Have you seen the small sets of two mirrors available in a package at the quilt shop? Did you wonder what a quilter would need them for? Many unique and interesting design possibilities are available to the quilter with a large scale print and a set of design mirrors.
Most mirrors are packaged in a plastic bag with written instructions and are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Mirror sets will cost between five and eight dollars. The acrylic mirror sets are usually about four inches wide and between five and eight inches long. I am also aware of an acrylic mirror set that is six by twelve inches.
Longer mirrors can be obtained from a glass supply store if you wish to use this technique for larger projects. They will cut any size you request but if you aren't particular about an exact size and are willing to have them cut from scraps the price will be nominal.
I have a set of mirrors specially cut at the glass supply store that are six inches wide by eighteen inches long. These are made of glass so need to be handled carefully. If you do purchase glass mirrors you will need to place a strip of masking tape on all cut edges to protect your hands from cuts. Store glass mirrors in a heavy cardboard folder to keep them from breakage.
After you have purchased a set of design mirrors there are wonderful design possibilities ready for you to pursue. By placing mirrors at various angles, you will find a multitude of patterns of fabric to cut out and assemble for truly spectacular patchwork. You will have so much fun with the mirrors that it is well worth the investment.
The two mirrors are usually made of acrylic and are put together with tape to form a "hinge". If they are not taped together there will be instructions in your package for you to tape them together yourself. Simply use packaging tape, duct tape, or other sturdy household tape and tape according to package directions.
After your mirrors are taped together stand them up with the hinged area away from you. Move them in an open position and close them to a narrow position. When in use the mirrors will form any angle that you desire. Choose a large scale print fabric and simply move the mirrors across the fabric. You will see different kaleidoscope effects forming in the angles of the mirrors simply from the different prints of the fabric. This will give you an idea of the design possibilities available with a mirror set.
Choose an appropriate block pattern
Choose a block pattern with four, six, or eight pieces meeting in the center of the block. Any block that has patches that meet in the center will work. Some traditional quilt block examples are kaleidoscope, Lemoyne star, pinwheel, nosegay, fan, or simply a four patch.
Choose a block that has eight, six, or four patches meeting at the center of the block. When making a patchwork block your number of pieces meeting at the center need to have the correct angle to make 360 degrees. Choose a pattern from a book that meets these specifications. Later you might want to draft your own blocks to use your magic mirrors. If you divide 360 by 4 you would place the angle of your mirrors at 90 degrees for four pieces, 60 degrees for six pieces, or 45 degrees for eight pieces.
Purchase or pull from your stash a smashing overall floral or novelty print. Or choose one of those border type prints. Almost any large print will work for the magic mirror technique. This is an opportunity to use that large scale colorful print that is simply "too pretty" to cut up. If you use it for your kaleidoscope centers you will still be able to maintain the beauty of the fabric after it is cut.
Make a window template and a plastic template
Decide on a block that you wish to make and trace the actual size of the template. Don't add seam allowance to the window template. Cut out the template actually making a "window" template in the center of your sheet of paper. Place your window template on a portion of your large scale printed fabric. Place the hinged mirrors just at the edge of the paper at the exact angle the pattern piece. Look into the mirrors and you will see the effect of six or eight pieces will make when you cut all pieces from the exact same portion of the printed fabric. Your fabric selection should make a kaleidoscope effect. Slide the window template paper around on the fabric and audition different areas of the print.
Remember your window template is exactly that -- a window for auditioning fabric. When you are actually ready to cut, make a clear plastic template and ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE. This is the template you will use to make the actual cuts.
Once you select a specific area of the fabric place your plastic template on the fabric. Use a dry erase marker to mark the plastic template with two or three registration marks -- draw a line at the edge of a flower or motif. Lift the template and move it to another identical place on the fabric that is EXACTLY the same and continue cutting until you have the number of pieces needed for your block. Use your reference marks to cut four, six, or eight identical pieces according to your block pattern.
Remember when cutting be careful to cut very closely to your template. If you run off the edge at the points too far you might possibly be cutting into a portion of your fabric you wish for another block. After you have cut the pieces for that individual block, audition another area and cut for your second block. Continue until special fabric cuts are made for all blocks needed.
Stitch the four, six, or eight specially cut patches together for the center area of a unique and beautiful kaleidoscope block. The kaleidoscope effect is achieved simply by using the printed repeats of your feature fabric. Each block stitched will be unique because it was cut from a different portion of the fabric. Yet all the blocks will coordinate in a beautiful way.
Your mirrors can also help you decide if you wish to put your blocks together or use sashing. Simply place the mirrors on the corner of the block and you will see how four blocks appear when they are stitched together.
Some quilters are so interested in working fast that they will think working with mirrors is tedious and time consuming because each individual piece is selected and then cut individually. While this may take a little more time, the end results in a kaleidoscope effect that is truly amazing and the design possibilities are endless.