Kaleidescope Play
24 September 2007

Careful cutting and piecing are key to the success of every Kaleidescope. If you will take your time in the cutting and piecing stages, your blocks will be perfect, every time.

Cutting for a level one Kaleidescope, two fabrics:
Cut 5 strips 4 1/2 inch wide, width of fabric, from light fabric and 5 from dark fabric.
Cut 3 strips light and 3 strips dark 3” by the width of the fabric, cross cut into 3” squares,
slice diagonally.
Using template or ruler, cut dark and light wedges for Kaleidescope. You should get 20 per strip, minimum. It takes four light and four dark wedges to make each Kaleidescope block. So one strip makes about enough for that color in 5 blocks.


If you are only doing two colors, make two piles of wedges, one dark and one light. If you are doing a more complicated Kaleidescope, you may want to choose wedges for each block individually, either before you start or as you go.


I usually put the light piece on top of the dark piece; it helps me remember, every time, so I don’t have three sets going one way and a fourth set going another! I also prefer to sew from the larger end toward to bottom end, as it seems to get stuck in the feed dogs less often.

Then you put two sets of twos together. Dovetail the center seams; push them up tightly together, and stitch. This time, from the wide end, it will be dark on top of light for both sets.


You probably think it will be tricky sewing eight pieces together at the center of the circle, but there is a trick. lay them together, right sides together, and where the centers will meet, push the seams together, top seam going one way, bottom seam the other. If you make the junction nice and tight, your kaleidescopes will be perfect, or nearly perfect, every time.

You can pin if it makes you feel more secure, but remember to pull the pin out – don’t sew over a pin!


Some very respectable authors (Marty Mitchell for one) will tell you to sew corner squares on before you sew the wedges together. Others – equally respectable – say to sew the corner pieces on after. For me, if I were making a simple two color kaleidescope, I might sew the corners on as I go along. But because I play a lot with color gradations, and with larger patterns, I wait until the blocks are all finished, and then I put the corners on. It goes very quickly, and it gives me more opportunity to play with the lines.

(A quilting friend who is very precise says that the 3″ square does not work for her, that she needs a 3 1/4″ square to get the corner pieces big enough for a generous block. She wants all her blocks to equal 8″. It is not so important to me that the blocks be 8″ as that they all be the same. If you want to cut your squares 3 1/4″ too, be my guest. I am guessing that the reason the 3″ squares work for me is that I put the corners on AFTER the wheels are put together, every time, because most of the time I am working with color placements, and the corner colors can become critical in the advanced level kaleidescopes.)

Marti Mitchell says to match up the corners, not to just make the corner point to the center. I find that making the corners point to the center works just fine, but you should probably do it the way Marti Mitchell says to do it, unless you like the other way better.

When all your blocks are complete, trim them to a uniform size. It may not be exactly 8 inches, it may be 7 1/2 or 7 3/4 or 7 7/8. It doesn’t matter, as long as they are the same size.


Lay the blocks out, so you will be sure you have the rows in the right order, then sew each row together, and sew it to the rows you have finished. Carefully match all seams. Check after each row to make sure all seams match before going to the next row. Put on borders if you wish, or bind and quilt.

Hint: Because I like a Kaleidescope quilt to be symmetrical, I always do Kaleidescopes in odd numbers, so that the corners will all be the same and the sides will be the same. It isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s only my preference. But that’s why I chose a practice size of 25 blocks, so that you would have enough blocks to practice, and then a quilt big enough for a baby quilt to give away. And it would be symmetrical!

Level two kaleidescope – playing with analogous colors:


Level three kaleidescope: playing with lines, using kaleidescope motion but taking some of the colors outside the kaleidescope rules – hoping that the alternation of light and dark MOST OF THE TIME will carry the movement while still breaking out of the rigid light/dark rules. 😉 This is where even color in the corners becomes critical, and you really really need a project board:


This is going to be my husband’s Christmas present. I have to trust that he finds my quilt blog so boring he never checks it! And Woooo Hooooo, this was a real challenge for me, and a lot of fun. African animals, African people, African colors, several fabrics from the Sudan, Senegal, Tunisia and South Africa – oh, I had so much fun with this one.

There is another level, level four. A friend is going there – warping the kaleidescope block. I’m not there yet.


