I stumbled across Play Craft’s blog while looking for information about Pantone’s Colour of the Year and noted with interest the web-based quilting tools they have available there: Palette Builder, Color Play and Equal. The last one in particular caught my eye, being the lover of equilateral triangles that I am! After poking it for a bit, I decided to see if I can make a quilt from a generated pattern and document the process.

# Equal – First impressions

*What is Equal?*

From Play Crafts:

Equal generates equilateral triangle quilt designs, using palettes it pulls from Color Play. You can modify the triangle size, and generate infinite numbers of quilt designs!

It’s very simple to use – just click the buttons until you get something aesthetically pleasing. However, there’s no control over the colours chosen – you have to keep hitting “new colors” until the RNG generates something you like.

*What is Equal not?*

It is not a one-click “here’s your ready-to-cut quilt pattern, now go make it” tool. Not yet, anyway! 😉 It’s stated by the creator that it’s in beta, and I don’t know if she plans to update it and if so, what features she may or may not add. However, as it stands at the moment, there’s still a bit of legwork for the user to do between generating an image of some triangles and turning that image into a quilt.

# Meet FrostByte

After some trial and error, this is my chosen generated pattern that I’m going to play with. I have some frosty fabrics in shades of blue that would be good to use for it, and thus the concept of FrostByte was born!(Yes, I know I have multiple fabrics here as opposed to the three blues in the generated pattern and they’re not an exact colour match, but I’m using what I’ve got! It’s a proof of concept, ok?) 😉

# Analysing the pattern

The first thing I did after saving the image to my computer was to examine the pattern and realise that I needed to know how many triangles of what size and colour were present in the design. This proved hard to do on-screen because some dividing lines between same-colour triangles are present, but some are not and they’re hard to see on my laptop screen. When I found I was counting even the largest triangles wrong because of this, I decided to print out the image so that I could scribble on it freely and delineate the borders of the triangles before counting them.

Looking at this more closely, I start to notice things. The first is obvious – there are three sizes of triangle, with the middle-sized ones being twice the height of the smallest, and the largest triangles being twice the height of the middle-sized ones (aka exponential progression). The pattern initially looks like a storm of overlapping triangles but in fact it’s rather simpler than that – it’s divided into seven and a half rows that are the height of the largest triangles, and each row is sub-divided to give rows of middle-size triangles and then further sub-divided again for the smallest triangles (see the image below).

The perception of overlapping triangs (and triangs of intermediate sizes) is an optical illusion caused by adjacent same-colour triangs of different sizes. You can see that I’ve drawn lines to indicate individual triangs – I’ve left them as large as possible while following any visible dividing lines and the above-mentioned rules. There are places where I could have made things simpler by “joining” several smaller triangles to make one larger one, and if I were using solid fabrics (or even just one print per colour) then I would do exactly that. However, since I have several different prints for each colour, I’ve decided to keep the smaller triangles and go for a scrappier look. Then I started to count:

I started by counting all triangles of a particular size, which worked ok-ish for the biggest ones and fell apart horribly for the next size down. Instead, I decided to use the established rows to my advantage to count all triangs of the same size and colour in each row, then add up the totals for each row.

(Why yes, I *do* have horrible handwriting!) I also made sure to count the half-triangs on the edges. After doing the Birds&Bees quilt, I’ve learned that it’s important not to forget the half-triangs! Usually they can be cut when starting to cut triangs from a fresh strip of fabric, but it’s easier to think of this early than to dig frantically through the scrap pile hoping there are left-overs big enough! 😉

# Triangle sizes

The finished heights of the triangles must conform to the ratio 1:2:4. It’s important to consider what that actually means when it comes to fabric requirements and the total quilt size. The smallest triangles will present more of a challenge in terms of cutting and sewing than the larger ones, so I looked at them first in regards to size. A finished size of 1″ is about as small as I’m willing to handle, which translates to 2″ and 4″ for the medium and large triangles. The pattern is 7.5 large triangles tall and 7.5 large triangles wide; therefore, triangs of 1″/2″/4″ will make a quilt with a finished size of 30″ x 34″. To see how a fairly small change in the height of the smallest triangle affects the overall size of the quilt, look at the table below:

Triangle_1 | Triangle_2 | Triangle_3 | Quilt height | Quilt width |
---|---|---|---|---|

1 | 2 | 4 | 30 | 34 |

1.25 | 2.5 | 5 | 37.5 | 44 |

1.5 | 3 | 6 | 45 | 52 |

1.75 | 3.5 | 7 | 52.5 | 60 |

2 | 4 | 8 | 60 | 69 |

You can see why I decided to look at the smallest triangles first – they really affect how the quilt size progresses! It also means that, unless you’re very comfortable handling very small pieces of fabric, there’s a definite lower limit to the size of quilt you can sensibly make with patterns of this nature.

