Lessons for Quilters

Quilting math?? It was a bugaboo for me many times as I learned to quilt. In fact, Bake (my husband) worked out of town for a number of years and when he’d walk in the door on Friday night, I’d often greet him with “Math Man, I need you.”

Over the course of the years, I explained to him ¼” seams, half-square and quarter-square triangles, double-fold binding and lots of other things that are specific to quilting. I’m pretty sure he was relieved when I got my first version of Electric Quilt design software so he didn’t have to check my math anymore.

There are books and articles about quilt math but there are still some parts of it that get messy. My dad used to tell me that I’d use math every day of my life and I think he was right.


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As you know if you read my blogs, I’ve been helping my sister, Angie, learn to quilt. If we lived in the same town that would be easy but she lives in Texas and I live in Colorado. Our “lessons” are frequently texts or phone calls.

Recently, she sent me a photo of two different four-patches. We texted back and forth for a bit.

Quilting Instructions

A Plea for Help

When we talked on the phone, it turned out that her four-patches were the center of a square-in-a-square unit so they needed to be on-point. I explained the formula for figuring the measurement to cut the four-patches in order for the on-point measurement to be 4¾” finished.

But in the process of our conversation, I realized that there are several mysterious things in quilt math. Like when do you add ½” for seam allowances; when do you add ⅞” for seam allowances? And what is this about 1¼”? Then there is the magical 1.414 (yes, that is the number that I gave her to figure the size of her four-patches). Then, of course to make it all easier, I use the decimal equivalent of the fractions.

⅛ = .125
¼ = .25
⅜ = .375
½ = .5
⅝ = .625
¾ = .75
⅞ = .875

So during our phone call, I gave Angie a quick crash course in quilting math. But our conversation made me wonder … how many of you would like some help with the math you use when you are quilting?

I found one of Mary Kate’s blogs on our website that talks about resizing blocks. That’s one of the fun things you can do if you know the basics of quilt math.

Quilting Instructions

The Ultimate Quilter’s Workshop

There is also a bundle of courses on our website The Ultimate Quilter’s Workshop. It includes Essential Math for Quilts by Donna Mae Norris. The course is five lessons long. It tells you how to change the size of blocks and how to calculate yardage needed for your project. It talks about fractions that quilters use, geometric shapes and their angles, and calculating the finished and the cut sizes of shapes. Angie and I talked about those things but Donna Mae talks about how to decide how wide to make a spacer border when you want to add a pieced border. And Angie and I didn’t talk about that. (Oh how fun … I have an excuse to call her tonight.)

Also included in the bundle are Catherine Redford’s Walking Foot Quilting: Beyond the Ditch!, Nancy Mahoney’s Secrets to Quilting Success, and Patchwork Shortcuts and Raw-Edge Applique. It’s an exciting package that we’ve put together. Check it out.

Now I do have a suggestion for those of you who truly HATE math – those of you who don’t even want to THINK about taking a course that talks all about math. If you subscribe to our magazines, we have already done all of that math in the patterns for you. Go to The Quilting Company to subscribe. You can choose Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, McCall’s Quilting, and Quiltmaker.

So until next time,
Happy quilting (and don’t let the math get you down),
Lori

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