Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


Mathematics often is thought of as the study of numbers and geometry. But mathematics is so much more. It also includes the study of patterns, enumeration, classification, problem solving, and logical reasoning. More loosely, mathematics is not just a collection of facts, but also an action: a way of doing, or a systematic way of thinking.

In this paper, quilt making will be discussed in the context of the latter view of mathematics. In particular, three quilts made with a structured approach to design will be discussed: Bubb’Illusion II, Wild Flowers, and Cyclic Permutations. Bubb’Illusion II represents early work of the author, and is based on the mathematical concept of an arithmetic sequence (a sequence of numbers in which subsequent terms differ by a constant). Only one fundamental design decision needs to be made, and that is to determine the sequence. Many more design decisions are made in the two remaining quilts, Wild Flowers and Cyclic Permutations. These design decisions are deconstructed, and highlighted.

Bubb’Illusion II (fig. 1) is made in the ‘Op-Art’ style, an abstract style of art popularized by Victor Vasarely.2 The diamond in the center of the quilt is based on an irregular grid, in which the widths of the rows and columns are determined by a sequence of numbers. The sequence of numbers has a regular structure, containing both descending and ascending subsequences, rather than a random structure. Here, the sequence of numbers is

{6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2}.

The construction process of the quilt is algorithmic, in the sense that there is a logical order in which to cut strips of fabric and to sew strips of fabric together.