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Ruler Practice & Marvelous Mandalas

Well hello and happy spring! I'm so happy we're FINALLY back into daylight savings time with longer days and (hopefully) sprouting tulip bulbs! I always love seeing the color spring brings back into our garden and our neighborhood. But do you know what I also love? Colorful ice-dyed mandala panels!

For me, 2021 was a year of intense schooling. I took a lot of classes and made a lot of smaller projects, with an emphasis on techniques to expand and improve my design work. The area that I decided to pay particular attention to in 2022 is the combination of freemotion and ruler work in whole cloth projects.

Historically, I've had an attraction/aversion relationship with rulers. All of my quilting takes place on my dining room table under my sewing machine's 8" of throat space. Achieving the correct ruler foot pressure while maneuvering the ruler and quilt under the needle at the same time can be challenging. But the only way to achieve my lofty quilting aspirations is to dive in and practice, practice, practice! (It also helps to apply a few tools and techniques to make the process a bit easier.)

The above mini quilt was a memorial quilt I made in 2020. The design was inspired by the recipient's religion with blooming petals and sunbeams representing the celebration of life.

The foundation for this project was a solid piece of fabric for the top and backing, with cotton batting in between. I folded my top in half horizontally and vertically to find my center and ironed and marked guide lines before sandwiching my batting and backing. I used Jaybird Quilts Hex N More Ruler to create the outer and inner Star of David, and Sariditty's Lotus & Pebbles ruler to create the outer leaves and arcs. The skeletal elements were drawn in using a water soluble marker. To quilt it, I simply stitched on my drawn lines and echoed, using the edges of my walking and ruler feet as guides to create the inside channels, emphasizing the star, lotus, and arc shapes. This framework made it easier to break down and decide on the freemotion fillers I would use to add interest to the design.

The Star of David quilt was the first project that drew my interest to mandalas. Mandalas have been produced for thousands of years as symbols of the universe and transformation. They have been widely embraced by the quilting, textile, and fiber art communities and can be found in stitching, dyeing, printing, and piecing techniques. They are worthy of exploration and practice, and can result in projects that are intricate, beautiful, and meaningful.

The mini quilt above was created in Telene Jeffrey's "Tie Dye Tango" class. The class focused on developing original designs using a combination of ruler and freemotion work inspired by and integrated with the patterns created in ice dyed mandalas. The panel above was dyed by the exceptionally talented Debra Linker.

Planning for this piece involved a few iterations, and I was able to use the dye lines to build the skeleton that would support the detailed stitching. I also added a border to place focus on the central design. The panel was marked and stitched using a combination of rulers. However, as I did not have an oval ruler on hand, I free-handed the large, curved palm leaves. In retrospect, these would have benefitted from a template that I could have easily produced in MS Word or Adobe Illustrator. The value of stitching along a ruler edge to achieve precision, along with accurate measuring and consistency in spacing became very evident as I quilted my piece.

Of course, I have plenty of opportunity to practice stitching these wonderful mandalas. I've added a few to my stash, and like snowflakes, no two panels are exactly alike. I look forward to sharing more of these quilted projects in the coming months and hope you are inspired to try your own mandala piece!

Happy stitching!

- Liz

*The links provided on this page are for convenience and in support of fellow quilters.


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