Betsy, 3-19-09: After many failed attempts, I was inspired by Susan Ott’s first sketch. I just want to know if I’m on the right track so I can try other designs. It helps me to try and deconstruct others examples.



 Betsy, 3-23-09:  Here are 2 sketches. One, I tried to use different size wedges.

betsy-005 betsy-006

RaNae:  Betsy, these are beginning to show some interesting detail, use of color and scale, and mix of spirals.  You’re on the right path.

Betsy 4-27-09:  Thanks for having us in New York. It was fun and I’ve spent all day playing with EQ. Here are some ideas. 

Betsy V image0013   Betsy V image0014

RaNae: Betsy, these are beautiful — you’ve got the right idea.  I’ll be really interested to see what you decide on!

[As a reminder to everyone, you can get the same results in paper and pencil, and if you’re not a experienced EQ user, please don’t take time to stop making mandalas and learn EQ in order to do what Betsy has done.  If you are an experienced EQ user, and would like to learn Betsy’s process (and her pros and cons for using EQ), go to  Betsy’s instructions in the post dated 5-13-09 on the main page:  Linda McGibbon also offers her techniques on her blog page.  These instructions are for experienced EQ users only.]

Betsy 5-4-09:  Here’s a new design and wedge. I did it in EQ. Let me know what you think.

betsy-v-image0015RaNae:  Betsy, WOW!  I love it.  And really interesting color choices too.  Thanks for sending the drawing of your wedge.  Would you share how you got from the wedge to this layout?  How big do you expect to make this?  Any other info that you would like to share that you think might be interesting, helpful, encouraging to others?

Here is Betsy’s wedge.  She drew it as a single block in EQ.  I’ve colored the individual spirals so you can see how she divided it and set the spirals in.  This is a symmetrical wedge — if you fold it down the center both sides are the same.  The spirals in the two halves are set in mirrored symmetry, except for the hexagon in the center.  Good work, Betsy!


 Betsy 5-4-09:  I’ve been playing with this since our workshop the weekend before. I think I’m obsessed. Here is another one. Let me know which one you like better. I can change the color placement.

betsy-mandala-2RaNae: Betsy, I’m glad to see you’re on fire!  As for this design, it’s REALLY busy…I think I liked the first one better — more focus, more elegance.

Betsy:  Here’s another version of the 1st one I sent today. I used more black to make the outer ring float. I think I like this one the best.

betsy-mandala-1-v2RaNae:  I like either version of the first one.  I think you’re on your way!

Betsy 5-7-09: Here’s a photo of my full-size wedge.

Betsy V full size wedge photoRaNae:  Betsy, thanks for sending this along — it’s really helpful for everyone to see your process step-by-step.  As I’ve said before, one of the reasons I really recommend drafting the spirals in the wedge by hand, full-size, is that you can really see what you’re getting into as concerning the actual size of the pieces you’ll be sewing.  You can judge your comfort level based on that.  Also, photocopying the sections at full size avoids the problem of having your sewing lines get fatter when you enlarge.  This is important for accurate sewing.

Betsy 6-24-09:  I’ve made the center blocks and basted them together.

Betsy V 6-24-1 first blocks

RaNae:  Wow, Betsy, VERY exciting to see!  Keep us posted!

Betsy 7-24-09:  I have the blocks all together now. The last seam is only basted. The very center is too sloppy for me. Any suggestions?  Should I bring it to you to see in person? I’m not sure I’ll ever be satisfied with it there. So, I may have to applique a yellow octagon on top. Seems like cheating though.

Betsy V 7-24-1

RaNae: Betsy, at this size I can’t see any flaws. And remember it won’t be any bigger than 8″ square in the book. So….I would say don’t mess with what appears to be perfection! However, if you want me to look at it I’ll be happy to see it! (Ooohh goody!)

Betsy: I tried to fiddle with it and I think I made it worse instead of better. The paper fell off and too much handling…  The light grey thread shows and makes it look dirty too. I’ll probably applique something on top. Maybe when it’s quilted it will look OK.  It’s frustrating because it was the last thing I did. Everything was coming together so well.

RaNae: Betsy, it might be just a question of changing thread color….

Betsy: I couldn’t sleep so, I decided to remake the center spirals pressing the seams open. I stayed up until 2:00 and got up at 7:00. I’ve made all the spirals and I’m now putting them together. I feel much better. I’ll wait until I’m less sleep deprived to do any ripping!

RaNae:  Sorry about the re-making…. Have you tried “pinwheel pressing” the center?

Betsy: Originally I did pinwheel pressing. I think the problem was the weight of the all the wedges together, basting, too much handling, too much thread. I should have done a small sample with all those points converging. Usually I’m not so critical, thinking matching is over rated. However, right smack in the center after all that work… I don’t have to do too much ripping since I’ll remove the whole center intact.  Thanks for the support!

