Archive for the ‘Introduction’ Category


10.2 Smile – Now with Butterflies!

January 3, 2011

This post combines several internet things I have seen in the last two days.  One thing is the idea of what makes you smile!

For me, butterflies always make me smile!


And I am also looking very heavily about a post/idea of completing monochromatic quilts, one per month.  Now I don’t know if I will actually “play”, but it’s a thought in my mind the last two days anyway.

And the color stated for January is yellow. 


What can I do with yellow?

But yellow makes me smile, makes me think of the sun.

Rules are you can do monochromatic colors and either black or white, but not black and white.

I somehow don’t tend to pair my quilts with white, but rather black. 

But yellow and black makes me think of a college colors (actually several) and being that it’s not my college, I wanted to stay away from references of this college, which would not be good.

And yesterday morning, I finally bought myself a calendar, and guess what item is on January? 

And guess what color it is?

And this makes me SMILE!

… because I need more to do.


8.9 SQ Episode 18 – The Great Velocity Experiment – Part 1

October 31, 2010

Podcast Feed

Do you feel the need for speed?

Physics of Velocity

What is velocity?  Why not call this podcast – “Quilting Speed”?

Velocity is noted as speed and direction

What is speed?  Speed is the distance you travel and the amount of time it takes you to do so.

Velocity in physics is measured as both instantaneous and average.

Instantaneous velocity is the speed and direction you are at any given moment

Imagine you are driving  – or will be. Getting in your car, turning the key, you notice the car starts at rest.   

A velocity of zero.

You accelerate to a certain speed.  At any given instant between zero and your final speed your spedometer would read something different. An instantaneous velocity.

If you want to look at your average velocity during that same time period, consider the entire time period you were moving.  Then take your beginning speed, and your ending speed (going in the same direction) and take the average of the two. 

In our car, we are moving compared to the ground.

Compared to the ground.  A frame of reference.  The most common frame of reference is the ground.

If we were driving in a 4 lane highway, how fast do we appear to be driving compared to another car going faster?

Let’s say the other car is going faster, in the same direction we are. 

We’ll fall behind the other car, right?  We’re going to be late to the party. Hey, wait for us!

Doesn’t it appear that we are going backwards to the other car? 

We know we’re not going backwards, we can see we’re making progress forward compared to the ground, but making less progress compared to the faster car. 

But if you could see what your friend’s kid could see, looking back, seeing our slower car from the faster car’s perspective, our car would look like it is leaving us.  And the kids can make faces at us.

We can also have a negative velocity if we are considered to be ‘going backwards’ from where we intend to go. 

We can have a negative velocity compared to other vehicles.

So the study of velocity in physics starts you thinking about your speed, your direction, type of velocity measurement and your frame of reference, and these major terms can be applied to quilting.


Experimental Results

I’ve set up a separate page on my blog for the Great Velocity Experiment

I’ve created my own small scale experiment that measures the average velocity of a set number of strips.  And you can play along!  It’s easy.

You’ll really only need a number of strips or blocks that need sewing, a method to sew them, a timer, how many blocks or strips you have, and the length of 1 block or strip.

It is also nice to know what machine you use, what width of blocks you’re sewing (I found it makes quite a bit of difference), and you have to try to be accurate too!

Further details in the link above and in the show.  I am also including it on the side bar, and if I can figure out how to post a widget for you guys with blogs, I’ll let you know.

You DON”T HAVE TO DO any of the math, except to tell me the specifics I ask for, which the most math is measuring your block and counting the number of blocks, and I’ll do all the rest of the math for you!  What a deal!

And if you’re overseas and use meters instead of inches/yards (silly US system we have set up here), let me know that too.

I’ll do a giveaway to a lucky random person who participates! (Details to follow)

Wrap up

A few notes to wrap up part 1 of this podcast

THANK YOU for reaching out to me!!!  Thank you thank you thank you!

