Friday, May 1, 2009

The history of the idea

I suppose a bit of background information might be good.

When I was a teenager, I had a book titled "Martin Gardner's Second Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions". The only thing I remember from that book was an article that describe the efforts of a couple of mathematicians to find a square that can be constructed from smaller squares, no two of which are the same size, or to prove that such squares are impossible. Near the end of the article, it said that when one of them found a perfect square, he went into the other's office and said "I have a perfect square!" The other replied, "So do I!"

Move forward a few decades. My sister became an avid and highly skilled quilter, and my wife has done a bit. Every year, there's a quilt show at a park near our house. My sister usually comes in to see them, and sometimes has a quilt in the show. I always enjoy going with her and my wife to see them. Two years ago, while looking at some of the more strictly geometrical quilts, I suddenly thought that it would be fun to do a quilt based on a perfect square. I started designing one, but didn't get very far. This year, I was inspired again. This time, I kept going.

As much as possible, the quilt will be a perfect square of perfect squares. The main squares will be different colors, red, blue, green or yellow. Each main square will be made of four fabrics that are predominately shades of the main square's color, pale, not so pale, pretty dark, and dark. The main squares will be separated by black lines. I'll probably use half-inch bias tape for that, although I thought of using some kind of soft rope to add a bit of a third dimension.

The main section of the quilt will be seven feet square, and the border will be solid black and four inches wide.

Of course, it won't be possible for every main square to be a perfect square. The smallest main square will be two inches on a side. I decided that the smallest square I would work with would be 3/4 of an inch. As the main squares got smaller, I had to remove the unworkable subsquares and stretch some of the other subsquares into subrectangles to compensate.

The largest subsquare will be about 17 inches on a side. I'm not sure what I will do for these big squares. I suppose I'll try to find printed fabric that will be interesting enough to be used in such a big piece, but I may try to make them traditional quilt squares.

When I was in school, I would sometimes doodle by drawing shapes that were roughly similar to paisley shapes. They would have more points, usually two to four, connected by random curves. I'd draw one shape, and then another that roughly fit the curves of the first, and so on until the paper was covered. I'm envisioning doing that for the quilting of this quilt. The strict straight lines of the design would be counteracted by the freeform, random curves of the quilting.

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