Betsy 7-26-09: I finished the new center. I pressed the center seams open, joining mirrored pairs and did pinwheel pressing on the rest. It’s not perfect but much better than the 1st try. I’ll work on the background and the border before ripping anything. If I replace the center before I show it to you, I’ll bring the piece I take out of the center. I’ll also take pictures.

Betsy 7-22-09:  I was fooling around with a few border options. Let me know what you think.  [Click image for larger view]

Betsy V Border 7-22-8  Betsy V Border 7-22-9

RaNae:  My vote goes to the first one.  The pieces in the corner really anchor everything, and I prefer the blue and green echoing the blue and green in the outside border of the circle.

Betsy came over today (8-7-09) to show me her mandala and talk about all things quilt-related.  The borders aren’t sewn on yet, but here’s how it looks, all put together:

Betsy finished photo

The photo doesn’t do it justice — the colors are so vibrant and alive!  It was great to “meet” this one in person and I know Gwen Baggett will do a terrific job on the quilting! (Hey, Betsy, I just noticed that the left-side strip is upside down in this photo — good thing the borders aren’t sewn on!)

Betsy 8-9-09: I set in the corner spirals and applied the pieced borders. I didn’t sew it upside down! Ispent the car ride both ways between here and Washington ripping the paper. It was a good use of the time.

Betsy 8-10-2

I have just enough black fabric left to cut a 3 1/2″ finished outer border plus binding. Would you have Gwen do the binding or would you do it yourself? If Gwen does it, do you know how wide the binding needs to be cut? I don’t mind doing it myself and I will have time. I would normally cut it 3″ wide.

RaNae:  I think Gwen actually has someone else do binding for her.  I usually cut mine 2-1/2″ wide, but best to ask Gwen what she prefers.  The quilt looks great!

Betsy 8-14-09: I’m done! I sent it to Gwen today. It was a little scarey leaving it at the post office.

Betsy 8-14-1 FINISHED

RaNae: It’s gorgeous!  Congratulations!  (And safe travels, to both you and the quilt.)

Betsy 8-16-09:  I did this in the plane. It’s not a wedge but it’s only 3 spirals. What do you think? [Click image for larger view]

Betsy V 9-wedge photo

RaNae:  Betsy, it’s a start. It’s simple, though perhaps a bit predictable. I think, even with only three wedges, you have it in you to do something more interesting. You’re right that you don’t have to stay precisely within a wedge, but there should be at least some reference to “wedginess” within the design. Take a look at Susan Wood’s latest drawings and see if that gives you more ideas.

 Betsy 9-8-09 to 9-10-09:

Here’s an idea I had for a yin yang mandala.

Betsy V 9-8-2

RaNae:  Betsy, I love the yin/yang idea!  Things I would suggest exploring here would be to make the color scheme in the two sections more different, spin the two mandalas in opposite directions (if possible, emphasizing the “opposites” of yin and yang) and consider making the two mandalas a bit more different in structure/style (simply divide the wedge differently).  Also, perhaps there might be a way to approach the areas around the mandalas that would be a little less busy and at the same time emphasize the flow into their respective mandalas — fewer divisions in those background areas (which also means less to cut and sew….)?

Betsy: Here’s another idea I’ve been working on. The colors are just “place holders”.

Betsy V 9-8-6

RaNae:  A lovely design, even in a single color.  It looks much more kaleidoscopic that your previous designs, because you have broken up the coloring in the flow forms (variegated flow forms).

Betsy:  Here are two 9-wedge designs.  [R: note that these are both in rotational symmetry]

Betsy V 9-10-3  Betsy V 9-10-2a

RaNae:  Both of these designs have possibility.  What strikes me upon first glance in both cases is that there is a lot of the same color clumped together in the middle ring — orange in the first one, green in the second.  I’m wondering if it would be possible to break up this solid-ish area a bit, and at the same time emphasize more curves?  In the green/orange in particular I’m seeing quite a few straight lines (the yellow flashes areound the center, for example).

Betsy:  Here are 2 more ideas I had. The wedge is the same as the 9 wedge I sent earlier, but adjusted to 36 (for the 10-wedge design) or 45 degrees (for the 8-wedge design).  [R: note that these are in mirrored symmetry.  What a difference, yes?]

Betsy V 9-9-12  Betsy V 9-10-11

RaNae:  I have to say that I like this wedge in the mirrored-symmetry designs more than in the rotational ones.

