Monday, September 21, 2015

Tessellations 3: Irregular Quadrilaterals---Tumblers

Tumbler scrap quilt of many cotton prints,
about 1880-1900

One of the reasons I've been indexing charm patterns or tessellations is that I am looking for a charm quilt pattern for my never-ending hand sewing project---some kind of a tessellation, a single pattern piece.

My criteria:
  • It has to work easily into a 90 degree quilt. I am too geometrically challenged for the alternatives.
  • I can chat and sew (even drink wine and sew) and not have to rip.

So I am exploring geometry---the only school subject I ever got a D in.

First I looked at BlockBase, my digital pattern program. I sorted out the regular quadrilaterals---parallelograms with 90 degree angles--- at this post. 

I am thinking about irregular four-sided shapes.

A trapezoid, they tell me on the internet, is a "quadrilateral with at least one pair of  parallel sides."

The rule is: Any quadrilateral will tessellate.

BlockBase #151a

There are two trapezoids under One Patches in BlockBase.  The Ladies' Art Company named #151 "Tumbler" when they published a pattern in 1898. Quilters had been piecing the design for several years by then.

Another published name: "Out Of This World" from the Laura Wheeler pattern source at the Old Chelsea Station post office (OCS) in the 1930s.

Tumbler quilt dated 1876. 

The pattern was popular about
the time of our Centennial celebration.

The  trapezoid can be tall or squat

Above and below
detail of a charm quilt from about 1900

Another squat tumbler shape.

Easy to cut because the ends are 45 degree angles.

Any rectangle cut on two sides with this angle would work---
Say a package of Union Blues Layer Cakes

first cut into two rectangles, 

then cut and shaded like this quilt from about 1900.

This proportion was most popular with quilters about 1870-1920...

---particularly for scrappy quilts 
or charm quilts with no two pieces alike

The way you shade the tumblers and stagger the rows makes a difference.

Tumbler by Irene Goddard Walker, late 19th century,
found in the Massachusetts Quilt Project.
Picture from the Quilt Index.

A tumbler can be seen as half of a six-sided shape.
You can shade the fabrics to make long hexagons.

Sort of like this.

Moonlight quilt kit using Kaffe Fassett fabrics
from Cotton Patch UK.

I noticed in EQ7 that there is a Quilt Layout button that would be quite useful in planning a Tumbler quilt. In "New Quilt" you are offered several options on how to set your blocks, including the one with the red arrow One Patch Quilt. I always assumed that was just hexagons.

But I saw a tip that told me to look into the One Patch Menu
and here is one under Patch Style called Trapezoid.

You can sketch your tumbler quilt in Alice's Scrapbag
or any fabrics you like.

But more important---it can do the math for you
in figuring out sizes.

I did my sketch with a 3 x 2 inch shape because I wanted to cut it out of a 2-1/2" strip, a Moda Jelly Roll.

You could plan a 2" x 6 1/2" trapezoid, which would mean
cutting 7" trapezoids from 2-1/2" strips.
Adjusting the slider at the bottom gives you any proportion you like.

The other pattern in BlockBase is the trapezoid set like this (#152a)
You can view the larger unit as a triangle or a hexagon.

Same pattern; shaded differently

Here the trapezoid tessellates into a familiar six-sided shape---a regular hexagon. In 1882 the English needlework writers Caulfeild and Seward named the pattern Right Angle Patchwork---an unfortunate choice as I see no right angles in the whole design.

Inner City by Jinny Beyer, 1980
A very important late 20th century quilt

Below are just a few of the trapezoids that are not in BlockBase because I never saw them published for quilters.
 But they are possibilities for charm quilts. A right trapezoid on the left and then an obtuse trapezoid on the right.

Talk about obtuse.

Is this the charm quilt of my dreams?


  1. "drink wine and sew and not have to rip."
    Ha, so already this sounds like a project that would work for me :)

    Thanks for sharing your explorations - we do have all the leftovers from the stars to put to use ...

  2. Fun explore, I like the history, tumblers are versatile.

  3. You showed you can make this block simple or complicated. I got it in my head I needed to make a millennium quilt using a tumbler design. I ended up with 2,000 different fabrics from every decade of the 20th century in my quilt. I had a Plexiglas template, but ended up trimming the rows in height, because the quilt was going to be huge. It ended up 8' x 10' which is still pretty big! Oh, I finished it a number of years after the millennium on 6/6/10.

  4. Delightful tumbler and half-hex quilts. Time to grab all my 19th Century scraps and fabrics and cut tumblers and half-hexagons (and hexagons) with my Accuquilt dies (to have lots of time) to make charm quilt--at least I'll be cutting all my conversationals (love the horseshoes on the tumbler quilt and the 'squat tumbler' pic!) and larger scraps plus recent lines as they are easier to get to!

  5. Patty's Millennium is at http://pattythequiltlady.blogspot.com/2010/06/its-done.html
    Stunning! (took me a while to find so I thought I'd save others som time when they want to see it!)

  6. I just love tessellating shapes. These posts about them are some of my favorites. Thank you!