If you want some books I recently ‘read’ (listened to) about the brain and decisions (logical side and emotional side):

 Gridlock Gridlock?  Try this technique at Sew Mama Sew suggested by Sally

Want to try a cross stitch pattern from a picture?  Try My Photo Stitch suggested by Deb

 Optical Illusion Quilt by Jane at Just Plain Jane Quilts


Additional Music

From Mevio

  • Eric Kauschen – Speed of Light
  • Josh Woodword – Once Tomorrow – Instrumental
  • Gravity – Geoff Smith

From Freesound

       By genghis attenborough 
            Tornado jet.wav 
        By audible-edge 
            Driving in Streamwood IL with the windows down (05-04-2009).mp3 
        By Corsica_S 


4.1 SQ Podcast 9 – Keep Experimenting Everyone!

February 5, 2010

Podcast Feed

Cookie-Cutter Experiments vs Design your own

Already designed items are appealing due to overcoming obstacles in time, money, experience, fear, energy, motivation, or static friction.  Some examples of pre-designed experiments are:

  • cross stitch & embroidery patterns
  • knitting & crochet patterns
  • quilting kits
  • BOM’s
  • free motion stencils

The other choice is to design it yourself.  There is much fun in coming up with

  • quilt block patterns (see Tuxedo Designs blog)
  • quilt pattern placement or size (on point, baby sized, with sashing …)
  • hand drafting quilting patterns (see Leah Day Free motion quilting designs blog)
  • color choices
  • fabric types
  • thread choices
  • color values
  • rick rack choices
  • applique patterns

(see my Machine experiment number 1 post for more details of my personal design experiment inspired by Leah Day’s blog)

(also see Tuxedo Park Designs’ personal blog where he takes common blocks and experiments with color and placement and scale – good insight into the experimental design process)

As much fun as it is designing your own stuff, it is also fun to decide what materials and tools to use for your project.  For me, sometimes that takes the form of scientific experimentation. (or just experimenting – or just playing)

(A small number of) Ideas for quilt-related experiments in this fashion:

  • brand of quilting gloves
  • type of needle (sharps vs milners vs betweens ..)
  • thimbles (like in Quilter’s Home mag)
  • Machine quilting surfaces
  • types of material to quilt with (cotton, flannel, knits ….)
  • thread brands

Experimental Design

Going through an example, we can discuss the finer points of setting up good quilty experiments

Get your question figured out and focused

  • Lets say I want to know about thread – specifically thread durability while machine quilting

Come up with a hypothesis something I want to know

  • I think that different brands of thread affect quilt durability during machine quilted applications (this should probably be more specific still)

Figure out how do you measure if your hypothesis is true (finding out your manipulated variables)

  • Amount of time, stress, and washing affect quilt durability.
  • Any one of these three measurements can be used as their own separate experiment – remember to focus

How do you show that changes in your variables will result in changes to your quilts?

  • Mini Experiment 1:  Hang weights on a quilt that is machine quilted for 30 days.  Take observations daily of the quilt and compare results from day 1 to day 30 – extend this longer if necessary
  • Mini Experiment 2:  Hanging a quilt with a sleeve using different amounts of weight (different stresses on the quilts).  Take observations of how much weight is on the quilt when the quilt thread breaks or stretches. 
  • Mini Experiment 3:  Washing a quilt for 30 washes (decide if you want to use detergent or if you want to machine dry your quilt or you want to wash with rocks in your washing machine to help enhance the wear on it).  Take observations of your quilt after each wash (or 5) and compare results from no washes to 30 washes – extend to more washes if necessary

Notice that in:

  • Experiment 1 we are changing the number of days.  Days or time is our manipulated variable in this experiment.
  • Experiment 2 we are changing the stress on the quilt. (using weights)
  • Experiment 3 we are changing the amount of washing time.

All these experiments may tell you about the ‘durability’ of the thread types. 

You may find after this point that you want to only focus on one part of the experiment or you may want to be more specific still on your hypothesis. 