You have lots of interesting ideas here.  Of everything you have sent, I think the yin/yang has the possibility of being most unique.  I’m wondering what would happen if you took the wedge you did for the 9-wedge and adapted it to use in the fill-in wedges of the yin/yang, blending it into the circles of the yin/yang?



20 Responses to “Designing Cosmic Spin

  1. Jody B Says:

    Betsy, your design is beautiful. I love the coloration and the white ribbon. Very regal.

  2. Betsy V Says:


    It’s a 45 degree wedge, mirrored making it 90 degrees. I copied and rotated it 3 times.

    I was thinking of making it at least 48″ without borders. I can blow up a wedge to 24″, without spirals and draft each section full size. There are 8 mirrored pairs plus the hexagon. So, I’ll have to draft 9 spirals and mirror them. That makes 34 spirals in each 90 degree wedge; total 136, right? Do you think I can do it? Will it be to bulky in the center? It will have 16 points coming together. I’ll have to draft a few sections full size to see if it’s manageable.

    • RaNae Says:

      48″ seems a large enough circle to fit everything in — and leaves room to add borders out to 54″-60″ which is a nice bed-topper or hang-on-the-wall size. I think you can do it — most of the spirals will be fairly small, not too many pieces. Pace yourself over the next couple of months and it shouldn’t be overwelming to do that many blocks.

      Use a Nesting spiral on your spirals at the centers and that will reduce bulk at the center.

      I’m writing stuff about drafting this week, so you’ll probably want to read that before diving in to drafting. If you want to come up to my place on an evening and work on it together, you’re welcome to do that.

  3. Betsy V Says:

    Thanks, RaNae. I may take you up on the offer to come by one night once I get started drafting full size.

    I’ll do some variation on the 1st design playing with color placement. I have a big stash of bright colored batiks that I think will work well.

    FYI: I agree with you about EQ. It takes HOURS (even days) to draft so many spirals in EQ. I had it done on paper several times before I even attempted. You may recall this was one of the designs I brought to your house. Then it takes even more work to make any small change. I don’t recommend it!

  4. maryreddington Says:

    My “Tropicale” center was an 8-point star and each diamond was done in two halves. That makes 16 wedges coming together in the center. If I read your question correctly about bulk, it should not be a problem for you. There is bulk but it is manageable. Each diamond was about 9 inches. The entire mandala was about 28″ then appliqued onto the background. Your design is awesome – stunning.

  5. Betsy V Says:

    Thanks. I should have noticed your 8 points since it’s on the front cover of the 1st handout! Tropicale is gorgeous.

  6. Peg D Says:


    You’re design is magnificent. Looking forward to meeting you and spending the day trying to fix my design. I’ll admit, it’s the color that has me confused, I’ve drafted 4 designs and can’t seem to color it the way I imagined it would look.

    See you Monday


  7. Susan O Says:

    I’m using RaNae’s translucent paper and I like it very much. I had wanted something I could leave in but couldn’t find the right thing for me. This paper will tear out very easily, especially with the 1.2-1.4 stitch length R recommends.

    Susan O

  8. Susan O Says:

    I’ve ripped as many as 3 times and haven’t had to resort to tape yet as R suggests in the book. She says you should rip out from the paper side but I found that I had better results if I ripped from the fabric side.

    Susan O

  9. Fee Indonesia Says:

    Betsy, all I can say is WOW!!!!! Will be hard to be in the same category as you!


  10. Betsy V Says:

    Thanks Peg! I’ll have more photos in a day or 2.

  11. Holly W Says:

    Wow Betsy, this is absolutely beautiful. I love it so much. How big is your mandala? I like the first border also.

  12. Betsy V Says:

    Thanks, Holly. Yours is pretty amazing. The wedges are 24″ each. So with borders it will end up being around 60″ I think. I’ll end up doing some variation on the 1st border.

  13. Peg D Says:

    Hi Betsy

    Congrats, it’s simply amazing. A sure ribbon winner!


  14. purplepassion Says:

    It’s a beauty alright! Great job!

  15. maryreddington Says:

    Betsy, It is magnificent. Congratulations. Have you settled on a name? I get the feeling of German folk art painting.
    Mary Reddington

  16. Betsy V Says:

    Thanks Ladies,
    It’s funny you should mention German folk art. As I saw it develop on my computer, it reminded me of PA Dutch hex signs with Amish-like colors. I was in Lancaster County just last weekend. Maybe Amish or Dutch Garden? I’m open to suggestions. It was easier naming my kids.

  17. maryreddington Says:

    I lived in Holland for a few years. As I look at your quilt, I see all the tulips radiating from the center. How about “Tulip Fantasy”?

  18. Betsy V Says:

    That’s a good suggestion. I spent a semester in Amsterdam in college. The tulips were accidental. I was hoping to see the butterflies between the tulips.

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