I’ve made no secret of my intention to do a large Penrose quilt, but I had a sinking feeling a little while ago that I should perhaps consider doing a trial run first instead of cannonballing my ass into the deep end and potentially ruining a lot of fabric that can’t be re-purchased here in Huntsville.
I’ve been more than a little obsessed with tilings ever since Jacob pointed them out to me a few months ago, and I’ve been quietly storing up tilings I think would make great quilts. At first, I asked myself why other quilters hadn’t tackled these visually stunning images for quilt purposes, but eventually it sunk in – because they’re hard. They’re demanding. Their continual broken and rebroken lines mean you never get the luxury of straight, long seams or 90° angles. They require piecing odd and funky angles on small pieces over, and over, and over again.
Because I am an idiot, this did not deter me one bit.
I laid them out and, over the course of a three-day weekend, got to work. One seam, one funky angle at a time, I got to work. I pulled entirely from fabrics in the stash, most of them gifts from friends, and decided to try a new color scheme for me - muted, woodsy tones - quite a change from the intense jewel tones I love so much.
What made me laugh, though? As I got further into the project, the more traditional the design began to look:
At first glance you see stars and circles. It doesn’t even register on you that the entire design is based on fives instead of an even number. Does it really, at first glance, look like a layout that was the talk of the mathematical community when it was published? No? I didn’t think so. It looks comforting, earthy. Like a star quilt, or a ring quilt, that your grandmother might make.
It only has left-right symmetry. Draw a vertical line down the center of the quilt, and you’ll see the reflection symmetry. But that’s it. Even better: it’s done with only two tiles.
By this point, I was growing more confident. I had a better idea of how carefully to handle the thin pieces in orer not to fray them, and I could see that once I got the next row of dark ringed stars attached, the overall pattern of the quilt would be unmistakable. Still, it took seeing the first ringed star emerge from the pattern pieces – those instantly recognizable mathematical bits known as Penrose stars – before I believed that I really and truly had the chops to do this quilt.
I need a better photo than this one but can’t get it without sunlight; I am, however, too impatient to wait until morning to make this post with a better photo. I put the finished medallion down on the floor and photographed it immediately because I had to show it, I had to show it, I HAD to – I wanted people to see what I’d been obsessing over and researching.
I still have to add the backing, but this medallion – a Penrose cartwheel – is emphatically the star of the show. I know of a couple of small-scale Penrose quilts in existence, but I believe both were either ‘sun’ or ‘star’ configurations, and not the cartwheel.
I’ll slow down my frenetic sewing pace now that I’ve proven the design works. There’s not a lot left to do at this point, though. I don’t quite know how to quilt it yet, but I’ll figure something out.
Oh, and the name? I like the idea of using names that start with ‘pen-’ for the Penrose quilts. It’s a nice double reference to Penrose, the Western discoverer** of the tiling, as well as the prefix penta-, for ‘five.’ So a warmup Penrose all but has to be called “Penmanship,” as in “practice your.”
Perhaps in the future, after Pentatonic, there will be one called “penannular.” Look it up. It applies. :)