On The Rule of Three

It is done. And, with the permission of the artist who commissioned A Traveller’s Quilt, here is a photograph of the finished work.

A Traveller’s Quilt. 218 x 236 cm (86 x 93 inches). It is wider than my longest lathe, hence the gathers at the top of the quilt in this photograph.

It is the first quilt that I have made this year. Although I was pleased to finish this big, queen sized bed quilt, I must confess to a wrench when it went to its proper home. After working on it for more than a month I became fond of the luscious, exotic fabrics, collected mostly in South East Asia. That said, I was also pleased to be done with them, because some of the textiles are loosely woven and therefore were difficult to stitch into neat submission. Talk about mixed emotions!

The biggest joy was the reaction of the quilt’s owner. It is good to know that it will be appreciated and enjoyed. I confess that I hung onto the quilt for a few days after I had finished the commission. During that time I took a number of photographs of it, but forgot to photograph the back, which would have shown the organic machine quilting in slightly wavy lines in varying shades of teal. You will just have to imagine it.

The artist who commissioned the quilt gave me carte blanche in how to use the fabrics she had collected on her travels.

I must thank my good quilting friend, Karen Davies, for her inspired suggestion that I accentuate the bright turquoise and gold fabric by using the blocks that contained this fabric for a the central X-shaped design. At the pin-up stage I had been struggling to blend the turquoise blocks in with the rest of the colours. Karen’s keen eye saw that this was going to be impossible and saved me from my metaphorical block. I am mixing my metaphors (I think) by referring to writer’s block, where one loses inspiration and cannot continue writing. In my experience this also happens to quilters, but what would one call it? A quilter’s block just won’t do, will it. [For any non-quilting readers, a block is a rectangle of pieced fabric, often sewn to a set pattern.]

Perhaps you noticed and were perplexed by the title of this post. In a previous post I made a passing mention that I was quilting the piece in three sections and promised two observant readers to explain in more detail how I did this. One of those readers recently posted about the magic number three in music. So the number three is on my mind. The rule of three is, inter alia, another writing term. According to a Wikipedia entry:

The rule of three is a writing principle that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. The audience of this form of text is also thereby more likely to remember the information conveyed because having three entities combines both brevity and rhythm with having the smallest amount of information to create a pattern. It makes the author or speaker appear knowledgeable while being both simple and catchy. Slogans, film titles and a variety of other things have been structured in threes, a tradition that grew out of oral storytelling. Examples include The Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Three Musketeers. Similarly, adjectives are often grouped in threes to emphasize an idea. The Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three.


While checking up on myself via Mr Google I came across the statement that “three is the smallest number needed to made a pattern” in a fascinating fact-filled article called “What is the mysterious ‘Rule of Three’?”

Here follows a step by step guide on how I joined the three sections of the quilt so that it looks seamless.

The machine quilting was done in three sections to make the stitching more manageable. I used my domestic sewing machine and a walking foot and did not quilt right to the edge of each section.

Step 1: Trim the edges so that the excess batting and backing is flush with the raw edge of the quilted section. Step 2: Make sure that you are joining the correct edges of the quilt sections (you will curse if you inadvertently join the two sections upside down to one another).

Step 3: Pin the two quilt tops together, to match the blocks.

Step 4: Sew tops together, making sure to fold back the batting and backing as you sew so as not to catch either the batting or the backing fabric in the seam.

Step 5: Fold open the backing and batting and press the seam. Then lay the two sections on top of one another and free up the batting of one of the sections. Cut off half an inch of the batting on one side of the seam. Be careful not to nick the batting with the rotary cutter.

Step 6: Lay the quilt flat and smooth the batting so that the two edges lie flush. Pin through all three layers. Step 7: Fold under a quarter inch on one side of the backing. Lay it over the other, raw edged side of the backing. Pin down and slip stitch by hand.

Step 8. Machine quilt over the unquilted area alongside the joined seams.

The final step is a little tricky as one has to manhandle a large amount of quilt through the small space under the arm of one’s domestic sewing machine. So have a good strong cup of coffee before you tackle the final push.

32 thoughts on “On The Rule of Three

  1. Wow Maris, this quilt is just so rich and I really like your close machine stitched quilting looking so like your (and my) favourite form of stitching and just 1 month to achieve it all in – amazing, congratulations.


    1. Oh thank you Janet for your kind words. While hand stitching will always be my first love, it is much quicker by machine. I had two breakthroughs that have helped me to overcome my antipathy towards machine quilting — the first was to tension the quilt it on my lap with far apart rows of hand quilting and the second was not to try and get perfectly straight lines of machine stitching, but to let the lines waver a bit (organically!).
      It’s the fabrics that do the work in making it such a rich piece.


  2. I’m thrilled my 3 measure fix helped un-block your writer’s/quilter’s block.
    I, too, mix metaphors often and find that even so, they seem to make sense on a subliminal level, so I don’t apologize anymore. Neither should you, Mariss – mix on!
    This commission is a huge success and I’m amazed at the speed in which you created it from start to finish. And thanks for the deets on the 3-piece-joins. Definitely the answer to the Queen Sized quilt construction needs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s to the mixing of metaphors and cocktails.
      I wanted to link to your post on the fix of three, but was in too much of a hurry to first get your permission. Apologies.
      Thank you for the nice things you have said about the quilt. The pattern is simple (on purpose) so it went together quite quickly. And machine quilting is a hundred times faster than doing it by hand.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Make mine a margarita, please.
        And if ever you want to link up with a post of mine, go for it – consider this carte blanche permission! HA!
        But it’s fine to do it how you did in this post, too. Whatever works for you – being attentive to giving attribution is one of your strong suits, and much appreciated by all us creatives.


  3. The colors of the fabrics are so rich and lush. You came up with a wonderful design for use of the fabrics; my eye travels across the quilt, and enjoys the various fabrics. Thanks for sharing the construction too. Very clever!


    1. I am glad you enjoyed looking at the quilt and thank you for your praise of the design. What would one do without the help of friends — without the advice given it would have been a different quilt. I learnt that joining technique from a local quilter at a workshop given a while ago


  4. Wow. Just super wow. What an accomplishment this quilt is. It just glows. And I like the serendipity feel it has – you can be surprised all over the quilt’s surface with the placement of shapes and colors. I am just in awe. And, thank you for your thorough answer to the question of how to put the final quilt together by attaching the individual sections. It is very clearly explained and I feel I could do it now if the occasion came up. I love how precisely your work was finished. All in all I think this is a very successful work of art.


  5. Your friend Karen had a brilliant idea and the design of the quilt is spectacular! I once had some Guatemalan fabric that is similar to some of the fabrics you had in this quilt and I wish I had done something like what you did. I ended up donating the fabrics as I could not figure out what to make with them. I like how you used the rule of three to do the stitching!


    1. Thanks Tierney for praising the design.
      It’s odd how fabrics that at first seem impossible to use can come into their own at a later stage. A bit like a book that can leave you cold and then catch your imagination at different time in your life. Therefore best not to get rid of unused fabric or books, I tell myself. Ha!


  6. This a very beautiful quilt and wonderfully designed and executed. I am not surprised the quilt’s owner is thrilled with the result and that you put the collection of fabrics to inspired good use.


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