Quilt Lab

I recently stumbled upon a book called “Quilt Lab:The Creative Side of Science,” by Alexandra Winston.


By stumbled I mean, browsed it in the online Public Library, checked it out and started to flip through it…. and then ordered a print copy from Amazon or somewhere, because I needed to own it. Winston is a Math Teacher and quilter, with many of the same qualities of nerd-groupie I have. Her projects include topics like fractals and calculus, binary and – for you “Portal” fans – Aperture Science.  She teaches my favorite system of setting in circles, for a nice quilt based on a petri dish. Really…a nice, pretty representation of what grows in a petri dish. Yikes.  Each project includes a side bar called “Study Hall”, that explains the science at a complexity level most quilters can handle.

As usual I won’t ever make any of her projects in the way she has, but I suspect I will riff off her ideas a lot. Last week I made a little quilt using her binary concept (my husband points out that it’s really ASCII, which is binary used to encode alpha-numeric symbols and punctuation. Binary is a world with only 1s and 0s…think on/off switch). Winston’s original, throw-sized quilt is coded with warm and cool colors for the 1s and 0s, a system inscrutable to my husband who knows ASCII but doesn’t always know red/green. This is her quilt. Beautiful!


I decided to use stripes for 1s and spots for 0s instead. My system doesn’t rely on color vision, even though most quilters have it. It’s still the case that no one will know what you’re saying unless you tell them, so behave yourselves. I coded the name of a brand new baby (thank you, Nate and Jen) to make a pram quilt. Each column of 7 blocks represents a letter, space or exclamation point. The finished top is about 26″ x 36″. I hope to quilt it next week at a quilt retreat in Healdsburg, CA. Will post a finished picture if that happens – and pictures of the view if it doesn’t…. Bishop’s Ranch is one of the most beautiful places in this half of the world, and someone else will be cooking, expertly,  so we can sew. Like a visit to heaven.


I have mixed feeling about including the ASCII key here, but it’s not included in the print version of the book and it’s handy to have. Remember to use discretion if you code writing into your quilts. Someone might figure it out later. And, have fun!



About sewberkeley

I'm happiest making things.
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