How to Cut Fabric for Optical Illusion Quilt Along Part 1

Cutting out the fabrics to make Optical Illusion is pretty straightforward. Just follow the cutting instructions on page 2 of the Optical Illusion Quilt Pattern. You can reference my previous post on choosing fabric color combos that will work. For my version I used highly contrasting black and white for the squares with gray for the long skinny strips.

Optical Illusion Quilt

Click here to get the optional Optical Illusion quilt kit (while supplies last).

Before cutting, I highly recommend starching your fabric. This will keep the smaller skinny strips from stretching out of shape and will give body to your pieces as you handle them. I like to use inexpensive starch from the grocery store. I spray one side of my fabric and iron from the opposite side. Then repeat for the other side. It works like a charm!

Cutting the Squares

When cutting the squares, the easiest way is to first cut strips from your fabric, then subcut those strips into the square sizes as indicated in the pattern. If you are using a directional fabric like I did, you can choose to have the print always running in the same direction, or let it be more random. The choice is completely up to you depending on the look you want.Optical Illusion SquaresStill need the Optical Illusion pattern? Get a printed version or get the instantly downloadable pdf. Refer to the quilt pattern for the number of squares to cut for your size.

When it comes to cutting the rest of the units that are a slightly different size (for the starting and ending rows), be sure to label them to keep the sizes organized. I’m constantly referring to my pattern for unit size and placement so I keep everything in the right spot!

Cutting the Skinny Strips

When you are cutting out long skinny strips, you’ll either need to piece together shorter lengths of fabric to get a long enough piece or you can rotate your fabric and cut them parallel to the selvage so that there aren’t any seams. This is the method I recommend in the quilt pattern.

cut parallel to selvage

Cut long strips parallel to the selvage.

You can fold your fabric into about four layers by shaking it out so it hangs straight, then folding it in half, and half again parallel to the selvage. If your folded length of fabric is longer than the width of your cutting mat, I recommend getting another cutting mat and another ruler so that you can line things up along the entire edge.

Once everything is cut, you are ready to start sewing your pieces together next week! Feel free to take your time, or work ahead. The choice is up to you and you are the boss of your quilt!

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

More Quilt Along Info:

Optical Illusion: Supply List, Schedule and Color Combos

Are you ready to join me for the adventure of a lifetime? Or at least a fun sewing escapade over the next several weeks? I’m excited to guide you as we make my Optical Illusion quilt from start to finish.  All you need is a copy of the Optical Illusion quilt pattern and a can-do attitude!

Optical Illusion Quilt

Optical Illusion made from Geo Pop, 67″ x 88″
Scroll this image to see the lines move!

My original version was sewn up in bold black, white and gray from my Geo Pop fabric line. I had requests to see how it would look in other colorways, so thank goodness for EQ8 software which allowed me to quickly recolor lots of fun combinations!

I made some of them into quilt kits which you can pick up if you desire, or just use them as a color guide and pick something similar from your stash.

Color Play: Choose Light, Medium and Dark

The trick to making the design work is the interplay of the values. Value is just the lightness or darkness of a fabric compared to its neighbors. For this design to work you need three fabrics that read as light, medium and dark.

So take a look at these color combos and scroll your screen up and down to see the illusion of the lines waving back and forth. Pretty trippy right?

The illusion works because the medium fabric is ALWAYS used for the skinny strips whereas the light and dark color combos are used for the squares.

Here’s another group of colors that also showcases the illusion with some interesting color combos:

Solids, or fabrics that read as a solid look best for the bold, graphic design, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use prints. Just be sure you choose something that is mostly one color or color family per print. Here’s another color grouping that works well:

Remember, for best results, use the lightest and darkest fabrics are for the squares, with the medium for the skinny strips. To test the value of your fabrics, take a picture set on gray scale from your camera phone. Then you can easily tell which should be classifued as light, medium or dark.

That’s a dozen different combinations that WORK! (Many are available as kits for the Quilt Along.) I have no idea why our brains read it this way, but it sure is cool, don’t ya think??


Watch what happens when the skinny strips are LIGHTER or DARKER than the two colors in the squares. It creates too much contrast and doesn’t give the illusion.

These 4 colorways above and below still make a nice looking modern quilt, so don’t despair if your color combos don’t work exactly as you thought. Part of the fun is learning new things, right??

For further discussion and some more examples, check out this video from my Facebook Live “Ask me Anything” series. Click the image below to play. It’s just under and hour and I go through color combinations as well as other quilty tips and advice asked by the audience. (I do these live sessions each wee k and have started posting them on YouTube so be sure to subscribe!)

