Martha, 4/1/09: 

martha-design-1Hi RaNae and fellow Spiros. I have been playing around. This is the first design I have completed. I’ve drawn plain spirals and then started spiral mandalas. The other ones were not symmetrical and I decided that I should start with symmetrical and then try non-symmetrical again after that. I’m hoping this is close to what you are thinking about. The colors are just a start. Mostly defining areas. I’m still thinking about how to color, which way to swirl, all counter clockwise or some clockwise etc. So much to try… so little time.

RaNae: Martha, this is a good start.  I can see that you understand how the spirals fit in their shapes and how the shorthand represents the flow of the spokes within and between the shapes.  You’ve already grasped, also, that a shape can cross the line between wedges.

The next step is to explore and experiment more with proportions.  Stretch the shapes, place the centers off-center, divide the wedges in unusual ways.  Play with color placement.  Look around the blog and see what others are doing — two really good places to start are Holly Watson’s page and Susan Ott’s page.  Look in particular at how Susan’s latest design uses color and shading in ways that create a sense of dimension.

In summary, you’ve got the fundamentals down — and now the fun begins!

Martha, 4-8-09:  Another design. I’m trying to avoid all those points meeting in the middle. I can never get them to meet as well as I want them to. This one is much more symmetrical, though not completely symmetrical. (Not sure if that is good or not.)

martha-design-2RaNae: Martha, that’s an interesting center — I would not have thought to put a rectangular center in the middle of a mandala.  But one of the things that makes it work well is the way you have arranged the symmetry in the rest of the design: your wedges are not all divided or colored the same way, so the symmetry itself has a rectangular feel to it. 

You’ve done a really good job of demonstrating two key concepts: 1) that you can do a mandala in which the wedges are divided differently, and 2) that the symmetry doesn’t have to be every wedge mirrored with the one next two it.  You’ve taken a group of 3 wedges divided differently and mirrored the whole group across the mandala both vertically and horizontally. 

Martha:  Heading south for a week on Friday, but bringing my paper & color pencils. Tired of the snow flurries, it’s April…. enough already!

RaNae:  I’ll look forward to see what other brilliant designs the sunshine inspires in you — like what else you come up with as you play with different approaches to symmetry!

Martha 4-19-09:  I’ve attached 3 designs I drew last week while on vacation in SC.

Martha Design 3Number 3 – I like the leaf like shapes swirling around the outside of the design.

RaNae: Martha, I’d really like to see you let go of the grid.  Also, there is a T-joint between the green sections that isn’t working here.


Martha Design 4Number 4 – As designed the squares are inset with Y seams. Don’t know if this is against the rules. Another option would be to lengthen the green side of the square, put a solid square in the triangle and change the swirl slightly from the new corner. I think I’ll try to redraw it that way.

RaNae:  The easiest way to sew this would be to do the squares, then overlap them.  However, this isn’t relevant to the technique I’m trying to demonstrate, and I think your other designs are more interesting.


Martha Design 5Number 5 – This one of course has lots more pieces, but could be quite interesting. I like the way the center star swirls. Any thoughts anyone? I also tried to draw shapes with off-center spirals. I’m not sure if my math is wrong, but drawing the same shape clockwise or counter clockwise created 2 completely different designs.

RaNae: Yep, that’s what happens when you change direction in even one of the shapes.  Since the flow forms happen when the spirals connect, changing the direction of one spiral changes all of the flow forms on each side of it, and completely changes the design.  Can you send the other versions of this design?  I think it would be really helpful for everyone to see the differences that happen.

Martha: The center came out about the same place but the center was a different shape. One center was taller and the other was wider. Except when I drew a triangle and the center was nowhere near the center dot when drawing clockwise vs counter clockwise. Does that make any sense?

RaNae 5-14-09: Martha, of all the designs you’ve done, I think the one dated 4/8/09 is the most interesting.  What do you think?

Martha 5-19-09:  Hi RaNae and fellow Spiros!  I have been working creating designs on pencil and paper. This is the design above dated 4/8. It’s yellow around the edge with a rectangular center. I have drawn 1/4 of my block by hand in a couple of different sizes. I typically work in miniature but I was looking for something not too tiny. I decided that 1/4″ increments might be too tiny, but 1cm increments might be too large scale for a 12″ – 16″ mandala size. Increment size is still a big question as is colors.

