Quilts · Something to Think About

The Grid, the Gridsters (and a wee bit of news)


When I say the grid, you probably think of something like the image above: a rendition of the electrical grid in the United States.


Or you might think of a street grid, or the computer grid, or any other type of connected web.

Is it This? Or That?

I also think of the grid we use in making our quilts.  Above is my example of a regular grid, using a 9-patch variant.  This style of quilt — that of using repeated blocks set in a grid — didn’t become popular until the 1840s, as earlier quilts were more whole-cloth, medallion, or broderie perse styles.


The name of our Gridster Bee is a nod to the idea of the grid, and since I’ve had some non-sewing time, I did some research about the grid, finding its origin in the way that text was laid out on the printed page.  (Note: Where the quotes are unattributed, I could find no source for them.)



This method of intersecting lines and angles, known as the Van de Graaf canon and used medievally, was popularized by Jan Tschichold in his books discussing classical book design, and became the standard for book layout.  You can see the proportions at work in the magazine layout (above) on the right.


Some myths about the grid:

  • Grids are a design trend
  • Grids impede creativity
  • Grids are confining, and can only be used for certain designs
  • The grid is a static, even, regular subdivision of the surface both vertically and horizontally



There are all types of recognizable grids, such as those above, and in the images below:

Patricia Walker Rusk’s Sunset Gardens
pencil cubbies in a shop in Switzerland
Bullseye by Vicki Ruebel
Upward Modbility by Stephanie Ruyle
Christa Watson’s Square in a Square
Lisbon Subway Tiles
Cindy Wiens’ Delta Breeze
Three versions of my Neighborhood Quilt, by my students




(more designs from Spain and Lisbon)


Velda Bowen’s Fractured Rainbow

(circular grid used, both above and in combo with a regular grid, just below)

Shine: The Circles Quilt

golden-spiral(Golden Spiral • from here)


Beth Shutty’s Cut Diamonds

(A diagonal grid, both in Shutty’s and Van Orman’s quilts) )

Tesselation by Jenn Van Orman
Stephanie Ruyle’s Embers

I love the grid, as ultimately, the function of the grid is to help determine and define proportion, such as the last two quilts, which seem to have some unseen glue holding them together. That’s why some quilts that seem to use no grid at all can either make us shake our heads in confusion, or can capture our gaze.


And that’s why we’re the Gridsters — not just those in the bee — but all of us in the quilt world.

tiny nine patches

And a little bit of news.

I wake up everyday and see this:

sweetsixteen-in-hiatusOn some of my harder days, it has crossed my mind that I won’t ever sit there again, happily stitching away, and I feel so far away from the quilting world that I love.  Cue the tears and the Sturm und Drang.  And then I received this:

quilt-entry-announce2017Pineapples and Crowns_front iphoneGuess the universe doesn’t want me to give up yet.  (If you’ll be there at Quilt Festival-Chicago, please take a photo of my quilt, and tag me on IG [occasionalpiecequilt].) And I was also asked by our guild, The Raincross Quilt Guild, to present a Trunk Show on May 16th.  I’m pretty excited about this, and have been working on my program notes.

So…guess I’ll be a good girl and keep all my Physical Therapy appointments so I can get back to quilting.


21 thoughts on “The Grid, the Gridsters (and a wee bit of news)

  1. Congratulations on having Pineapples and Crowns accepted into the show! That is quite an accomplishment. Such a lovely quilt deserves to be seen by many people; I wish I could be there, as I have admired it from afar.

    I’m sorry the p.t. journey is proving to be such a slog. It can be so discouraging, can’t it? (How *did* those pioneer children sing as they walked and walked and walked and walked?) Thanks for sharing the real picture with us, rather than keeping everything rosy. It will make it all the sweeter for us as readers to share in your triumph when you are back where you want to be, after this is behind you.

  2. I love your blog and I love how you lay it all out there for us, the good, the bad and the ugly. You will quilt again! Time moves very slowly when we are waiting and flies when everything is moving along. I love all the pictures you post and the way you tell us what is going on in your heart. I love you and I haven’t even met you, yet. Keep up those PT sessions and this too shall come to an end. You are too positive and caring to not ever do something you love so much. Praying for you.


