Saturday, March 26, 2011

Red and White 1910 Vortex Quilt, Part one

The original quilt was on display in New York the last week of March as part of the show at The American Folk Art Museum.  The original was made around 1910.   I have made 2 of these, working on another. 
Feel free to contact me with any questions.


Size: 84 x 84

Yardage:  7 yds red
                7  1/2 yds white

1   yd less of each fabric is needed if you choose to cut in the thrifty method described later.

Read ahead in the instructions and you will get an understanding of how this will go together.

This quilt is strip pieced, goes together much quicker than it looks.  Strip sets are made with graduating sizes of strips.  Narrow wedges are cut from the strip sets and sewn to form the bullseye center.   I learned a few hints along the way that I will share.  There are 52 wedges, 21 strips in each wedge.  Dividing a circle into 52 wedges gives an odd angle, one wonders why that number was chosen.  52 weeks in the year?  52 cards in a deck?

There are 2 kinds of strip sets.  One starts and ends with red, the other starts and ends with white.

The cutting of  wedges leaves a lot of waste scraps.  You can not just flip your wedge template upside down and cut the next wedge the other direction because you would end up with the wrong size red and white pieces in the wrong order. To save fabric, I give directions to cut the wedges in parts then sew them together.  That will save about 1 1/2 yards of each fabric.  It is not a great lot of extra sewing, but you may choose to just cut the entire wedge from a whole strip set.  You may have ideas to use up the scrap.

I used a white bed sheet (don't call the quilt police!).  A wide sheet can be split in half and used like yardage.  I did this because I felt it would give a bit of sheen and would be durable.  I machine quilted, so that was not a problem.  I had no problem doing needle turn applique on the sheet fabric.  Also a sheet was inexpensive.

Cutting strips

Tip:  Store the cut strips in the pages of a note book or a road atlas to keep from getting them mixed up.  All of one "row" in each page.

If you plan to cut whole wedges all at once, you will need to make 3 full and one half strip sets of both kinds (begining and ending in red, and begining and ending in white).
So, for each row cut 3 red strips and 3 white strips.  Place them for safe keeping between the pages of a note book, one row (3 red, 3 white) in each page. Then cut a 25" length of each fabric.  Cut each in half along the fold giving you  25" by (approximately) 22".   Cut a set of each color from these,  (half as wide as the other strips).
 Be careful to cut along the  (+ or -) 22" edges, or you will run out before all are cut.  Keep these half strips in the same page as the full strips of the same width.


If you want to save a bit of fabric,  cut one strip of each color rows 1 thru 9.
Cut 2 full strips and 1 half strip of each color rows 10 thru 17.
Cut 3 full and 1 half strip of each color rows 18 thru 21.

 To get the half strips, cut a 20" length of each fabric.  Cut in half along the fold.  You have 20" x (about) 22" pieces.  Cut half strips for rows 10 thru 21 from these pieces, cutting along the 22" edge.  1 red and 1 white for each row.

Cut strips in these widths:

row   width
1    2"
2    1"
3    1"
4    1   1/8"
5    1   1/8"
6    1   1/4"   
7    1   3/8"
8    1   3/8"
9    1   1/2"

10   1   5/8"
11   1   3/4"
12   2"
13   2   1/8"
14   2   3/8"
15   2   1/2"
16   2   3/4"
17   3"

18   3   3/8"
19   3   3/4"
20   4   1/8"
21   4   5/8"

Making strip sets

Sew with close stitches, these wedges are cut narrow at the end and stitching can come undone.
Be carefull on the first few rows not to get the order of rows mixed up.  It is easy after about row 8 to start sewing on the wrong edge (row 1). 

If you are going to cut whole wedges, make strips sets with all rows 1 thru 21.  3 full width sets and a half width set will start and end in red.  3 full width sets and a half width set will start and end in white.  Press to the red.

If you are making the wedges in sections:
Use rows 1 thru 9 to make a strip set starting and ending in white, and one strip set starting and ending in red.
Use rows 10 thru 17 to make 2 strip sets starting and ending in white and 2 strip sets starting and ending in red.

