How to Create a Tessellation Quilt

mc escher angels and demons
Circle Limit IV: Angels and demons by M.C. Escher (1960)

A tessellation is like a puzzle where the same shape is repeated to cover a surface, with no gaps and no overlays.

Many tessellations are simple shapes like triangles, squares and hexagons, but some more difficult versions take the form of animals like birds, fish, and frogs. M.C. Escher was the master of tessellations. My favorite is Circle Limit IV: Angels and demons.

Because quilts are a surface that is covered by small pieces of cloth, tessellations are a well-explored way to make a quilt pattern.

SUPPLIES: Square piece of paper, pencil, scissors, tape, at least two different colors of fleece/felt, sewing machine or hand needle and thread, backing fabric.

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tesselation quilt tutorialSTEP 1:

Draw a line from one side of the paper to the other and a second line from the top of the paper to the bottom.

STEP 2: Label each corner and cut the paper apart on the lines.

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tesselation quilt tutorialSTEP 3:

Rearrange the pieces so the corners are in the center. Tape the pieces together on the back to create your tessellation shape.  Trace this shape onto another piece of paper and see how your cut out shape will fit into the drawn shape like a puzzle.

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tesselation quilt tutorialSTEP 4:

Trace the tessellation shape onto a piece of fleece or felt. Use this single piece as your pattern to cut out the rest of your tessellation shapes. Pinning fabric to fabric is much easier than using that paper tessellation shape.

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tesselation quilt tutorial


Lay out your backing fabric. I like to back my quilts with fleece and leave out the batting so it’s only two layers rather than three. Arrange your tessellation pieces on the backing fabric, alternating colors.

Note: If you do choose to use batting, you would lay out the backing, then lay over your batting, then arrange your tessellation pieces.

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tesselation quilt tutorial


Pin the shapes to the backing fabric, fitting them together like a puzzle. Stitch down using the pressure foot as a guide.

Hand Stitching Method

I used writing this tutorial as a challenge to myself to completely hand sewn a quilt. I laid out my shapes as in step five then sewed together a strip of four shapes. The top photo shows the layout, the second the pieces stitched together.

Next I sewed each strip to the one above it creating two joined rows.  I then positioned the block to the backing fleece and started quilting the layers together.

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STEP 7: 

Finish the edges of your quilt in your favorite manner.


This turned into a much bigger project than I anticipated. Once I started stitching and adding embellishments I just kept adding more and more. The small wall hanging I designed turned into a lap quilt which included not only the tessellation pattern but some hand sewn flowers as well.

tessellation quilt


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