Thursday, April 21, 2011

Red and White 1910 Vortex Part 3

This is the original Vortex quilt on display at the Infanite Variety Quilt Show  by The American Folk Art Museum in NYC.   (Thanks Nan!)

Make Quadrants

Each quadrant has 13 wedges. 2 quadrants have outsides wedges that end in red, 2 have outside wedges that end in white.  Use the untrimmed wedges on the outside of the wedges.
It is a good idea to complete one quadrant, press and trim it before constructing the other 3.  Adjustments in sewing can  be made to avoid problems from the first quadrant when sewing the last 3 quadrants.

Consistancy in more important than 1/4" seams.  I found it easier to sew from the wide end of the wedge to the center.  Use a zipper foot to get your rows of stitching as close together as  posible in the center.  Try to get the quadrant to come to a point as much as possible.  It will not be completely posible because of the bulk of the threads and fabric, but that is why there is a dot in the center of the finished quilt.  If there is too much space between the seams at the point, a large dot will be needed.  My first quilt had a very large hole after putting together all 4 quadrants.  I ended up making a few more rows for the center to keep from having a dot much larger than I wanted.  That was a real pain!

Use the untrimmed wedges for the first and last wedges in a quadrant. 

Sew 13 wedges into a quadrant.  If you plan to sew wedges into pairs, then into a quadrant, be carefull to keep them in the correct order. The pair in this photo will not work in this quadrant, will be used in the next one.  The edges do not look straight in this photo, but they are.  The seam allowances are not flat.

Press all seams to one side.  Always press the seams the same way in all 4 quadrnts.

Here is a completed quadrant.  This one has a problem.  It is getting too narrow too quickly as it reaches the center.  I chose to let out a few seams, but a few seams could be made with a wider seam allowance closer to the outside of the quadrant. If nothing were done, the trimming will still make the quadrant square and the quilt will still lay flat.  Some of the pieces will be a bit larger or smaller than the rest in that circular "row".  You can decide how much adjusting you want to do.  This quilt is so busy that it hides a lot.

Time to Trim

Measure the last (larges) piece  of the wedges.  Make a small mark where the outside of the untrimmed wedges would have been cut if they had also been trimmed.  This is just to help you decide where you will trim the outside edges.  Try to have your adjustments for cutting shared by both edges of the quadrant as you trim the quadrant to be square.

Place a large square ruler on the center of the quadrant with a seam allowance on each side 1/4" away from the last row of stitching.  Add another ruler to extend the side out to the outer edge of the quadrant.  Do not cut just yet.  Draw a faint cutting line, then do the same on the other side.  You may want to shift the square ruler and cutting line a bit to make the wedges on each side share whatever adjustment was needed to make this quadrant square.   Also be carefull not to cut away an entire wedge secion on the narrow end.   It could be a case of making a compromise in the ruler placement, or even a bit more sewing adjustments.  When you are satisfied with the cutting line placement, trim the quadrant. 

Measure from the center edge of the quadrant to the outer edge along the center of some of the wedges.  Use an average of these numbers and measure along the seam lines.  Make  a mark near the outer edge along the seam lines.  Trim a small amount at these high points to make the quadrant a bit more round on the outer edge.

Make 3 more quadrants.  Use the first quadrant as a "go by" to get the last 3 to be as close as posible in size as the first.  Press all the quadrants in the same direction.

Border Sections

Fold a quadrant in half and press a crease.  Do not worry if the crease in not in the exact middle if a square.
Open the white fabric to a single layer.  Trim away the selvage edge.  Trim the end to form a square.  This will be the corner of the quilt.  Fold the end over to the side to make a 45 deg angle.  Press a crease.  Open the fabric back up.

 Lay the folded quadrant on the white fabric with the folded edge along the crease of the white fabric.  Place it so the outer squares of the quadrant are 6" from the edge.  Open the quadrant and adjust the placement so that both outer corners of the quadrant are 6" from the edges of the white fabric.  It may help to tape down the white fabric as you adjust the quadrant.

If the fabric is not wide enough, you may need to add a piece to that area, but no need to add to the entire lenght of the fabric. 

Measure from the edge of the quadrant to the edge of the border in several places and in both directions to make  sure the layout is square and true.  Check that the edge of the quadrant is at 90 deg to the edge of the border.

