Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt

Pythagorean Spiral, 28.5" x 21"

This quilt was inspired, imagined, created and quilted last month between everything else I did.  But it was the type of inspiration that grabs you and won't let you go until you've finished the project.

First, I saw this image online (and despite numerous and detailed digging, I have been unable to find the original artist!  If you know anything, please let me know!):

Artist unknown.

You can read more on what is a Pythagorean Spiral (also called Spiral of Theodorus) here.  If you want to draw your own spiral there are lots of great YouTube tutorials.  I wanted to create my own at first, but when it came to duplicating the inner lines and shapes of the above spiral it became very complicated!  I created this pattern on a really short timeline so I could take it with me to the QuiltBliss retreat, and finally realized that simply tracing the above image and then having it enlarged at a print shop would be much faster and simpler.

I then brought the 250% enlargement home, and worked out how to turn it in a very bare paper piecing pattern (no seam allowances, just used a highlighter to mark where I needed to leave enough fabric for the seam allowence) and cut it up, using a paperclip to keep the pieces from each wedge together:

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt pattern: 17 wedges, 4 of those wedges have 2 pieces, the rest have 3 pieces = 47 pieces to this pattern!  You can see a marker and a rotary cutter on the left for size reference.

I had also printed 10 coloring pages to work out colors and fabrics.  I used this DreamsTime image as color inspiration:


I pulled all my coordinating fabrics and packed them in my suitcase.  It wasn't until I was on the airplane that I worked out how to use the colors on my spiral:
Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: colors and fabrics

But my stash was missing anything orangey-pink, which I really wanted to use.  So I mentioned that to my friend Yvonne (from Quilting Jetgirl, she went on the retreat with me, which made the retreat so much more fun!) and she said she'd bring all her orangey-pink fabrics for me to use!

Moose selfies with Yvonne!

I also ended up using some of her oranges, yellows, purples and pinks by the time I finished.  What I'm saying is my finished quilt wouldn't be quite as colorful and awesome without her fabric assistance!  Here is a collage of it being pieced:

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt piecing.

During the retreat I spent every free-sewing time working on piecing this and think it was around 10 hours total?  I finished it up minutes before the last show and tell and was so excited to finally get to share something!  Here is what the back looked like:

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: the back of the paper pieced quilt top.

Then I rolled it up and came home.  I had so many other projects to work on and finish by the end of November.  But a little bird suggested I enter it to QuiltCon and the idea stuck.  So it became my stretch goal for the month: if I could finish everything else I would try to finish this to meet the QuiltCon entry deadline.  And I made the deadline,with 12 hours to spare even!

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: 28.5" x 21"

But if it doesn't get in, that's okay.  I made this quilt for me and am so thrilled with how it turned out!  Every part of it was a labor of love, but fulfilled a deep rooted creative need.  When I started quilting it I planned to keep it simple, but quickly realized the quilt demanded more than just stitch-in-the-ditch and a few background squiggles:

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: quilt back.

I used all Aurifil threads, and was so happy to realize I had all the right (or close enough) colors:

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: Aurifil threads used on the spiral

The background was only quilted with some wavy lines in Aurifil Dove at first, but I added more lines using the colors about (and a few extras):

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: background quilting using 9 colors of Aurifil.

I only quilted the spiral in the ditch to start, but after finishing the background I realized the spiral really needed a little more quilting (and it still needed to be blocked to make it lay flat!).  I kept it fairly simple, but did a lot of thread changes so the quilting wouldn't draw too much attention:

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: quilting detail.

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: back quilting detail

The center of the triangle is 17 points, and all of those seam allowances make it very bulky--like quilting over it was not possible.  After a lot of discussion with my quilting friends/consultants I ended up going with some designs from my quilted paisleys:

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: center quilting detail.

Pythagorean Spiral Quilt: back center detail.

Other details
Batting: Quilter's Dream Orient (bamboo-silk-cotton blend that has an amazing hand/softness, even after all my dense quilting!).
Binding: Handcrafted by Alison Glass
Backing: Kona Purple
Backing thread: Aurifil Dove (2600)

So maybe you're wondering if I'm going to create a pattern so you can make your very own?  YES.  I am working on making this into a pattern that does have seam allowances, piecing guide, tips, and coloring pages and will let everyone know when it is available to purchase!


  1. This turned out so beautifully, Renee, and it was my absolute pleasure to have some fabric to contribute to the project. I love that you added color to the background wavy quilting - it sort of just glows from a distance because of that. And once again I just love getting to see the quilting from the back of this quilt. I know you would have loved to be able to quilt the spiral some more, but the simplicity of the quilting really compliments the intricacy of the piecing. I think you are going to make the quilty internets explode when you release this pattern. ;)

  2. It looks great. I love the colours. After staring at it for way to long, I almost expected a rainbow coloured snail to poke his head out.

  3. This is absolutely gorgeous. I agree this should take the quilting world and Quiltcon by storm. But in your pattern design if it could be less than17 points coming together or at least a simpler option for us less brave sewists!!!

  4. Looks like the image originally came from here: http://www.fcps.edu/AnnandaleHS/GeometryProjects/pythagorean.htm

    Was linked here:: http://www.ehow.com/how_4621697_spiral-pythagorean-theorem.html

    Chrome lets you right click on any image on a web page and search for similar images. :)

    1. Unfortunately those links do not have any info on the artist.

  5. WOW!!! THe artistry of your quilts always amaze and inspire me!!!

  6. Stunning! Looking forward to seeing the pattern!!

  7. Wow Renee~absolutely gorgeous! All...that...stitching! CRAZY! I hope you make it in the show!

  8. It`s just fantastic.Love your fabric choice!

  9. LOVE this one!!!! Can I be first in line for pattern sales? :D Hubby has been asking me to do a math quilt for years and this would work perfectly! This is truly one of my favorite quilts - such amazing work on it!

  10. Ergh, I think my comment disappeared! Anyway, this is a truly gorgeous piece. So happy for you that you made it and are creating a pattern. The quilting you chose really highlights it. Beautiful!!

  11. Wow! I loved seeing this in progress, so to see this finished is pretty awesome!

  12. So absolutely beautiful, Renee! I love the quilting designs you chose, and the coloured threads added to the background quilting. I'm looking forward to seeing other versions pop up online after you release the pattern.

  13. This is lovely but also very clever.
    I am a fan of foundation piecing, but for something this complex I might have been tempted to hand sew using EPP.

  14. Can't wait for the pattern to come out. I am adding it to my must get for 2016.

  15. Wow - amazing work. Love the colours and very envious of your Aurifil collection - I have two.