four shapes, then picking it up again in your border.  If you do this, think about using the background color of the large-scale print in the adjoining spokes, so that they blend and hide the straight edge.

Amy: I was thinking that the all the spirals will be pinwheels. Will this work?

RaNae:  Yes, it will work.  Though quite possible it’s not necessary.  Look at the stuff I wrote about when to use a Pinwheel and when to use a Nesting.  (If you don’t already have it in your notebook, it’s in the May 7 post on the main page.)  If I were you, I’d draft a quarter of the design both ways, and look carefully at the way the spirals connect, particularly where there are trunk connections.  Where you need Pinwheel spirals for a strong connection, use them.  Otherwise, use Nesting spirals.  Even if this takes a bit longer at the outset, it will save you time at the sewing machine.

Amy: Do you have any recommendations as to and the overall size? I’m not real sure where to begin.

RaNae: Everyone has been asking me about size, and this brings me to the question of drafting, so I’m going to address both questions.  As to size: whatever you are comfortable with and suits how you want to use this quilt.  Personally, I favor quilts that are 45″ – 58″ square, because they fit on the top of a queen size bed, below the pillows.  This means that I can use the quilt for warmth, change it easily, minimize storage, and most importantly, carry and show it easily when I do trunk shows.  If I were George Siciliano (which I’m not!) I would do these miniature, 12″ – 15″ square.  If you like miniatures, do it.  Personally, I find the thought of this an express lane to the loony bin!

So, let’s say you’re going to do 54″ square, and you’ll need some room for a border, let’s say 5″ wide.  That’s 10″ for border, which leaves a 44″ circle for your mandala.  That means that your wedge will have a 22″ radius.  Divide that radius down into your various shapes/spirals, and you’ll have spirals that will be anywhere from 4″ up to about 12″ across, depending on your wedge divisions.

Once you’ve decided on the size, the next step is to blow up a wedge to this size and draft in the spirals.  This is one of those times I keep saying “paper and pencil is better.”  One of the disadvantages of working on the computer to draft the spirals is that you don’t really know what size they are until you print them out.  Working in paper and pencil, though, you can easily see how large or small the pieces are.  And you know as you are drafting if you are drawing a size that is comfortable for you to sew.  If things are too small or too large for you, stop and rearrange before going to the painstaking process of drafting an entire wedge and printing it out.  Also, drafting in real size prevents you from having your lines get thicker when they are photocopied.  And having thin lines increases your accuracy when you sew.

Amy:  Any suggestions as to the eight sided center spiral?

RaNae:  Amy, I’m not sure what you’re asking here, though I think I may have addressed this earlier in connection with the “empty triangles” question.  I think it works well as the center — it’s a bit of assymetry with respect to the total design, but it really gets things going.  One thing you might consider is extending the white spokes into the flow form, which would create a spinning square in the center.  This center may require a few “Y” seams, or you might be able to set it in using an English paper-piecing technique, since you’ll have the foundation on the back to guide you.  Let’s talk about this when it comes time to put it all together.

Amy 7-20-09:  Attached is what I think will be my final mandala. I think I want to do it all in warm batiks – red, orange, gold, brown. I changed things up a little from the original design and coloring I thought I was going to use. When trying to work out the colors, there were just too many in the original one I was going to try to make. Plus, I tend to gravitate more towards warmer colors. It will be approximately 56″ inches across.

Amy D FireBall

Let me know if this one is ok. If you approve of it, I will go ahead and start printing the pattern onto my foundation material.

RaNae:  Amy, it’s really interesting to see how this design has symmetry in some places and asymmetry in others.  It’s a design that keeps you looking, because it’s not what it seems at first.  I like it!

As for your color choices, I can see how much you love the warms.  Just remember that you need plenty of CONTRAST in order to see the shapes in the design — don’t let flow forms clump together too much.  Since you’re using a lot of the same three colors, I would really encourage you to experiment with placing gradations in some of the flow forms.  This will add variety without changing the colors, and it will give some stunning 3-D effects that will “add another dimension” to your design.  Carry on!

Amy 7-29-09:  Here’s the batik fabric I have chosen for “Fireball”. Yes…I love it when I find exactly what I am looking for.

Amy D batiks

RaNae:  These certainly merit the title Fireball!  Since you’re using such a limited palette, I would suggest that you do a small paste-up of a wedge before you cut and sew, to make sure that the colors contrast enough where you need contrast to show up the design.

October 21, 2009: In progress . . . this is the center.

Amy D 10-21-09

January 2010:  Amy Dawdy finished her top for Fireball and began to quilt it — and the yellow fabric at the center shredded!  ARHGHGHGHGH!!!!!!!  You can imagine how distraught she is over this!   Apparently the dyes damaged the fabric somehow.  The ruined fabric has been replaced, and the top will be used without quilting for now.  She was so upset that she forgot to photograph it before mailing it to the publisher. . .

5 Responses to “Designing Fireball

  1. Amy D Says:


    Thanks for the comments, I knew the first one looked funny, but I could not figure out what was wrong. The spirals spin right in the second one, so that must be why I like it better. Now I see the other shapes. Back to the drawing board for me…


  2. Amy D Says:


    Thanks for the comments, they were extremely helpful, and you seemed to have read my mind when you weren’t sure what I was saying. Now I just have to start drafting the real thing….

  3. Amy D Says:

    I went shopping yesterday…couldn’t find the right brown to use as a springboard. I had a certain color in mind. Went out again today, and found exactly what I was looking for. I wound up with 12 colors including the dark brown I was looking for. I also found one multi colored batik for eith a border or the binding. I’ll figure that out in the end. I’ll take a picture tomorrow of the fabric in the daylight and forward it on. I love the way batiks gradate and blend into each other.


  4. Judy Says:

    Hi Ranae,
    I just found your book Simply Amazing Spiral Quiits and fell in love with spirals. I would like to attempt one but have only been quilting since April. I am planning on reading the color and fabric sections and would like to try my hand at making at least a block. Could you give me an idea of where to start for a beginner at spiral quilting. Thanks!

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