Mark a cutting line from the corner of the quadrant to the outside of the border.
With small pins mark the round edge of the quadrant.  Remove the quadrant.  Mark a cutting line 1/2"  from the pins toward the center of the quilt.  Cut out the border on the lines.  You may chose to leave an inch or so extra on the cutting lines where the borders will be joined and trim after the quadrant is sewn to the border.  Just a bit of insurance in case the fit is a bit off. 

  Here is the border with the quadrant.  The parts look diferent size, but will fit together.

Use the first border piece as a template to cut 3 more.  Here are some layouts for placing and cutting.  Choose the one that best fits the width of your fabric.  If the fabric is too narrow you may need to add a piece.


Do the applique before sewing the borders to the quadrants.  The template for the applique can be found here:

The templates are full size, need to be fit together.  I cut mine from freezer paper.  Fold the the paper.  Place the downloaded template on the fold.  Cut out.  A few staples will help hold it in place. 

Here is a layout that can be used to cut out the appliques and get bias binding strips.

For needle turn, iron the template to the fabric, then mark the outline and cut outs.  Carefully peel off the template. The template can be used many times.  Cut out the applique with a scant 1/4" allowance.  Cut a small slit in the cut outs.  Leave the extra fabric in the cut outs untill you are ready to applique tht area.  This will make it easier to handle the loose applique. 

Fused raw edge may also be used. 

Sew the borders to the quadrants then sew the 4 sections together.  Cut a circle of red and applique to the center.  There is a lot of bulk in the seams near the center.  I cut a small round of batting to fit the hole from the back and whip stitched it in place to the ends of the wedges to help fill the void.  This is in addition to the regular batting.


You can see the quilting on the outer rows is a criss-cross pattern.  The rest is straight lines to the center.  Not all the lines need to go all the way to the center.

Cut binding 2 1/4" wide in red on the bias.

There is a full page photo of the 1910 Vortex quilt in the June/July 2011 issue of Quilt magazine on the last page.  I have also seen the quilt in several books. 

I also found a photo in a book with a quilt almost like this one.  It is believed that both were made by the same maker.  Note the one without the curliques has a white dot in the center.

I hope these instructions work for you.  Please let me know if there are any problems.


  1. Thanks for the huge effort in posting the instructions. I am not making this quilt although I have always admired it. Perhaps it is in my future, though.

  2. I cannot believe I found your site!! I love this quilt and I do plan on making this!! Thank you so much for sharing the instructions and your talent. Actually, I love the school house block I am thrilled to have your guidance on these. I am thinking of using red and white quilter's sateen. Haven't ever used it before--but it should produce a nice crisp sheen.

  3. Thank you, I am making this quilt, and loving it!
    Thanks again

  4. Oh my gosh!!!! Thank you so much for writing this up and sharing how to make this amazing quilt. I saw the one like this at the Red & White Exhibit and have wanted so much to make one.

  5. I just found this blog and am so excited. This quilt is exactly what I've been looking for to do for my son. He's in his 30's and loves these type of geometric designs. I can't wait to get this started. Keep up the wonderful work. I'm following now and hope to see more. : )

  6. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing this pattern. I would love to make this quilt, but alas I fear it will simply join my TO DO list....

  7. Hi! I finished my own version of the vortex quilt last night, and a friend sent a link to your fabulous tutorial this morning. Mine is black and white with fewer wedges (I used a wedge ruler I already had), but next I will make a red and white one using your tutorial instead because the more wedges the better the optical illusion. My quilt turned out well, but your tutorial will make my next one even better. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! Hope the instructions work out for you. More wedges will improve the illusion. I followed your podcasts, would like to hear more! You once posted a photo of my grandson in the pressman's hat on your site.

  8. You are awesome! Thanks so much for all the work figuring this out and sharing with the quilt community at large. I am going to make this quilt. I'm very excited to start.

  9. Found you on Pinterest. Since I first saw the red and white quilt exhibit photos of the NY show I have been thinking of how to do this with my wedge ruler. Thanks so much for sharing the how to's with us!!

  10. THANK you for posting your method! I spent a long time trying to figure out how to draft a Fraser spiral This quilt is not the same design--but your approach to the design works well to give the spiral illusion that the Fraser spiral gives for one part of the design. So you've given me a new approach to designing it.

    Doing such designs must have been a regular geometry problem in thise days and doable by needleworkers; comparable drafts were published in various instruction books published well before computers. But now? I asked a college math instructor for help; he got out his computer but he couldn't do it with pen and paper! I am so glad you posted your approach to designing your Vortex and your method of construction. All doable without special tools. Thank you!

  11. Thank you for all your work. I can't wait to get started.