Susan, 3-30-09: After looking at my design and tweaking it here and there, I’ve finally settled on something I like.

For a pinwheel spiral, is there a min/max size of triangles, or minimum number of spokes to make up one of the arms of the spirals to make it look good? The reason I ask is that a lot of my spiral arms have 3 or 4 spokes. Is that visually okay if one wedge is 20″ long (versus the current 10″)? I’m probably way over-analyzing this, huh?

RaNae:  No, Susan, you’re not overanalyzing this, and the question in a good one.  What creates a smooth curve is having a number of short straight lines — in this case it is the short sides of the triangles in the spiral — change direction a little bit.  The fewer of those short lines that you have, the more they have to change direction.  If there are too few lines, the changes in direction become too big, and instead of a smooth curve, you get a lumpy one.  In your 10″ version, with only 3 or 4 triangles creating the curve, you’re on the verge of having lumpy curves.  I think that if you expand to 20″, you’ll really see lumpy curves.  The solution is to add a few more rings to your spiral, using narrower increments to draw the triangles.  This will give you more short sides that will create a smoother curve.  I’m sorry, but I’m afraid this is going to mean re-drafting some of the shapes in your wedge, at least the larger ones.  You’ll have to be the judge of whether the curves are smooth enough for you, in which case you’ll leave them as is, or whether you think they need to be smoother, in which case you’ll need to re-draft that particular spiral.

Susan: I really enjoyed your visit to California last week. Spending the three days helped to get my project off the ground. I’m looking forward to getting this sewn. Lots of prep work left to do though.

Susan 4-3-09:  I’m sending you pictures of the draft (template 001 400 pix) I did while you were here in CA, with wedges labeled 1,2,3,4.

susan-a-template-0011 is what I colored before you left, and 2 is a start of a different color arrangement because I didn’t like the yellow piece in the center of the flower. 3 changes the size of that center piece, which I still didn’t like. In 4, I changed the size of a couple triangles, and spun the spirals in a different direction in others. That made the inner flower bigger and more in proportion to the rest of the design, instead of the middle ring being so wide as in 1,2,3. It also made the butterfly design again. Do you see them amongst the flowers?

RaNae:  Susan, are you planning on bringing out the butterfly design the way you were discussing in CA?

Susan: So, now I’m pretty happy with my design. I drafted a wedge and made a mirror image, then combined the two.  Could you please review the drafting to make sure there is nothing amiss? Bear in mind these are not my final copies, as I’m still deciding on exact size, coloring, etc.

susan-a-1-twelfth-wedge  susan-a-2-twelfth-wedge

susan-a-template-003I printed it 6 times to make a not-to-scale drafted image.

susan-a-template-002-400-pixAfter several color trials on tracing paper, with lots of erasing, I think I’ve settled on my coloring. Do you see the butterflies amongst the flowers? I asked my husband that question last night, forgetting that he’s red/green colorblind. He couldn’t see them at all because of their coloring! Of course, my goal is not to have them obvious, but rather appear when the focus shifts within the mandala. Have I achieved that? Let me know your thoughts on my design.

RaNae: Susan, you’re making great progress.  And, thank you for your step-by-step explanation and photographs of what you’re doing — I think everyone can easily learn from what you’re doing!

Now, about those butterflies.  I see them because I know they’re there, but I wonder if others would miss them because they’re so woven into the overall design of the mandala.  Personally I think that the butterflies are the highlight of your design.  If it were me, I’d “flaunt” them a little more!  Does anyone else have an opinion about this? 

If you were going to show them up a bit more, here are some ideas that come to mind — use or not as you see fit:
Vary the colorings in various butterflies, while keeping the background colors consistent.
Embellish the butterflies to make bodies, antenae, markings on the wings.
Make dimensional wings over just one of the pieced butterflies, along the lines of what you were thinking about in the workshop.
Use butterfly fabric in some other part of the design so that you set up the viewer to see the butterflies; use colors in the butterflies that reference the printed butterflies in the fabric.

Like I said, you may or may not choose to use any of these ideas — or they may spark some new idea of your own.  But I guess that one reason I really like your butterflies is that most of the other designs so far are abstract, and the butterflies bring your design a bit more to earth, they are a representational element that make your design more “real” to the viewer.  That said, no matter what you decide to do, your design is beautiful!

Susan 5-26-09:  I’m sending pix of the first spiral in my wedge.  Twelve of them make the very center of the quilt.  I laid them together to see what the center is like so far–very pretty!

Susan A 20090525 002  Susan A 20090525 004

A couple things have been indispensable–tape, a pin, and a machine with a knee lift!  The tape is wonderful for holding the fabric.  I use the pin to check my intersections after I sew a strip on.  From the front, I poke the pin through the junction, then look on the back to see if I’ve hit it on the drawn line.  This way, I can make sure I’ve hit it, instead of relying on the stitching lines.  And the knee lift gives me two hands to hold.  An open toe foot is also great, as I can really see where I’m going.

RaNae:  How exciting to see it start to take shape!  Thanks for the tips about your sewing process.

Susan 5-28-09:  Here’s a photo of my mock up of fabrics in the wedge. I then took this picture into photoshop and made up a mandala, which is the other picture. Wish that was the finished, sewn product! But it’s nice to check the coloring that way. Isn’t technology wonderful (sometimes!)!

Susan A P1010311_400  Susan A full_mandala11a400 copy

RaNae:  Susan, it’s great to have these tools to help us visualize where we’re headed.  Your gradations look lovely.  At this stage your butterflies will, I think, be like that visual exercise where some people see a vase and some people see two faces looking at each other.  I think that your plan to use butterfly fabric and embellish the butterflies will make all the difference!  Nice to see you making progress!


7 Responses to “Designing Flutter by the Garden

  1. RaNae Says:

    From Susan: I didn’t find this info in the SASQ book, but is there a way to make a Baravelle spiral play nice next to a pinwheel spiral? I was thinking of making flowers from Baravelles, but the butterflies are pinwheels. Any suggestions?

  2. Dottie Lankard Says:

    Susan, Love the butterflies. I can easily spot them. My suggestion to make them a little more obvious besides the great ones RaNae suggested would be to experiment with specialty yards or cords and couch around your sections and/or edges. Think of it as drawing a little darker line around the design element to make it stand out. Dottie

  3. devi7 Says:

    I aggree with Dottie – a little embellishment would spark the butterflys p just adding a few heat bond rhinstones for eye and antenna could do it as well

  4. Susan A Says:

    Thank you for the feedback, and you bring up some excellent points. Yes, I do plan to bring out the butterflies more with the addition of antennae and bodies. I also want to find irregular black dotted fabric in yellow and orange/red to use for the butterflies so that they appear as Painted Ladies. Remember when I got to class on Wednesday, I said the butterflies are migrating? That’s gone on for two weeks and there have been tons of them. Another bit of inspiration!
    I’d also like to find a floral print with butterflies in it (hopefully with the same color palette!) to use on the border. And I still like the idea of the butterflies flying in the open space between the mandala and border.
    I’ll start working on a full scale draft next.

    • RaNae Says:

      Susan, the butterfly migration sounds magnificent. I’m so glad that you’re the kind of person that takes notice of those things! I can’t wait to see how you incorporate that beauty into your ever-more-spectacular mandala design!

  5. Linda M in Michigan Says:

    Hi Susan, I love your butterfies. I thought of a fabric you might be interested in – or not. It is Jinny Beyer’s Mariposa line. Here is a link
    and a picture of a quilt where you can see the butterfies better

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