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Thread: What sort of folding mirrors are best for kaleidoscope quilts?

  1. #1
    Junior Member Lobster's Avatar
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    What sort of folding mirrors are best for kaleidoscope quilts?

    I'm working on a quilt using a stack and whack effect (not that I cut it that way, but you know the sort of thing), and between that and a Paula Nadelstern book, I am getting interested in kaleidoscope quilting. I gather that one very useful tool for this is to use a hinged/folding pair of mirrors. The ones at the quilt shop are madly overpriced, considering how easy it is to get mirrors and put some duct tape on them to create a hinge. So my questions are:

    1) What size mirrors would be best, considering that I may go on to may 20" diameter kaleidoscopes? I've seen 12" x 6" mirrors sold for quilting, but is the 6"high enough to really see what's going on in the mirror?

    2) What sort of mirror should I get? Will an acrylic mirror off eBay, and they are sold in a variety of sizes and are very cheap, do the job? I imagine that it would be lighter weight and I wouldn't have to worry about breakage, but I don't know how clear the reflection would be.

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    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I got 2 glass 12" wall tiles and just used duck tape. It is pretty unwieldy due to the weight, but the size is good. The acrylic should be OK. There probably will be some distortion, but you are really just trying to get a general idea.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
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    Junior Member Lobster's Avatar
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    Thanks. It sounds like 12" x 12" acrylic might be the way to go, then. Do you find that you need the full height? What have you been using it for? I can get that length in a number of different heights, assuming the eBay seller I'm looking at sells decent stuff.

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    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I've made several OBWs, but didn't need the mirrors for those. The OBWs got me interested in kaleidoscope quilts in general. I've only made one small 4patch posey, but plan to do one with more wedges. I have the fabric, but it has large-ish areas that are plain background that I want to avoid. You probably can get away with a smaller size. You can see quite a bit of the fabric by looking at it from different angles (you move, not the mirrors). I used the 12" size because the only other pre cut mirrors I could find had beveled edges. The other thing I did was to cut wedges of chip board at a couple of different angles so I could precisely position the mirrors for 4, 6 or 8 wedges.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
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    Junior Member Lobster's Avatar
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    Ah, clever idea with the chipboard.

    This person on eBay is selling all sorts of sizes, e.g. 210 x 297, 250 x 250 (mm here, just remember that 305mm = 12"). That's in the 3mm width. There's 297 x 210 (apparently that is A4) in 6mm, I wonder if I'd be better off with that to avoid distortion? Anyway, this is why I was wondering whether you actually needed the full height in order to see what was going on.

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    Super Member DebraK's Avatar
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    It is my opinion that you don't need mirrors that big, but if that is easier for you to find and use, they will work just fine. Mine are 6x6 and work great, when I bother to use them ;-)
    What does Paula suggest?
    I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health - Voltaire

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    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    ITA you don't need extremely tall mirrors. MIne are about 5x7" each.

    I bought "locker mirrors" at the $ $tore and taped them together with duct tape. Being that they were meant to be portable and moved around, they had a plastic protective edge and backing, which keeps from cutting yourself on the mirror edge. They stay in a bubble envelope in my truck, ready, just in case I see some fabric I want to audition.

    So for a couple of bucks and some duct tape, I have what works.
    For what I've seen of the "official" mirrors, they are costly and quite fragile. Mine have a lot of protection, and while I doubt they will ever break ... I am not out much if they should. And will go right back to the $ $tore!
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    Junior Member Lobster's Avatar
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    Paula Nadelstern suggested, and I quote, "mirrors". Maybe she goes into more detail in the other book which I've just ordered. I know that she uses A4 to draft her kaleidoscopes, so the most she'd need would be 10" or 11" at any time. I can't recall her talking about a kaleidoscope bigger than 20" diameter.

    Of course, I am probably a good couple of years away from being able to do kaleidoscopes like that, partly because I haven't yet learned how to use a sewing machine let alone to use it with deadly accuracy (my hand-piecing is excellent, but it seems that you need machine-piecing for this), partly because I don't think I have more than a couple of appropriate fabrics in my stash and will need to build that up (all the good ones seem to be sold overseas, drat it), and also I don't know if I'm up to the challenge artistically, though I'd certainly like to try. But I might experiment with something smaller scale in the meantime, and I'm interested in seeing if I can apply the technique to making quilts using complex Islamic geometric designs. Hmm, I wonder if Jinny Beyer mentions mirrors in her books at all? She's very into using border prints in a basic kaleidoscope way.

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    I took two mirrors out of square compacts for face powder and duct taped them together. They are small enough to carry in my purse, and handy when I run across a fabric that I think might work for a project.

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    You can hand-piece anything you want to -

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    Junior Member Lobster's Avatar
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    Not always. She cuts her seams after they've been sewn, and she presses her seams open, both of which are only suited to machine-sewing.

    I've gone for the 15cm (6") mirrors. I suspect that a lot of the time a smaller mirror will be more useful, and if and when I get to the stage of making fancy kaleidoscope quilts, having already played around with smaller mirrors will give me a better idea of which size I want for the larger ones. And they're cheap, so I don't mind ending up with two pairs if need be.

    I asked my friends at knitting group if anyone knew how good acrylic mirrors were. One friend said that she'd used them to see her baby's head. I absent-mindedly asked if the reflection was nice and clear. She pointed out that her mind was on other matters at the time, at which point I suddenly realised what she was talking about!
    Last edited by Lobster; 06-18-2013 at 06:47 AM.

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    My cheap door mirror got broken in a move. DH cut 2 8x11 pieces, bound the edges and hinged the pair with duct tape. this works fine.

  13. #13
    Super Member WTxRed's Avatar
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    I went to the local hobby store - purchased a package of small rectangle mirrors - maybe 2" x 3", got out my ruler to use as my template to tape them by for the correct degree, some cute duct tape, wah lah - handy dandy OBW / Kaleidoscope mirror to see if any given fabric will offer the twist on designs. I saw no reason to spend any more than a few $ for this. You can develop an eye for OBW / Kaleidoscope fabric but the mirrors will certainly give you a more direct visual of what you're going to get! Would love to see what you end up making!

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    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    As a hint .. you do not need a template or mark to get the correct angle .... just stand the mirrors on end, then adjust the spread between the two, til you see the 4, 6 or 8 reflections (or more) you are wanting to check the fabric for.
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    I asked my friends at knitting group if anyone knew how good acrylic mirrors were. One friend said that she'd used them to see her baby's head. I absent-mindedly asked if the reflection was nice and clear. She pointed out that her mind was on other matters at the time, at which point I suddenly realised what she was talking about![/QUOTE]

    Oh my gosh, I just spit water all over my laptop! This is too funny!

    I'm planning to do a OBW, my first. Before yesterday, this thread wouldn't have made a bit of sense to me, but after choosing fabric yesterday using the mirrors at my LQS, I plan to purchase some from either the dollar store or the local craft store. The mirrors made it so much easier to imagine what the quilt will look like.

  16. #16
    Junior Member Lobster's Avatar
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    The mirrors arrived this morning, and are fab. They're 6" acrylic, and the reflection is nice and clear. A strip of duct tape to make a hinge and I was away. I didn't need to bind the edges, as they're not glass. Here are a couple of shots of a random fabric I have sitting around. This is going to be so much fun.



    Last edited by Lobster; 06-21-2013 at 02:34 AM.

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