Moroccan Dreams

Slowly, slowly a ghostly record of my body of quiltworks builds. For those of you who have tuned in recently, this blog is my online record of quilts I have made. It will always be incomplete, there are so many I made and gave away without ever even labeling. Oh well!

When I made my most recent move, an entire box of quilt books disappeared. It makes me ill – some of the books were out of print, and I used many of them for teaching. I have been able to reconstruct a ghost of the library, and this blog is a ghostly reconstruction of the Quilt Diary I lost with the quilt books – samples of fabrics used, etc.

This was the second map quilt I made.I have a very citified, sophisticated niece, and I never dreamed she would want something so homemade as a quilt, but once, when she was staying with me, I asked her if she ever wanted a quilt, to let me know what she would want.

Without hesitation, she said “I already know what I want. I want a Morocco quilt like the Africa quilt you made for (your husband).

“Wooooowie! Oh what fun! I sent her into the quilt room to rummage through fabrics, and I hand her some sheets of paper, some scissors, a pen and some glue. She came back to me with three pages of fabric samples and why she wanted them in the quilt, what they reminded her of.

Oh, what fun – a collaboration.

This is the only time I have ever done mountains. I did some single mountains, and some smaller foothill mountains.

Because Morocco is shaped so oddly, I ended up with a lot of sea (which I love) and a lot of desert (which is kind of a drag). So in the desert, I put a surprise. I told my niece when I gave her the quilt that there was a camel.

She looked and looked, and only one day when she was standing far enough away from the quilt did she see it – and laughed!Can you see it, shimmering in the rising heat of the desert?


On the map I was using to do the graph, I found the warning below. My niece and I both speak French, and are undeterred by warnings, so I included it on the front of the quilt, bottom right corner.


UPDATE:  TOO COOL! In my January cleaning up, I found the original graph for the Morocco Map Quilt, AND I found my niece’s fabric sheets – she chose the fabrics she wanted used and made notes as to where and why to use them. 



I Left My Heart in Africa: The Original Map Quilt

This is the quilt I told you about earlier, the Africa Quilt. It took me so long to get a photo up because the quilt is humoungus. When I was busy cutting out all the fabrics for the quilt, carefully collected over the years, one of my friends said “It shouldn’t be called ‘I left my heart in Africa’, it should be called ‘I left my BRAINS in Africa.'”

It was a labor of love. I was still fairly new to quilting, and so unsure of my machine quilting skills that I actually did a lot of hand quilting – I hand quilted 1/4 inch all the way around the continent, I hand quilted a hand of Fatima in the upper NW quadrant, along with a Tunisian tea pot and a caravan of camels going in and out of Ouagadougou.

(When we were at the Embassy in Amman, one of the state-department wives jokingly told me that if you were bad, you got sent to Ouagadougou, and it always gives me a big grin to think of it.)

While making this for my husband, I had to hide it every night before he came home. One night I was still working – he hadn’t called me – and I saw him drive up. I was still desperately trying to stuff it all in the closet when he got home, and he got a fairly cool and distracted welcome, something like “you didn’t call me to tell me you were coming!” which hurt his feelings.

At Christmas, when he opened the quilt, I told him that’s what had happened and we both got a good laugh. He loves this quilt, and he has told me he wants to be buried in it.

We often go to Africa. We love to go there, and every time we go, we sew another heart on. We have been to Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. Lots of hearts! So we say the quilt is still a work in progress.

I machine stitched in the ditch for the continent, and then did a wave stitch in the ocean, which is actually about half of the quilt. You can see how using a very light blue at the coastline, and then graduating into the darker blues makes the continent really pop out.


Northwest quadrant:


Hearts across South Africa:


This one is entirely 3 inch squares (there is a giraffe fabric that I couldn’t go any smaller, and that drove the size of the entire quilt) and half squares. What was really fun is after getting over being aghast at the scope of the quilt, many friends came up with fabrics for it, especially Egyptian themed fabrics, all of which adds to our joy in using the quilt. I have some fabric bought many years ago in Tunisia with Berber symbols on it which I used in North Africa, and Sudanese fabrics I used in the West African sections. There are a very few pure black squares, in places where truly awful things continue to happen in Africa.

Did I mention we love this quilt? 😉

Update: If you want to make a map quilt, just click here. If you want to see other map quilts I have made, click Map Quilts under the Categories on the right side of this blog.