  3. Never give up! Thanks for the grid lesson and congratulations about Pineapple and Crowns- it is a lovey quilt!

  4. As always, your in depth piece on grids is fascinating and timely. I’m in Savannah for QuiltCon and the squares of Savannah, designed by Oglethorpe, are the original grid based city. . Fabulous news about your Pineapples and Crowns quilt. Congratulations! Hang in there and keep up the hard PT work.

  5. Wonderful news about your gorgeous quilt, Elizabeth! I am very excited for you. PT is so tedious and it always seems never ending, but it will eventually. Remember, it’s about progress….

  6. I’m sorry to hear your road to recovery has been a rocky one Elizabeth! Please know you are in my thoughts and in my prayers. How wonderful that your Pineapples and Crowns has been accepted into the Quilt Festival! Hopefully that thought will give you a happy place to return to when PT seems a drudgery. S. xo

  7. Congratulations on having Pineapples and Crowns accepted to the IQF special exhibit. I knew from the beginning it was a winner. Unfortunately, I have never been able to convince you that it is my winner. And now you’re sending it out into the world again! You know how much I love your work, not only your quilting, but your writing. And the thinking behind both. And how generous you are in sharing that thinking and research and work that lies behind your work so that the rest of us can benefit also. Will try to get a note off to you later today or tomorrow. Too much on my mind to fit into a comment!

  8. Oh wow, Elizabeth. That is AWESOME!!!! I think it is one of my very favorite of your quilts and so thrilled it has been acknowledged.

    Loved seeing all the pretty quilts as I read about grids. I remember seeing a few of those together.

    You will be back to the quilting again. I know it can be discouraging as we all want such instant gratification for our hard work. This down time is only going to make it all the sweeter when you do get back to it. NOTHING will keep a great quilter down forever!!!

  9. Oh my goodness! That is SO exciting! Congrats, Elizabeth! I would call that great motivation to go to physical therapy. You are a star!

  10. My favorite line, “The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee.” Nothing automatic, follow the dots here! And cheers for the International Quilt Show acceptance. In the old days when I lived near Chicago, I might have gotten to see it in person.

  11. Congrats! And well deserved! Hang in there. I know it must be so frustrating! Hand work? You could Lucy Boston with me!!

  12. Great post on grid. I think the grid in quilts is an aid to the way it need it be constructed. This is especially helpful in designing the quilt. I was surprised that you included my quilt’ “Cut Diamonds” made of ombré fabrics with an Aqua background, in circular grid. I did design the Central diamond and then removed sections of that block for the other two diamonds. But I think the grid is a strip quilt set on a 60 degree line. I enjoyed seen my quilt in your post and I realize it is difficult to remember where you found the image, but it would be nice to credit the designer/maker of all the quilts.
    Your quilting friend,
    Beth Shutty, blue_dragonfly5

  13. Congratulations on Pineapples and Crowns!. I love that quilt. It’s beautiful. And what fun your trunk show will be. If you need an extra hand to wrangle your quilts, let me know.

  14. I can only imagine your frustration when you want to be doing – I feel for you. Glad though that you are finding time for thinking and creativity of a different sort – such an interesting article, thank you. And, congratulations on getting your amazing and beautiful quilt juried into the show – hooray!! Hang in there x

  15. This is the second time I’ve read through the post. The first time I didn’t even notice Delta Breeze was included :). So happy your quilt was accepted. It’s a beauty. You will be quilting again and creating more beautiful quilts.

  16. Congratulations, Elizabeth! I know I’m late in saying so, but my sentiments are sincere. I’m thrilled for you that Pineapples and Crowns was accepted into Quilt Festival. It’s always an honor to be juried into a competition. And yay on being invited to present a trunk show! That should be lots of fun. Just make sure someone else holds up all those quilts for you! No shoulder set-backs, please. 🙂

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