In my examples, I’ve used mostly prints that read as one color for the best results. But don’t worry—the modern quilt design looks cool whether the illusion works or not!

Optical Illusion Supply List

Start thinking about the colors and fabrics that you would like to use, and gather up the needed supplies. The quilt pattern comes in three sizes. Click the pattern image below to expand.

Optical Illusion Quilt Pattern

Here’s what you need for the Twin size quilt top (67″ x 88″), which is what I made:

Get the Optical Illusion Quilt Kit, while supplies last!

Optical Illusion Quilt with Good Vibes Fabric

I can’t wait to show you how to quilt the walking foot spiral design!

Quilt Along Schedule

The links below will go live as each part is posted. Bookmark this page and refer back to the schedule anytime in the future to work on this quilt at your own pace.

Optical Illusion Quilt

SHARing is caring

If you’re an Instagram junkie (like me!), please tag me at @christaquilts and use the hashtag #opticalillusionquilt so I can see what you are doing and cheer you on!

If you’d like to ask questions or need additional help, please participate in my Christa Quilts Group on Facebook. It’s a great place to encourage your fellow makers and get additional ideas for fabric choices and a quilting plan!

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Optical Illusion Quilt Along Begins May 19th! Read about the origin of this design…

I’m super excited about my next quilt along which will kick off on May 19th with a complete sewing schedule and supply list. Every time I share my Optical Illusion quilt, I love how many people ask for the quilt pattern.  I’ve also had numerous requests for a quilt along, so I was finally able to work it in to my schedule, yippee!

Optical Illusion – Made from Geo Pop Fabric

Optical Illusion Quilt

Origin of an Idea

Several years ago, my family and I were out to dinner and I saw this really cool optical illusion on the back of a kid’s menu. As with most things whenever I see an interesting design, I wonder to myself, “can I make a quilt out of that??” The design was called “Cafe Walls” and here’s a public domain image of it:

Cafe Walls design

Cafe Walls Optical Illusion

So I began to design in EQ8. It took awhile to get the proportions right and I decided that for an interesting quilt, I preferred the lines to run vertically rather than horizontally.

Once I was happy with my design, I made a version of it from solid fabrics, to try out the idea. It actually hung in QuiltCon back in 2015 and I had sooo many requests to turn it into a quilt pattern, but was so overwhelmed with other deadlines at the time that I had to put it on the back burner for awhile.

I did manage to get it into an issue of a magazine, that is sadly no longer in print, and then I kept putting off the editing and rewriting I needed to release on my own.  Since then I’ve seen several different design variations, so it’s fun knowing I’m not the only one who thought this would make a fabulous quilt!

Christa Watson Illusions

The original version of Optical Illusion Hung at QuiltCon in 2015

Finally, the timing was right to recreate the quilt and pattern when I released my fourth fabric line, Geo Pop for Benartex. I included a lot of black and whites in this colorful collection and  knew I wanted to do something special with them!

Geo Pop by Christa Watson

Black and White Prints from Geo Pop Fabric

As you can see from the detail pic below, I only needed one black fabric, one white fabric, and one gray fabric to create the design. The biggest test for me was to see if the illusion would still work using prints – and I’m thrilled that it does!!

Optical Illusion Quilt from Good Vibes Fabric

Print fabrics used from Geo Pop: Mosaic Dots White, Op Squares Charcoal and Tiny Hex Grey

So I really hope you’ll join me for this quilt along to make your own version. Here’s a hint as you start thinking about colors: It doesn’t have to be strictly black and white. But you need good contrast between the lightest color (white), the darkest color (black) and the medium color (gray) to make the illusion work. And the further back you stand, the more you will see the illusion.

Next week I’ll post the full supply list and quilt along schedule, and we will actually dive into making the quilt starting on Tuesday, May 26. So that gives you plenty of time to start gathering your supplies.

Get the Optical Illusion Quilt Pattern

For now, grab a copy of the quilt pattern or optional kit and be sure to sign up to get an email whenever there’s a new blog post. You can do that by entering your email address in the sidebar if you are viewing this on a computer. Or scroll AAALLLLL the way down to the bottom of this post if viewing on your phone.

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

If you really ant to see the illusion in this quilt, scroll up and down to see the lines wiggle!!

