Math and Quilting

Math and quilting go together hand in hand. The whole concept of a quilt block is mathematical.

From simply figuring out how the design goes together to buying the fabric, you use arithmetic in many ways. Math and quilting is integral when you endeavor to memorize things like decimals or portions of yards, but after a while you may realize it's just easier to have a cheat sheet handy.

There are times when a cheat sheet will help you get through the project without spending extra time to figure something out. Sometimes it's just handier to get a quick answer.

Cheat Sheets

The following sheet is designed to help you figure what the decimal value of each inch of a yard of fabric.

Math and Quilting

Excerpt from June 2007 Newsletter

Speaking of fun... Okay not everyone likes math.

No doubt you know a young person who is being “forced” to endure fractions, or Algebra, or even Calculus, or most importantly: Geometry!

I’m no math wizard, I struggled through the courses just like everyone else. I hated the fact that, although I learned Algebra in High School, I had to re-take it in college many years later. Don’t ask me about integers or prime numbers because I’ve forgotten them as soon as I no longer needed them in school.

But, thanks to a really great eighth grade teacher, Keith Clark, I learned how to use math advantageously. He realized the students that year had not received a proper education in the basics: adding, subtracting, multiplying, and division. So, he devised a method to teach us to think on our feet, so to speak.

Every morning (his class was the first one of the day!) we had to take out a piece of paper and he would stand at his podium (my chair was in the first row—right under that podium) and he'd start reciting a series of problems. First is was simple addition, then subtraction and so on through the semester. We had no time to do the math on paper, we had to write down the answer before he said the next problem. He wanted us to be able to do the math in our heads!

It wasn’t until calculators came into being that I got lazy with that skill! When I realized what I was doing, I made myself do the simple math in my head again and left the more complicated math to the calculators. To this day, I can usually figure out the simple tasks in my mind more quickly than it takes to punch in the information.

So, why have a feature about math and quilting? Because they simply go together. If more teachers would use quilting as an approach to geometry, kids would get hooked on math (and quilting, too). There are teachers who have taken this approach and in every example I’ve seen, the kids had a ball!

So often you hear kids whine “why do I have to learn math? I won’t use it in the real world.” Wrong! To quote a TV show’s intro: “We use math everyday...”

Quilters use math in every aspect of the process of quilting. First, geometry is key to every block ever created. Squares, circles, triangles—30, 45, 60 degree angles, rectangles, polygons, paralleiograms, octagons, hexagons! You name it, quilters use them.

Secondly, we work in fractions in every part of the design process. We use 1/4-inch seams, but we often need to cut to the eighth-inch, half-inch, three-quarter-inch, seven-eighth-inch dimensions. Fortunately, we have acrylic rulers that have lines to the eighth-inch. All we need to do is line the fabric up to the right set of lines!

That’s not to mention figuring out how much fabric is needed for a quilt. It’s always fun to watch a new cutter at the fabric store try to figure out how to input a yard and twenty-two inches into the scanner that only takes decimals. (22 inches equals: .6111 or 39/64 of a yard.) Thank goodness someone sat down and made a cheat sheet for them!

Schroll back up for your own fabric cheat sheet that you can print out.

Another Math and Quilting Resource
The Artful Crafter

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