  • Maybe you only want to test the amount of wear on the quilt due to washing, and then decide to use different types of washing settings (hot water/cold water), detergents, dryer settings, amount of stress and other clothes in the washer at the same time …

Playing with Variables

DON’T make ALL the changes to your quilt simultaneously if you want to find out the real cause of your manipulated variable.

  • If you change the stress, washing, and days, you could have results, but what were the results actually from??

Keep everything else the same.   You don’t want to change anything that may throw off your results

  • Use the same fabrics/batting machine/ stitch length for each type of thread you’re testing …

This is the controlling variable idea of your experiment.  You can have a “control” with which to measure everything against. 

  • Your control in each of the experiments we have set up is the completed quilt on the first day with no weights or washes.  Find a way to make good observations of your control (take pictures, notes, feel for puckers) before you start. 

Always start with a ZERO result.  Sometimes you can make 2 duplicate copies and leave one alone and test the other to help with comparisons. 

  • Like they do on the washing detergent commercials, only have one quilt with zero washes and the other quilt with 20 washes or 30 washes

Set up a rubric so you can tell “what is better”.  This can be done mentally or you can give it a point value

  • Best score for the washing quilt experiment is that after repeated washes there are no frays, puckers, raveled edges.  Or you can do a pull test on the two fabrics and just pull them apart and see if they will pull apart easily.

Be prepared to make changes.  Successful experiments can, and should, be changed and restarted with different techniques once you have some experience under your belt.

  • Increase your amount of time, figure out a clever way to add stress without using weights. 
  • Then go back to the start and retake your data


Go small scale to figure out if you’re even in the ball park.  Mythbusters does this well.

Be prepared for a hypothesis to be disproven.   Try to get your data in an objective way without putting your “wishes into it”. 

For example maybe my friend sells these really awesome quilting gloves, and I wanted to prove they were better than other brands of gloves.  And it turns out that the friend’s brand stinks. 

As long as you don’t tell your friend that they stink – try to keep the emotion away from the testing.  Put your emotion into something more useful.  Like designing that award-winning quilt!

Some fun websites related to web 2.0

Searching Marion’s blog I found her useful sites and I would like to also borrow one of her useful sites off of this post:

Why didn’t I mention this in the podcast?  This is another Great site!

Make Blog led me to Indestructables DIY site for step by step tutorials

More fun

Just look at my wonderful acorn PRIZE from Mirkwood Designs for doing a podcast-inspired project!  So soft and look at the detail and quality of the card as well!

Her podcast number 4 details the soft block carving.  Here look at my stamp project


Here is my signature block with some (useless) walmart tools and the (useful) exacto knife.  Cost: $1 for eraser, $4 for walmart tools (not necessary), and $5 (I think) exacto knife – has lots of blade types

I drew with pencil onto paper, then rubbed the pencil eraser onto the soft block eraser

Carving the image is not hard at all, but you have to be VERY careful – sharps – and VERY patient.  Did this while watching ‘radio TV’.

The completed stamp and bits.

Additional Resources about the topic:

Thanks to my commenters:

Check out the posts from LabMom on

Space inspired quilt idea sites from Peggi

I am seeing a little bit of traffic from specific sites that put me on their blogroll.  Specifically the Triangle Modern Quilt Guild   Thanks!

Thanks guys and Keep experimenting!


4.0 Machine Quilting Experiment Number 1

January 26, 2010

In my attempts to constantly say what an inspiration Leah Day is, I do have to say that this past weekend I started the beginning of what could be a very long year-long experiment in the scientific quilter household. Which is a good thing.

I started up my own 6 inch squares with dark fabric, light thread, batting, paper, a list of beginner designs by Leah that I printed off on my black-and-white printer, and my own variations of those designs. I do have to say that:

  • I don’t own her DVD of designs – yet!
  • I don’t own her worksheets
  • I don’t get paid to say this
  • I haven’t been asked to do this experiment
  • I have not discussed this particular adventure in any way (yet) with Leah Day.

I simply LOVE the idea of learning how to machine quilt and I love how there is structure to the ‘unstructured’.  The post where she set everything up is really what got me started thinking that I could do this too.  Along with several other posts of hers as well.