Next Week: Choosing Fabrics

In addition to posting the schedule next week, I”ll dive into sharing some tips and trips for successful fabric combos. The quick answer is that you want very good contrast between light, medium, and dark, with fabrics that read as one color. I’ll go in depth with this more next week with good and not so good examples of successful fabric combo’s. See ya then!

New Quilt Patterns Featuring Geo Pop!

I’m excited to release three new patterns that I created to showcase my new fabric line, Geo Pop which will be shipping to stores in August/September. Just like all of my quilt patterns, they will look great in any fabrics you choose! And they are available in either print or PDF.

Bling – Fat Quarter Friendly

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

Bling comes in three sizes and is made from 20 fat quarters plus background. I loved the design so much I had to make it twice! The key to color success is choosing a very high contrasting background. I wanted to show off the black and white prints from Geo Pop and I love how they turned out!

Optical Illusion – 3 Colors, Fun to Look At!

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

It only takes 3 fabrics to create this stunning Optical Illusion! Scroll up and down to watch the lines play tricks on your eyes. Yes, they really are straight!! I’ve made my version using geometric prints in black, white and gray, but I’d love to see this made up in other colors, too! I’ve included instructions for 3 sizes and like all of my patterns, it also includes machine quilting suggestions.

Infrastructure – a Modern Row Quilt

Infrastructure Quilt Pattern

This stunning quilt is a collaboration between me and my very talented friend Heather Black. I sent her digital images of Geo Pop early on and asked her to come up with a fun modern design with straight piecing (rather than the curves she’s well known for). I think she knocked it out of the park with this design while cleverly using every fabric in the line. I love this quilt so much that it will be my next quilt along in September, once the fabrics have been released. I can’t wait!!

Once Geo Pop hits stores later this year, I’ll share more about the making of each quilt. Remember – I’m here to cheer you on every step of the way so that you enjoy making these quilts as much as I did!

QuiltCon 2015 Judging Results #2 – Optical Illusion

Optical Illusion is the second of the three quilts I entered for judging at QuiltCon. I actually made this quilt specifically for QuiltCon, so I was very pleased when it got in. I’ve been crushing on simple geometric designs in a limited color palette, so this quilt really allowed me to explore that desire. I definitely think more black and white quilts are in my future.

And yes, it moves when you scroll it! 🙂

optical_illusion_quiltconOptical Illusion 67″ x 88″ by Christa Watson.

Most people were surprised at how big it was in person.

Optical Illusion was placed into the piecing category which includes this description, “quilts that are machine pieced and reflect a particularly strong or innovative use of piecing.” I guess you could say this quilt was pieced innovatively, although I was secretly hoping for it to be in the minimalist category. I’m still learning exactly what minimalism means. 🙂

Here are the positive judges’ comments, along with my commentary:

  • Quilting motif supports the design. I’m glad – since that’s what I was going for – geometric simplicity that doesn’t overpower the quilt.
  • Binding is well proportioned and applied. Double yay since the binding on this quilt is what stressed me out the most!

cwatson_opticalillusion_detDetail of quilting on optical Illusion – free-motion boxes.

Here are the areas for suggested improvement, along with my thoughts:

Design direction lacks focus. I was afraid of this – the judges viewed the quilt so close up that I’m afraid they missed the point of the quilt. I don’t think they read the artist’s statement either, so to them it probably just looked like a bunch of black and white squares, and they didn’t get to see the effect of the optical illusion.

I had one slight disappointment in that whoever printed off the paperwork for the show got the name wrong. I had entered it as “Optical Illusion” (I went back and double checked all my acceptance emails to make sure it wasn’t my error), but the title was listed as “48”. I can only imagine that was some kind of typo or mail merge glitch. However, much to the credit of the MQG, they did fix it immediately, once I notified them. Unfortunately, it was too late to know whether or not the incorrect title had any impact on the judging. But you know what? Rather than get all upset about it, I’ve learned through experience sometimes these things just happen. Inadvertent mistakes can be made by volunteers who are doing their best, so there’s no need to beat them up about it. 🙂

The best part about sharing this quilt was seeing the reaction it generated. I’m sure I’ll enter it into more shows in the future.

Quilt should be cleaned before entering into competition – lint. I knew I’d get knocked down on this. The quilt wasn’t linty or dirty, but the batting bearded (shed) like crazy through the black fabric on both front and back. When using dark solid fabrics, I need to stick to a black batting or one that doesn’t beard, like 100% cotton. I used Quilter’s Dream Orient which I’ve used before in print quilts with no problems. The batting is a mix of bamboo, silk, tencel and cotton. I’m not sure which fiber caused the problem, but that just means it’s time to experiment and make more quilts!

