If you google the phrase “Circle of Nine,” you’ll find that it relates to a video gaming community, an interesting geometric property of triangles, and even a series of fantasy novels. It also refers to a beautiful and creative way to set blocks in quilts to design new and unique quilts. Simple, well-known and well-loved blocks like the Star of Hope or Churn-dash are transformed by fascinating secondary designs when set in a Circle of Nine. The results are always visually beautiful and often very playful too.
The story behind Circle of Nine quilts
Back in 2010, sisters and authors Janet Houts and Jean Ann Wright felt that quilters who sought the convenience of coordinated fabric collections and pre-cuts often lost the chance to be truly creative and innovative with their designs. They developed a new way to set blocks – in a circle. Typically, eight blocks circle around a ninth one. Instead of sashing, they used spacers that they sometimes pieced for added visual complexity.
Constructing a Circle of Nine quilt
Designing your own quilts with the circle of nine grid is easy! Choose
a familiar quilt block and either photocopy it several times or use graph paper to sketch the block. There are endless combinations to put together with blocks and spacers. Jean Ann and Janet both carry a pad of graph paper and a container of the sketching materials with them and are always ready to create a new quilt when a spare moment presents itself.
Designing quilts on the computer requires either quilt design software or a drawing program. You can use either the computer or graph paper sketches, as each method lends a different quality of creativity to the design process. The speed of computer design is great, and the relaxing time spent with graph paper doodling can inspire new designs with ease, using the materials at hand.
Drafting the design
This simple setting produces quilts with unique and creative designs—no two looking alike. The green squares can be filled with any quilt block. The pink spacers around the center blocks and corner blocks can be a focus fabric or pieced together using traditional block elements. To demonstrate the concept, we’re going to start with blocks with a Square-in-a-Square Grid.
Begin by drawing your first quilt block (block 1) at the center of your design. Place block 2 up and to the right of block 1, corner to corner. Place blocks 3, 4 and 5 in the same manner, moving in a clockwise direction. Block 6 will be placed above block 1, halfway between blocks 2 and 5. Blocks 7, 8 and 9 will be placed in the same manner as block 6, rotating clockwise around block 1.
Place spacers around block 1 and in the four corners of the quilt top. These can be made up of strips of fabric (with the top and bottom spacers longer), or smaller quilt block designs. Smaller blocks can also be used in the corners to make all spacers the same size.
Things get really interesting
When you start working with blocks that are built on grids, you will find that you have even more design possibilities based on the offsets that you choose for your blocks. You’ll want your seams to line up, but you can choose to offset your blocks close together or farther apart for a larger quilt.
Below left is a nine-patch block offset by one-third for a tight design, and to the right is a larger quilt design achieved with two-third offsets.
You can always use plain spacers so that your beautiful blocks work by themselves to create the secondary designs – see the example below left, using blocks offset by one-third. Or you can piece your spacers for even more complexity – see the example below right.
And below left is an example of the same block now offset by two-thirds, allowing even more room for pieced spacers.
Where can you learn more?
About the books
Would you like to learn more about Circle of Nine quilts, and find patterns for over 30 different projects? The following books are available at LandauerPub.com!
Circle of Nine • 120 pages • 24 projects • $24.95 • Available as a downloadable PDF