This quilt top has been sitting around for a few years, but when I had an opportunity to try out my friend Marybeth’s longarm a couple of months ago, I decided it was time to finish it.
This quilt top was, in fact, made using science. The thing is, when you want fabrics randomly distributed across your quilt top, you don’t want them actually randomly distributed, because then you’ll end up with pieces of the same fabric next to each other. Coming up with an arrangement that looks random but isn’t is actually a challenge.
When I mentioned this to a crocheter friend of mine, she decided to put her computer programming skills to good use and write a program that comes up with a layout for you. You give the program the size of the quilt grid into which to put the blocks, and the program goes through the grid methodically, selecting a random block and then checking to see whether or not it meets the distance requirements. If not, it selects a different one; if it can’t find one that will fit, it starts backtracking.
Unfortunately, this can take quite a while since it’s not a particularly efficient way of handling the problem, but I did get a grid out of it eventually, which I then offset on every other row:
This was my first time using a longarm and it was super fun! I used a pantograph to get the hang of moving the machine rather than the quilt. You can definitely see my improvement over the course of the quilt!
At the time, I just grabbed fabric I had lying around that best matched the colors of the top and of which I had enough to make a backing. In retrospect, it was an incredibly fortuitous choice, because the programming language the randomization program was written is called Matlab. Because computer programming can get frustrating, though, I often call it Matcrab (that name originally ended with a “p” but a typo caused it to morph into a “b”). And this backing I put on it just happens to have crabs on it!
The quilt has gone to live in my husband’s office, since he uses Matcrab in his research a lot and his office is one of those places permanently kept at the temperature of a meat locker. Plus, I think it’s a manly-looking quilt!
I am mailing off my Paducah quilt entry today, which is good because it will be out of the house and I can stop obsessing over all the teeny things that are wrong with it. Meanwhile, I have an idea for a new show quilt and have started sewing teeny tiny 3″ finished quilt blocks for it using all my favorite hoarded fabrics. It’s good to finally cut into them!