Designing in the Third Dimension

Designing in the Third Dimension

I have a confession to make. Math is hard for me. Like make-my-head-hurt hard. Geometry is Greek. Spatial reasoning is, well, unreasonable. So, when I was tasked with writing a blog about 3D quilts, I groaned. Aloud. While it’s just been too long since eighth grade Geometry class, I’m a 21st Century quilter, so off to Google I went.

It was there I learned that to understand what 3D means you have to understand what 2D means. If I were to describe something as two dimensional, you would understand that to mean it had a height and a width, not unlike a child’s stick figure drawing.

Hi! I’m Betty!

The dimension that’s missing here, the third dimension, is depth. The third dimension adds the effect of solidity to a two-dimensional image. It becomes a thing you can pick up, touch, or move around. In cinema, 3D brings the two-dimensional image out of the screen – toward you – in a life-like way. Sadly, you do have to wear those goofy glasses!

Can you guess which one would be me?

In quilting we deal with simple geometric shapes every day: squares, rectangles, triangles, and circles. All of these are two-dimensional shapes with a defined height and width. But – and here’s the fun part – I can take each of these shapes and add the third dimension of depth; then, a square becomes a cube, a triangle becomes a tetrahedron, and a circle becomes a sphere. Now, I get it. I understand a wee bit more about the geometry of quilting and 3-dimensional imagery! Don’t you love the expediency of the interwebs?

Polyhedrons, prisms, and pyramids Oh! My!


Empowered with this information, I went back to a Google image search of three-dimensional quilts. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a tetrahedron could be affected out of a simple triangle with the addition of color and shading. By changing the color of fabric from one triangle to the next, I could create the illusion of dimension in my quilts! This changed everything. Maybe I’m not so bad at math after all. Perhaps Greek isn’t so, well, Greek.

From the simple attic window where changing the color of the sashing strips creates the effect of depth and dimension, like looking in through a window, to the more complex and very popular Labyrinth Walk by Christopher Florence exploring three-dimensional quilts opens up an amazing vista of beauty that I can almost reach out and touch!

Quilt-Pro contains a tool just for designing your own 3D quilt. Click here to follow a tutorial to create 3D quilts. Once you break down the geometry, it really is just that easy.  Here are just a few of the ones I made using this technique.

As well, I’ve included a free 3D quilt pattern that you can download here for MAC users and here for Windows users. I hope you enjoy this process and are as amazed by it as I was!

Are you a member of the Quilt-Pro Systems Facebook page or Instagram feed? If so, I’d love to see the quilts you design using this tutorial. Join us there and be sure to tag Quilt-Pro Systems!

Thanks for reading, and happy quilting!

Mary Fisher

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