# Fabric and cutting considerations

When cutting equilateral triangles, the general rule of thumb is to add 0.75″ to the desired finished height, that is, a 2″ strip will give triangles with a finished height of 1.25″. This has been my finding with other equi-triang quilts I’ve made and the results of a Google search confirmed it. I’ve started to rough out some calculations of how much fabric I might need to make a small version (with 1″ or 1.25″ triangs), but it’s mostly endless trigonometry calculations that I scribbled down in bed last night so I won’t share them here! However, the initial numbers are looking promising for a 30″ or maybe even a 37.5″ quilt. I have five FQs and a half-metre to play with – two “dark” FQs, two “medium” FQs and the last FQ and the half-meter are “light” – given there’re more light-coloured triangles than the other two colours, I’m hoping that will work out ok. Chances are good that I’ll decide to just start cutting and see how far I get!

# Thoughts so far

As one of those strange types who likes this kind of challenge, I’m really enjoying this as an academic exercise if nothing else (though I think it *will* become a quilt!). Equal is a fun tool with a lot of potential. However, someone less mathematically inclined might find the process of going from image to workable quilt pattern less appealing. I can think of several “nice-to-have” features that could be applied to Equal to help with this transition, but the most basic and essential feature (and probably the easiest to implement) that I think it needs is the addition of a triangle counter to output the number of triangs of each size and colour. Counting them manually is a fiddle and even now I’m not completely sure I haven’t miscounted. A quilt-size calculator based on triangle size would also be useful for anyone not thrilled by equations; this could potentially be reversible (input triang size => get quilt size or input quilt size => get triang sizes).

Features it would be lovely to have but are not immediately essential include some way to generate yardage calculations and the ability to have some control over the colour selection. I “lost” my first iteration of FrostByte’s colour scheme and it took a lot of refreshes to get it back! It would also be awesome to be able to pick a core colour and then generate different palettes and arrangements based on it (why yes, I *am* thinking of the Pantone Colour of the Year quilt challenge!), or use a fully customised palette (possibly linked in to Palette Builder?). And perhaps a “Next colour palette”/”Previous colour palette” would be nice. However, I’m not a programmer myself so I don’t know how easy or hard any of these would be to implement. It’s entirely possible that some of these feature suggestions are in the pipeline or have already been ruled out. 😉 As mentioned above, Equal is currently in beta so the implication is that there’s more yet to do and I’m very interested to see where it goes.

I can’t say for sure when the next instalment of this exercise will be (I’m trying to finish stuff right now, not start more), but there will be one! It would be a shame to get this far and not get a pretty quilt out of it! 😀

And I’m going to link this up with QuiltShopGal’s Creative Goodness Linky Party, on the basis that other people might find this interesting/useful!

I don’t think an entire QA team could give me as detailed and useful feedback as this is! <3 Many thank yous! 😀

I wrote the generator as a bit of a lark just to see what it could make. I do think it's cool that in your analysis you were basically able to deconstruct how it's working (It starts with rows of big triangles, and then randomly chooses some of them to split up and some of those to split up once more.)

Reading all of this, I realize there's a lot of things I could do to make it easier. Nothing you mentioned is out of the realm of possibility, although some things are of course more difficult than others. Doing a triangle count is pretty trivial though!

I have a couple of other things that are higher priority at the moment, but I will definitely use this feedback to incorporate some improvements. Thank you SO much for taking the time to try it out and write all this up! It really does help. 🙂 I'll be sure to email you when I upload any improvements!

Hi Anne,

You’re extremely welcome, I’ve had so much fun playing with it so far! Stuff like this is right up my alley. 😀 I’m really honoured that you find my notes useful.

Ah, my guess about the algorithm behind the triangles was correct! That’s good to know. 🙂 Although I’m not a programmer by training, I have dabbled a little and I get a kick out of figuring out how things work. When piecing, I believe I will work in the opposite direction and piece the small triangles into larger ones and then join those together into strips. Once that’s done, it should be pretty plain sailing to get a top together. My fabrics are all ironed and ready to cut, so I might see if I can have a go at them tomorrow.

Thank you, I would love to hear about any updates when you get a chance to get to it! 🙂 <3