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I was asked the other day if six people would fit onto one of my picnic blankets. The blanket is 63 inches by 63 inches. Math was the key to this question. I quickly figured that the blanket was 3,969 square inches. I divided that by 6 people and found that was 666.5 square inches per person. That would give a place approximately 30 inches by 22 inches per person sitting crossed legged I figured people sitting that way would take up an average of 30 inches across with the knees sticking out, divided the 30 into 666.5 square inches. That came to about 22 inches. That’s pretty crowded. But with this I could tell her how much room there was per person and that it would be crowded unless most of them were small children.

It would be a tight squeeze to fit 6 people on this blanket but you could.

It would be a tight squeeze to fit 6 people on this blanket but you could.

When I first started making the patchwork picnic blankets, I used 9 rows of 9 6” squares which measured by 54 inches. That turned out to be too small for a family to fit comfortably. By increasing each of the 81 squares by 1/2 inch, I got the larger and more comfortable blanket a minimal increase in fabric and work made a more usable picnic blanket. Yeah for Math!
I find I use math constantly in making. Do you remember words like, symmetry, circumference, measurement, area, volume, surface area, angles squared, linear, point, hypotenuse of a right angle, decimal, fraction, diameter along with adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing? They are all common place for me when I am making.
I design all my own patterns and measurement becomes all important in making sure everything fits together perfectly. The puppet theater marquees, the masks, and the puppets need to be absolutely symmetrical to look just right. I carefully calculate the surface of all the fabrics to make sure I have enough and I am not being wasteful.

Puppets patterns use symmetry to design

Puppets patterns use symmetry to design


Once the patterns are made and the methods for cutting are worked out, the sewing of beautiful or cute things uses my skill with less reliance on math. That just isn’t so with gourds. Each gourd is different, so it has to be dealt with individually. I often need to know the circumference to be able to divide it into equal sized segments. I need to know the surface area so I know what sized image will fit I the space, or how many images to use, or where they would look the best.
One of my favorite designs is a Celtic braid. It takes a lot of math to get it on the gourd.
• Step 1 – I start by measuring the height of the usable space on the gourd and then determine what width of braid would look the most balanced.

At 5 inches high, I figured I have 3 1/2 inches of usable space to draw on.

At 5 inches high, I figured I have 3 1/2 inches of usable space to draw on.

• Step 2 – Using my handy dandy gourd scribe (see picture) I draw 7 lines of circumference on the gourd. The first is my mid line. The second and third lines are the edge lines and are put equal distance above and below the mid line to give the height of the braid. The last 4 lines are put equal distance above and below the edge lines to give the width of both the border and the braid. The pictures show the progression. I think I am better at visualizing something than using words to describe it.

This piece of equipment is called a scribe and it is a great tool for drawing a level circumference on a gourd.  Before I had it, I piled up books to the right height to do the same thing.

This piece of equipment is called a scribe and it is a great tool for drawing a level circumference on a gourd. Before I had it, I piled up books to the right height to do the same thing.

• Step 3 – After measuring the circumference of the gourd at the mid line, I divide it into equal segments and mark them.
• Step 4 – Now I am ready to start drawing the braid. I draw an arc from one of the points, skipping a point to the next one. The arc will slightly touch the closest the line above or below depending on the direction of the arc. I will do that with all the points both above and below. (see picture)

I draw an arc connecting every other point, both in positive and negative directions.  This is the result.  Do you like my fancy math talk?

I draw an arc connecting every other point, both in positive and negative directions. This is the result. Do you like my fancy math talk?

• Step 5 – Now I go around the gourd drawing a diamond shape between the points.
• Step 6 – In between the diamond I draw triangles. As I draw I am aware of the distances between the lines. These markings will help make sure the braid is even. (Again see the picture)

Steps 5 and 6 in drawing the Celtic braid is filling in the diamond and triangle shapes.  You can begin to see the center of the braid emerging.

Steps 5 and 6 in drawing the Celtic braid is filling in the diamond and triangle shapes. You can begin to see the center of the braid emerging.

• Step 7 – Using a darker pencil stroke, I use the guide lines I made to sketch in the braid. I generally start with the top, move to the middle, and then complete the bottom.

Now this gourd is ready for me to wood burn in this Celtic Braid design.

Now this gourd is ready for me to wood burn in this Celtic Braid design.

• Before I make anything permanent, I double check to make sure that the braid is even both in distance between knots and width of the braid itself. I have been known to wash all of it off at this point and start all over however that has happened less as I have gained experience.
• Step 8 – I wood-burn all of my lines in at this point, but it could be done with a marker just as easily. Once the lines are permanent, I wash off all of the pencil line.

This is one of many ways the Celtic braid can be finished.

This is one of many ways the Celtic braid can be finished.

• Step 9 – The final steps include putting in the background and shading.

I have marked both the midline and edge line.  I hope the paper drawing helps clarify the steps.

I have marked both the midline and edge line. I hope the paper drawing helps clarify the steps.

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