Martha F Even Increments Martha F Uneven Increments

Here are two scans of the line drawings of a quarter of my block. The very thin sections that create a V or wing shape on the right side of the block create a question.  All the increments on the block are 1 cm on an 8″ block. If I make the increments of one section of each of those two spirals a smaller size then it changes the spirals. (Of course!) That makes those curves a lot more noticeable. I’m afraid the tiny curve will disappear into the spiral. Is it ok to change the increments on just one side of the shape? Or do you like the tiny curve? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

RaNae:  These are good questions.  The answer is, you are free to make the increments any size that makes your design work the way you want it to.  It seems that you think the drawing on the right, with the “V” shape more prominent will work better, and I would agree with you.  It’s a pretty significant feature of the design, and it should have enough weight to show up.  Good work!

Martha 5-26-09: I have attached 3 colorings of my block. I have some fabrics with gradients in 4 colors and I’d like to use those with some other tone on tone prints that would make it less “flat” looking. The center I was thinking of using something like RaNae’s Radiant Circles fabric. I would fussy cut portions of the circles to swirl around the center. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Martha F Spiral 1  Martha F Spiral 2  Martha F Spiral 3

RaNae:  Martha, I an inclined to one of the first two…#3 needs another color, at least, for my taste.   Also, a bit more variation — more contrast in the gradation, insert some patterned/fussy cut fabrics? — in the blue areas would keep them from becoming too weighty in the design.  Anyone else have suggestions?

Martha: Like Betsy & many others, I was having a tough time with the coloring. I too had copied, colored, cut and taped, but I didn’t have a big selection of pencils. If I made a mistake it wouldn’t erase well, so would I have to start all over again. All the coloring and copying was taking way too much time and wasting paper. I scanned a quarter of my block and traced it into EQ. I did a quick drawing in EQ, NOT with perfect increments. This was not as a template, only to audition colors. Betsy is correct: EQ is not easy for purposes of mandalas. I have used or taught EQ for years. I would recommend it only for advanced users. Even then it is annoying at times. With a quarter drawn I could make a 2×2 block quilt to see the full block and test colorings.

Martha 8-4-09: A last minute trip to Keepsake Quilting on Sunday. It was very last minute so I had to choose fabrics without my swatches to match. I am sewing my mandala. I have chosen fabrics based on the colors I liked in a print I had. I even had to create a fabric guide for my gradations. Sometimes a spiral uses 8 shades and in other areas it only uses 5 shades. So I have a list of which sections use what, to be able to make sections match. I have attached 2 photos. One is of my fabrics and the other of a few sections I have sewn. [Click on images to enlarge]

Martha F Spiral Fabric web  Martha F 8-4-09 Martha spirals

RaNae:  Martha, it’s good to hear from you after so long — so happy to see your progress!  Did you choose one of the designs/colorings above? Or will this be a surprise when you’re all finished?  🙂  Keep us posted!

Martha 8-5-09:  My design is the one with the rectangular center above, but obviously not in the colors above. Oh and I forgot to say, it’s a miniature. The center is a 12″ diameter. So the quarter that is pictured is 6″. It will have over 600 pieces by the time it’s done. [Click image for a larger view]

Martha Spiral 8-5-09Here is a picture of a quarter reflected with the mirrors. I’m still deciding what fabrics will go in the center. My husband laughed when he came home from work because I had all the fabrics for each color lined up on different tables around me. I don’t dare turn the fan on for fear it will rearrange my fabrics!

7-10-10:  Martha’s quilt won a 2nd place ribbon at the Vermont Quilt Festival.  Congratulations, Martha!

One Response to “Designing Spiralling Out of the Box

  1. Martha F Says:

    OK… this is strange. I manage a High School computer lab. After a science class left yesterday I was walking around checking the room and a student had left a piece of graph paper with a square spiraling pinwheel drawn on it. I usually find worksheets, notes, pens, pencils or blank papers but not quilt designs!

    R: Martha, the music from “Twilight Zone” is going through my head 🙂 But seriously, that’s really cool!

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