Use rows 18 thru 21 to make 3 full and one half strip sets starting and ending in white.  Make 3 full and one half strip sets starting and ending in red.
Press to the red.

In this photo the strip sets for rows 1 thr 9 and 10 thr 17 are done.  Rows 18 thru 21 are still in the pages of the road atlas.  The wedge template is also shown. 

Comming soon, I will show how to make the template.


  1. That quilt has to be one you need to pay attention to while sewing to get the right piece in the correct place.

  2. I saw this quilt in NYC and couldn't imagine making one. I can't wait to see your instructions.

  3. this quilt was really amazing! I can't believe you made it
    Look forward to seeing your instructions
    NOt sure I could really make but would love to give it a try!

  4. You almost make me want to make this quilt. Almost. But I will be saving the instructions because one never knows what I may try to do. Thanks.

  5. Thank you for the instructions Paula! This is an intriguing quilt and it looks really difficult!

    Just out of curiosity, may I know which shade of red are you using? Is it Kona or Moda? There seems to be so many shades of reds out there and finding the right red can be quite daunting!

  6. I have loved this quilt since I first saw the pictures of it on display. And I want to start on one now for a quilt show next year. Thanks so much for your directions!

  7. atruebrit writes: Hi I was looking at instructions, couple of ? ,you state 7yds and 7 1/2yds of each color, is this right? also when are you going to put up part 2, reason I am asking is in a couple weeks, I have to go back north, and I will not have internet , so i would love to get rest of instructions before I leave. Thanks for taking time to post the instructions, I love the quilt.

  8. Dear Paula!
    I´m from Germany and I´m so thankfull that I found your site and instructions.
    I love this quilt. Hope to sew one day.
    Well. You write one of your 2 finished quilts lives in Germany. Can you tell me where?
    Perhaps?! :-)
    Happy quilting

  9. This is a beautiful. Saw it in quilters newsletters magazine.. I want to make it. So after making these strips, where does the second lesson start. Thanks so much. God bless. Karen colorado

  10. Thank you for being so generous in sharing your quilt pattern!
    Best wishes from Carol in Australia!

  11. hi carol, i have made your vortex quilt and i love it. turned out so beautiful thanks for sharing the pattern. i have entered it in a contest and hope i win something. it took me from june to december 2011. i will let you know. my husband designed the outer border instead of using yours. i have it hanging on my living room wall karen from colorado. thanks again.

    1. I would love to see what your husband has designed! So many ideas come to mind. Also hope it wins in the contest!

  12. OK OK OK......I have made my template.....(insert whineeee voice here)..but I don't have any fabric! I have been on a fabric buying rebellion....March 4 was 14 months since I have purchased ANY fabric....nope, not one thread. I was ok with it, after all, I have shelves full, tons and tons so who really needs to go to the fabric store.....UNTIL I FOUND THIS QUILT TUTORIAL!!!!! OH MY, I may just have to CAVE IN!!! And then there is also that cute little red/white house quilt TOO!!!!!!
    Girl, I guess you know I am blaming my downfall ALLLLLL on YOU!!! HA!!
    This was my most favorite one of the show and I was just extremely excited and amazed I ran across your Tutorial. Thank You sooooo much!
    Tutorials are a lot of work and I appreciate you for doing it and sharing it with us. I will let you know of my progress. where did I put my credit card........

  13. Hi carol, I do not know how to put picture on here to show you. Can you help me? Happy quilter Karen. Thanks.

  14. I am planning to make this quilt and I have questions! Your quilt is amazing! Thank you for taking the time to put this tutorial together. I'm not sure I am following the instructions listed after the heading "Cutting Strips"

    Can you expound a little on this:If you plan to cut whole wedges all at once, you will need to make 3 full and one half strip sets of both kinds (begining and ending in red, and begining and ending in white). So, for each row cut 3 red strips and 3 white strips. Thank you!!

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  16. So how long are the whole set and how wide are the full set

  17. So how long are the whole set and how wide are the full set

  18. The cutting instructions are not easy to interpret. How long is the 2 inch row and other rows?