Penrose Quilt Challenge!

On June 1, 2011, I tossed out an invitation to see if anyone would be interested in trying out the custom plastic templates I had made for myself. I was fascinated with Penrose tilings, and thought it would be incredibly neat if other people got the chance to make quilts based off of them, too.

I didn’t think anyone would respond, and I’ve been shocked and delighted that other quilters are interested! I don’t know how many of them will eventually go on to finish quilts, but it’s telling me one thing: I’m not the only person fascinated by tilings that go beyond standard quilt patterns.

What’s a Penrose tiling?

If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 25' square.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Visit domesticat.net/quilts/penrose to learn about the Penrose Quilt Challenge and how to participate.
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 25' square.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Visit domesticat.net/quilts/penrose to learn about the Penrose Quilt Challenge and how to participate.

An ‘aperiodic’ tiling first written about by Sir Roger Penrose in the 1970s. (see ‘Penrose tiling’ on wikipedia) Quilting, for the most part, celebrates ‘periodic’ tilings – patterns with a regular repeat. Aperiodic tilings (wikipedia) start from a central point but never repeat, not completely; as they grow outward, they fracture and split and form aesthetically satisfying patterns that never fully repeat, but have radial symmetry from that central point. Penrose tilings have five-fold symmetry, meaning you can draw five lines out from the central point and each section will be the same.

Technically, there are two versions of the tiling: the ‘sun’ and ‘star’ tilings. There’s also a variant with different symmetry, called the ‘cartwheel,’ which I’m including because it is different and also beautiful.

Can I get in on this?

Absolutely. Biggrin I’ve tried to ensure that all of the tools you need to start are linked from this page, but I’m still learning what other quilters need, so be patient with me.

Is there a time frame?

Goodness, no. To me it is infinitely more valuable that you’re making an effort to learn something new, stretch your skills, and make something beautiful. Learning is lifelong.

What’s it look like?

Here are a few samples of quilts I’ve found that use one of the Penrose tilings:

Twelve color wheel Penrose tilings and one expanded tiling in semi-neutral tones by me
As displayed at Quilts Kingston 2008 IMG_6049 It's proving to be a difficult quilt to photograph. I originally shot a photo of it in our department, and the colors looked muddied, so we waited for the thunderstorm to end and reshot it outside on the back loading dock. It's not great, but better.

Finished size is about 41 inches per side.

Bloody hell, that looks hard. Why should I try it?

…because it’s hard, and because it’s beautiful? Could there be better reasons?

If you’re not daunted by sewing hexagons, with their small individual seams, you can do a tiling quilt! The problems are similar.

The difference: you’ll need to choose which version of the tiling, and which section of it, you want to do. This will be your design project from start to finish. When you’re done, it’s very likely there will never be another quilt just like it – ever.

If that last sentence makes your toes curl, just a little, this project is for you.

What size quilt do I make?

Here’s the fun and scary part: it’s up to you! The idea behind an “aperiodic tiling” (which Penrose tilings are) is that it doesn’t ever repeat, not fully and cleanly, so there’s no clean, obvious place to place the edges of a quilt. I’ve set a base piece size of 3”, and tried to generate some blueprint ideas for quilts that matched standard quilt sizes but also showcased pattern sections at their best.

Some pre-cropped options
‘Sun’ tiling If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 25' square.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Visit domesticat.net/quilts/penrose to learn about the Penrose Quilt Challenge and how to participate.
25” square
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 44' square.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Visit domesticat.net/quilts/penrose to learn about the Penrose Quilt CHallenge and how to participate.
44” square
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 60'x80'.

Side note: I'm not totally sold on the placement of the center of the tiling in this one. Thoughts?

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.
60”x80”
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 90' square.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.
90” square
‘Star’ tiling If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 25' square.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Visit domesticat.net/quilts/penrose to learn about the Penrose Quilt Challenge and how to participate.
25” square
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 44' square.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.
44” square
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 60'x80'.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Visit domesticat.net/quilts/penrose to learn about the Penrose Quilt CHallenge and how to participate.
60”x80”
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 70' x 90', with the center of the tiling being at the bottom center. I thought it contrasted nicely with the star pattern at the top.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.
70”x90” variation
‘Cartwheel’ tiling*   If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 55' square. I tried to find a setting that would work for a cartwheel at 44' square (the typical width of fabric) but no luck. It just needed to be bigger.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Color-coded to help you see the symmetry, which differs from the canonical Penrose tilings.
55” square
If made with rhombs with 3' sides, this should work out to be right at 60'x86'.

Image created from PDF files generated by Alan Schoen. Used with permission.

Color-coded to help you see the symmetry, which differs from the canonical Penrose tilings.
60”x86”
 

* Yes, I know it’s a variant, but it’s gorgeous! For those of you more technical, the “cartwheel” tiling does not have fivefold symmetry; it only has left-right symmetry. If you draw a vertical line through the center of the tiling, you’ll see it.

Sotto voce to the math geeks

Yes, I’ve got versions of the de Bruijn tilings, thanks to Alan. If you want to tinker with those instead, talk to me privately. Smile

Gratitude

  • Jacob Hugart, who threw me down the rabbit hole by introducing me to the world of tilings
  • Alan Schoen, who shared many of his renders and gave me permission to use them, making these quilts possible

Comments

Danetta's picture

Penrose Tiling

I saw your request on English Paper Piecing and had to see what this is about.  It is fabulous and I have to try it. 

domesticat's picture

Yay! I've been delighted by

Yay! I've been delighted by the number of people who have said that very same thing. For a while I thought I was the only person interested in these things, but it turns out there are quilters who either didn't know about aperiodic tilings, or didn't know how to generate the pieces they needed.

Helen's picture

Penrose Tiling

Hi there, I'm popping over from Flickr too. It looks wonderful, I think I'll have a play with a protractor and graph paper, ooh I haven't felt this happily geeky in aaaages!!

 

Helenx

Robin (RsIslandCrafts)'s picture

I came over from Flickr also.

I came over from Flickr also. I love the way these designs look. I would be very interested in making a couple of the 25" Sun tiling designs. I like to use freezer paper for my EPP. Is there an online templete I could print? 

Gretchen's picture

Saw this on Flickr

I’ve been looking for a new interesting EPP project (like I need a new project) and this looks pretty fabulous. Thank you so much for providing the templates to print. 

qpy's picture

Hi domesticat,I just

Hi domesticat,

I just completed the quilt challenge based on the P2 tiling, and posted them on Flickr.  I must have visited this site at least 10 times while I was planning, and I’m grateful to have had your example for inspiration - thank you very much for writing about this!

Add new comment

Subscribe to Comments for "Penrose Quilt Challenge!" Subscribe to domesticat.net - All comments