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Modern Carpenter’s Star

Journal Entry: March 21, 2014

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

I tried to convince my sons when they were in school that quilting is really about math. We’ve argued many times about the difference between a degree in liberal arts, such as one in art or education, and a scientific-based one like engineering or medical science, hard versus soft science. I’ve tried to convince them that quilting crosses over both sides as math and art. Even though they gradually accepted it many, many years ago (I believe acceptance finally came forth because I engaged them in my quilt-related math problems, or maybe they just tired of arguing with their mom about the subject.), I finally feel vindicated for all the doubt and teasing I received trying to make this point. I was reading the newsletter my granddaughter Morgan’s third grade teacher publishes every week when I saw Math: Quilt Patterns. Of course, I immediately returned a note to my oldest son requesting a Skype session with Morgan to explore the topic further.

Morgan explained to me that the class has been discussing lines of symmetry with the aide of quilt patterns. When you fold a shape in half, and the folded part of it sits perfectly on top with all edges matching, the fold line is considered a line of symmetry. Morgan’s class has been using quilt patterns containing shapes like squares, rectangles, triangles, and diamonds to count the number of lines of symmetry they can find in the pattern. I think using quilt patterns for this exercise is way cool.

Carpenter Star Block and Lines of Symmetry

So, I decided to test my skill at identifying lines of symmetry and asked Morgan to test my knowledge. My daughter-in-law Jillian asked me to make a quilt for her this year. She chose a Swoon Quilt pattern, which is a variation of what was called the Carpenter Star back in the old days. (I also found it called the Carpenter Wheel; it was rumored to have been used as a secondary code in quilts for Underground Railroad communication.) The pattern block contains a lot of squares and rectangles. Depending on the fabric layout it can also contain rectangles. I thought it would be a perfect quilt pattern for my test. I had already completed a sample block to show Jillian, so I decided to use it to establish a bit of reality.

Counting Lines of Symmetry

I sent my assignment to Morgan. She returned a grade to me. I passed, and had a little fun, albeit long distance, with my granddaughter!

You might want to see it…Here’s a photo of Jillian’s finished Carpenter Star bed quilt.

1930’s Reproduction Fabrics & the Carpenter Star