The low poly design trend is an instant winner for quilters: we gravitate toward triangles as if they’re little shards of chocolate or gold. Low poly is really a term in computer graphics, indicating a low number of polygons making up an image. The result is a weirdly geometric, almost pixelated effect, but one that plays with light and abstract shapes. It’s only natural that we jump into low poly quilt designs.
Low poly quilts are super popular; the ones that come to mind for many modern quilters are Violet Craft’s Forest Abstractions series. Using what I only assume is Illustrator on steroids and not a small amount of spatial intelligence I don’t possess, Violet has designed beautifully intricate paper-piecing designs featuring animals in a low poly technique. If you have the Illustrator skillz and the knowledge of how to design paper piecing templates, that’s great! But the design element can be daunting for many aspiring quilt designers (to the point where there will even be a QuiltCon class on paper-piecing design in 2017).
In the meantime, how can you get started on your own low poly quilt? Is there a way to create a pattern that won’t take hours to tinker with before you even get started on the quilting process? I recently designed and constructed a quilt of the Dude from the Big Lebowski. (Yeah, I’m weird/awesome like that.) Here are some steps to creating a low poly quilt top with not too much extra work:
1. Pick an app
Enter the beauty of technology! There are many apps, both for desktop and phone, that can help create a low poly image to be used as a template for a quilt. (For example, I’ve used an iPhone app called PolyGen.) Because it was a face, I wanted some ability to edit the image by hand to fix errant colors or add/delete points. I used a free app called DMesh to upload a photo and then convert it into a low poly image. I wanted a wall quilt, so I exported it to PDF and had it printed on a large-format printer at my local print shop. This poster then became my paper-piecing template.
But Lauren! you say. What about Y-seams? RELAX. Constructing the quilt is actually much easier than you’d think; it just involves a bit of MacGyvering. We’ll get there next time.
2. Refine your detail and colors
I was all ambitious when I designed the quilt and ended up putting maybe 25% more pieces in it than I actually needed (or ended up piecing). If you can edit your low poly design, do it. Save your smaller pieces for areas that require more detail: you’ll note the Dude’s mouth and mustache have lots of smaller pieces, but his shirt and robe have fewer. I got smarter as I worked down, and some pieces that were similar in color I just combined into one.
On a similar note, think about your color choices. Low poly quilts can be good scrap busters for using up slightly different colors in one family (or several families). At the same time, though, don’t overcommit yourself to too many fabric choices. I chose 3-4 each for whites, grays, golds, oranges/browns, peaches, and silvers, and while I think it adds a certain dimension to the piece, I probably didn’t need to use quite so many. The Dude would also have been cool in a monochromatic theme like all blue or all golds, no?
3. Consider paper stock
Before printing your image, think about your paper. While it’s not entirely necessary, you might consider printing on some thicker paper or cardstock. It will make the piecing process (in Part 2 of the tutorial, coming tomorrow!) go a bit easier. The most important part, though, is to print your image at 100% size, all on a single sheet of paper. In other words, make good friends with your local print shop!
Once you’ve figured out these three steps, you’re well on your way to designing your own low poly quilt. Join me tomorrow for my tried-and-true technique for joining together weird polygons with the least amount of time and effort possible (you know how we do here at Right Sides Together).