Here’s my process:

  1. Cut out 6 inch squares of dark fabric and batting
  2. Search Leah Day’s Free Motion Filler Designs blog for the Beginner designs.
  3. Copy each image to my computer for reference ONLY (sorry if the next few steps break copyright)
  4. Save them in a folder on my computer with nothing else in it. 
  5. View the folder as thumbnails.
  6. Take a screenshot of the thumbnails on my computer.
  7. Save the screenshot in photo editing software.
  8. Print the tiny thumbnails onto a hard-to-read black and white paper to give me some starting points on ideas (boy do I need the actual designs to do this better).
  9. Take pieces of scratch paper. 
  10. Draw 9 boxes on the scratch paper.
  11. Try to “recreate” or “reinterpret” the designs (that I could see well) on the scratch paper, drawing in one continuous line as with her designs.
  12. Start to draw a couple of my own that I would like to try.
  13. Give up on any squiggly line type designs Like Oil Slick because I can’t do the curves right on the paper yet to my satisfaction.
  14. Draw a 4 inch line on each fabric top with marking pencil.
  15. Spray baste batting, backing and top together.
  16. Change the foot on my machine to darning foot.
  17. Thread machine with light thread etc.
  18. Put on my new machine quilting gloves bought from Leah’s site.
  19. Draw a box with the darning foot.
  20. Slowly and steadily worked around two designs.
  21. Realize I should have also bought cheater needles to hide the threads.
  22. Realize I should also have broken my foot as she suggested, but was not going to cut through plastic that easily without a replacement foot.
  23. Now I need to cut the designs down and put them in my clear plastic sleeves into my folder.


This was my sketching the designs to my liking and practice with one long pen stroke.

Loading my “quality machine” with the darning foot – see gloves on the side!

This was the first design and I listened to her video suggestion on this one and just did a grid and then the flying geese pattern.  I like them up and then down without the bars in between.

I have a love affair with daisies and instead of making them in rows like her Dresden daisies, I thought I’d rather see them in random patches.  Not my best work, but these are interpretations of daisies.  It’s a process.

So far practiced curves and straight lines.  Boy was this fun and getting me excited to try more!


2.8 Podcast 6 Preview – Chemistry Ornaments

December 18, 2009

Yeah I think I’m addicted to this podcasting thing.  This should be a nice (maybe short?) crafty podcast where I talk about chemistry ornaments.  I never got to doing much physics ornaments because usually we were completing our catapults this time of year.  Projectile ornaments!  Wouldn’t that be fun?

For this ornament that you will probably have time to complete for next year (or this coming week if you hurry, but you have to wait for an overnight step). 

Not so much for quilting though.  Although I did revisit a wreath idea that I remember helping with that had fabric patchwork pieces, which may almost count for quilting.


2.1 Podcast 4 Preview – Spectra Quilt Idea

December 2, 2009

I know my little prism isn’t the same thing as a diffraction grating, but this is what I got right now.  I’ve always loved looking at prisms and diffraction gratings.  In astronomy we talk about figuring out what components make up a lighted object by looking at the light and separating it out.  We can look up at the sun and determine which gases it has by looking at the ‘spectra’ by looking through SPECIALLY DESIGNED devices – DON”T look up at the sun directly!!! – but the same is true for other gases. I remember holding one of the diffraction gratings up to the window of the science lab and looking out at the street lights and seeing the yellow sodium lights look differently than the “purply” mercury lights and seeing the difference in the spectra. 

More to come on this.  Right now this is just a science-inspired quilt idea that I saw in a scarf somewhere.  Give me a little time to get my thoughts together and I should have a podcast ready that highlights the idea of spectra in quilts.


1.5 Podcast 2 Preview

November 17, 2009

I have been ambitious and this week have recorded another podcast – twice.  Even though I want the podcast to be conversational, and not “post production” as I said originally, I want to do an amount of editing and trim myself down a little bit.  Some of it is the “verbal pauses”, and some of it is just things I put in that would be better served in another podcast – “that’s another show” as AB says.  I will have it up soon, but for now, while you’re waiting, a preview of what’s to come, sorta ….

