Earth Stories: Tracing the Pieces

Once I have the drawing done, I number all the pieces, so I can put them back where I found them. I use a red pen because it’s easier to see with all the black lines around.

Mar 29 13 011 small

Plus remember that I will be reading those numbers upside down, because I trace on a light table with the drawing upside down, so they are all reversed.

Mar 29 13 012 small

Then when I lay them out and iron them onto fabric, the fusible web will be on the back of the pieces.

Mar 29 13 012 crop small

It seems obvious to say all that, but I’ve done it wrong before…I traced one whole connecting piece for the Sightlines exhibit backwards…so I can remake those fish/blood vessel quilts backwards now. I have one whole quilt that I traced backwards, and yes, there are words in it. It made sense to me to not fix them at the time.

This section of the quilt with the little people in it is about 8″ square and has about 250 pieces in it. That’s what happens when I draw pieces to size. They get insanely small.

When the numbers are circled, it’s to remind me that where the number is, is NOT where the piece is…or that the piece continues under another piece, in which case, I usually add an arrow pointing in the direction it continues. These also were just too damn small to fit written numbers into, so I had to write outside the shape. It took almost 3 hours just to number all the pieces.

This quilt has over 2000 pieces. And some of them are freakishly tiny.


Apr 3 13 001 small


I do trace the overlaps (well, underlaps really), so hopefully there are no gaps between pieces. That means I have to keep track of what’s on top and what goes underneath. And I suspect those are bone pieces above, because they are all the same color and I think the skelly in the uterus is in that picture…those are probably finger or toe bones.

Apr 1 13 212 small

It’s kind of amazing what my brain is capable of doing sometimes. It took 24 hours and 7 days to trace all the Wonder Under…kind of crazy, if you think about it. What did YOU do over Spring Break? Yeah. That’s the conversation that only happens with people who know me fairly well. The rest would think I’m crazy.

Here’s all the Wonder Under laid out on the floor.


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Each piece is about a yard, maybe a little more. Then I started cutting all the pieces out…


Apr 10 13 004 small


I was really efficient with that task…it only took 12 hours. I cut them out with a little margin around, so after I iron it to fabric, there will be a clean edge when I trim those pieces. The box on the right is the trash…I hang on to that until I make sure there’s no real pieces in there. Sometimes I forget what I’m doing and throw the wrong piece in the wrong bin.

Then it took me an hour and a half to sort all the pieces into 21 bins, one for each 100 pieces. Strangely, I don’t have a picture of that…I usually do.

Anyway, next, I’ll talk about the long process of picking fabrics.

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