I share these critiques with you so that we can learn together what makes a successful quilt.

OpticalIllusion_quiltcon_meStanding next to Optical Illusion for scale. Though I’m pretty short so that may not help much.

I have had quite a number of people asking me for a pattern for this quilt. I am in the process of writing one now, so stay tuned!

Optical Illusion – The Finish

I was able to finish Optical Illusion just in time to submit it to QuiltCon (the all-modern quilt show and conference). Then I got the exciting news that it was selected for judging along with two of my other entries, Abacus and Spiraling Out of Control. There were over 1300 entries submitted this year which totally blew away the amount of entries received the first time around. What an awesome show it’s going to be!

cwatson_Optical_Illusion_1800Optical Illusion, designed, pieced and quilted by Christa Watson

Here’s a detail shot where you can see the quilting a little better:

cwatson_opticalillusion_detI had a lot of fun sharing this one on Instagram, because when my followers scrolled the reduced sized picture up and down, they could get the lines to move. What a fun trick! See if you can get it to move when you scroll this blog post up and down – it’s an interactive quilt!

Another “optical illusion” for this quilt was totally unintentional but added a fun surprise: when you hold it up to the light, you can see the geometric backing fabric shining through the white squares, creating a “stained-glass” effect. Cool huh?

stained-glassThis quilt is as fun to play with as it was to make! Since I finished ahead of schedule, I took a little time to make a not-so-fancy but utilitarian label for it, using the embroidery stitches on my machine. (It’s a Bernina 710 – since I know you are going to ask!)

labelI know several of you have asked for a pattern for it, so that’s in the works. I probably won’t release it though until after QuiltCon, to give me plenty of time to get it ready (and to see how it does during the judging process, LOL!!)

Now, it’s onto the next quilt….

Work in Progress – Optical Illusion Quilting Update

I’m plowing my way through the quilting on Optical Illusion this week. I hope to get it finished in time to enter it into QuiltCon. No pressure, right? (One of the things I love about entering quilt shows is that they light a fire under me to actually get things done.)

quilting_overviewDon’t you always match your clothing to your quilts when you sew?

I first created a small practice piece so that I could try out a couple of quilting variations with the same fabric, thread and batting as in the real quilt. I’d rather trouble shoot issues now, and know what I’m in for before starting the big quilt.

practice_pieceSmaller practice piece, sewn to scale using the same materials as the big quilt.

One tweak that I made to my spray basting method was to omit dragging my big tables downstairs and outside. I realized I could just lay a large sheet out on the patio and spray the layers of my quilt on the sheet, then take them back indoors for final assembly.

bastingI prefer to spray baste the top and backing separately, rather than the batting.

I tried out several different stitch textures before opting to go with Boxes, the squarish stipple design on the upper left hand of the picture below. After some practice, I realized that the design is really the star of this quilt, so I didn’t want to over-do it on the quilting.

texture_practiceThese textures were quilted on my practice piece so I could see how they looked “in the cloth” before picking a final design.

I realized that I prefer to add texture to my quilts with the quilting, so that I can enhance the piecing rather than overwhelm it. I quilted all of the black areas first in a matching thread, starting and stopping the quilting in each black box.  It was a lot of tying off, to bury my thread tails. But it really didn’t take that long, since I did a few rows each night while watching TV.

black_boxesI really like the texture of the boxes. I’m quilting the same motif right now in the white squares and I really like the effect. I chose Quilter’s Dream Orient batting which is super soft and I like the feel of it. However, the batting beards which means there is a lot of white fuzz showing through on the black fabric, so I’m constantly cleaning it off with a lint roller. (I’m still figuring out which battings I like best.)

I should have it all quilted soon and I plan to enjoy the holiday weekend hand stitching the binding on while visiting with the extended family.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Turkey Day!

Work in Progress – Optical Illusion Quilt

I’m making really good progress on my Optical Illusion quilt I designed several months back. It’s based on the optical illusion called “Cafe Walls” but with a vertical setting rather than a horizontal setting.

fabricI’m using Riley Blake solids in black, white and grey and decided to cut all of the long skinny strips parallel to the selvedge so they would stretch as little as possible.

RowsI used my railing in my sewing area to keep all of the rows lined up in order. That’s probably the trickiest part!

topI like the illusion it creates when you stare at it for too long! Now I have to decide if I want to make it any wider, and how I’m going to quilt it. That’s half the fun!