 This glowing edges picture of my applique is now my current background on my computer.  Pretty cool huh?


1.3 The Scientific Quilter Podcast

November 8, 2009

Scientific Quilter Title

It’s almost here.  I have a basic recorded podcast on audacity.  As the introduction podcast, it goes into some of the goals for the podcast, corresponding to the goals of this blog.  I have to finish the intro and outro to the podcast and still have to upload it to podbean.  Just so you know, the podcast is conversational style and rather ‘non produced’, which is how I am actually going to get the podcast done.

Keep experimenting!

EDITED February 2011:  The podcast was intended to be conversational, but over the last year has been morphed into a podcast filled with snippets of songs, different segments, some of which are science, or math based, one of which is some kind of quilting, and then home sewing front, an explanation of things sewn over the last time since the last podcast, and most of the time, some sort of self reflection of my ideas of quilting, science, art and life.  The feed is available at  Take a listen!


1.0 Introduction

October 24, 2009


Hello.  This is my second attempt at blogging.  After much frustration at another blog editor, I have moved to WordPress.  My original blog (version #1.0) can be found here.  I would like to do an accompanying podcast along with this blog, although at this time I still need a microphone and all the podcasting software.


I can achieve the following objectives:

Things I want to achieve with this blog:

  1. Promote quilting, craftiness, science and math in a non-scary way.
  2. Promote scientific & mathematical themes in others’ quilts & crafts.
  3. Use quilting as a medium to explore scientific thought processes.

Other interests for this blog:

  1. Explore the science behind the crafts – i.e. what chemical makes the dyes a specific color, and what exactly is tension?
  2. Come up with quilty experiments. How do you test what needles work, what different types of batting looks like?
  3. Provide a crafty solution to scientific labs that can be done either in classroom or at home.


Science in all its forms can be applicable to crafts.  Focus on this blog is physical science, but there is plenty of natural science to explore as well.  My current passion is quilting, so that’s where most of the entries will center around, but I always delight when I see other blogs, posts and websites that are other sciency crafts.

My knowledge level of science and math is fairly basic, but my love for scientific understanding and reasoning is not.  Mr. Wizard was my hero when younger, and now Alton Brown has stepped into that role.  I would like to use Good Eats as a model for this blog.  Good Eats shows cooking through the scientific properties of the ingredients, cooking methods, but in the end is still a show about cooking.  I would like this blog to be a blog about quilting through scientific properties and thinking.

More details on Theory at a later time (i.e. the rest of the blog)


Multi ButterfliesI am a basic scientist, cross stitcher, ex-teacher, simple crafter, simple crocheter, new sewer, quilter, and hopefully podcaster.  My name is Darla and I am starting to participate in several quilting communities online and in the real world. You may see posts and comments on other blogs and forums from Darla or Scientific Quilter – usually either way that’s me.

My undergraduate degree is in physics, with a mathematics minor (almost also a chemistry minor).  My master’s degree is in physical science teaching.  I have worked at a planetarium, taught high school physical science, and now work in a laboratory.  I have found the most joy in jobs when I am able to use my creative side of my brain.  My current job is less creative than most others I have had.  For several years I felt there was something was missing from my life without really knowing what it was.  After winning a FREE sewing machine at work, I decided to take up quilting.  After quilting for a while, I now remember past crafty and sewing projects that I completed many years ago, and my passion for crafts is again coming back into my life.


Please take a moment to share with me what you think about this blog.  I understand that it is different from the others, although I will still find myself talking through my own projects, using them as a lens for my topics.  I plan to repeat a few blog topics that I started on my last blog.  I’ll think of them as “rough drafts”, so please don’t get upset if you actually take the time to read my old blog, and then I say the same thing here.  Pictures will also be duplicated as well.

Take care & keep on experimenting!

– SQ