Penrose Quilt Challenge!

If you’re here, you’re probably considering making a quilt from a Penrose tiling. Congrats!

What’s a Penrose tiling?

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.

Here’s an example graph I worked from on a previous quilt:

29 March 2010 - 8:35pm - This is seven iterations of a P3 Penrose tiling, with radial lines in red to help you see the symmetry.

More about what I'm thinking about doing with it, and how I got the idea, at domesticat.net/2010/03/penrose-quilting The entry includes vector versions you can tinker with in Inkscape or Illustrator. csEmpty graph

Technically, there are two versions of the tiling: the ‘sun’ and ‘star’ tilings. They’re named for the pattern they begin with in the very center of the quilt, though as they grow outward, they look essentially similar. There’s also a variant with different symmetry, called the ‘cartwheel,’ which I’m including because it is different and also beautiful. You may get growled at by a mathematics professor if you claim the ‘cartwheel’ tiling is a Penrose, though – be forewarned!

Can I get in on this?

Absolutely. I’ve tried to ensure that all of the tools you need to start are linked from this page. There’s no time frame. 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.

When you do, please add your photos to the pool: https://www.flickr.com/groups/tilingquilts/pool/

What’s it look like?

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

30 January 2011 - 1:11pm - Twelve color wheel Penrose tilings and one expanded tiling in semi-neutral tones ©Pluto Star
24 May 2008 - 1:01pm - by me
As displayed at Quilts Kingston 2008 ©Flickr 10 January 2010 - 1:23pm - IMG_6049 ©View on Flickr
17 June 2010 - 3:31pm - 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. cnaFinality.
14 February 2015 - 3:21pm - I will swap out a few stars on this quilt top, but not as many as I feared I would need to.

It's quite striking. I'm pleased. cnaFlickr

Got one you want me to show? Contact me - http://domesticat.net/contact - and share a Flickr link. I’ll add it.

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 English paper piecing, or 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. Aperiodic tilings grow outward forever, so you have to decide where to cut off the pattern, and how you want to center it. 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.

Things you’ll need

My patterns are sized for 3” pieces.

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. You’ll have to trim the edges of the quilt top when you’re done to get a clean edge.

The full set of all of these images: https://www.flickr.com/photos/domesticat/sets/72157626787135625

Pick the tiling, and the size quilt you want to do, and download the original size of the image and print it out. Take care to ensure the image doesn’t get rotated or cropped when you print it. If you have trouble deciphering the pieces at the edges, print out the next bigger size too, so you can look at it to see how the outer edge pieces should fit together on your top.

Some pre-cropped options
‘Sun’ tiling 8 June 2011 - 9:46am - 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. cnaFlickr
25” square
8 June 2011 - 7:32am - 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. cnaFlickr
44” square
7 June 2011 - 9:31pm - 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. csFlickr
60”x80”
7 June 2011 - 9:31pm - 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. csFlickr
90” square
‘Star’ tiling 8 June 2011 - 9:50am - 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. cnaFlickr
25” square
7 June 2011 - 9:35pm - 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. csFlickr
44” square
8 June 2011 - 7:32am - 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. cnaFlickr
60”x80”
7 June 2011 - 9:35pm - 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. csFlickr
70”x90” variation
‘Cartwheel’ tiling*   7 June 2011 - 9:26pm - 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. csFlickr
55” square
7 June 2011 - 9:26pm - 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. csFlickr
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. :)

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

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. 

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.

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

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? 

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. 

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