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Creating 3D Quilts with Light, Shadow, Shape

Posted by Ruth Ann Berry on Aug 25th 2020

Isn't it fascinating how light, shadow and shape can create the illusion of depth on a flat surface? I'm always on the lookout for some way to translate that dimensional appearance into quilting. Equilateral triangles colored on isometric graph paper is one good way to make the magic happen. I noticed that 60° paper is just vertical stacks of equilateral triangles that could easily be fabric in light, medium and dark values to mimic the shading done with a pencil. The columns constructed vertically would eliminate the need for set-in seams, and the finished columns sewn together complete the 3D illusion.

The most common reason for making a quilt is to give it away as a gift. As I've traveled to shows and guilds, I've noticed that a common lament is how difficult it can be to find a quilt design that would be appreciated by the mathematically minded or mechanically inclined gift recipient. My husband and four sons are all mechanics, engineers and tinkerers. This is the kind of geometric, dimensional design that appeals to them and is my inspiration for continually dreaming up more gadgets and gizmos to become quilts.

There have been those who have said that the process looks too difficult. It's too many triangles and what about the sewing on the bias? Of course you need an organized system, and a consistent ¼" seam but that's true of all things quilting. I find that cutting the triangles from strips, leaving one blunt point and alternating the direction of the blunt point eliminates the bias stretching and helps orient the triangles in the right direction so that the columns fit together. Generally, if you get the first triangle in the column pointing the correct direction, the rest will fall into place.

I'm very excited about the release of my first 3D quilts book. I'm completely sold on the idea that the process is totally achievable for any intermediate quilter seeking a less traditional look. I've included a small project pattern so you can give it a try. If you're ready to "jump in", I'd love it if you share your finished project photos with me at quiltersclinic@gmail.com. It's the best honor in the world to post those on my social media pages.

Download project pattern

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