Quilting with the Oracle

by Stephanie on March 21, 2014

in Art Quilts & Wallhangings,I Ching Quilt,My Design Process

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I’ve been wanting to make an I Ching quilt since discovering Sherri Lynn Wood’s I Ching Modern Quilt-Along a year or so ago. It neatly addresses both my decades-long enthusiasm for the I Ching and a recent fascination with rule-based art. Early this year that wanting turned into an insistent itch, so I came up with a plan and pulled some fabrics and sewed up my first block.

The Plan

An I Ching reading delivers advice as a hexagram comprised of two stacked trigrams of 3 horizontal lines, either solid (yang) or broken (yin). There are 64 possible hexagrams, one of which will deliver feedback on your question. Unless there are changing lines. Any or all (or none) of the 6 lines might switch states, from yang to yin or vice versa. When a changing line appears in your reading, a second hexagram provides additional commentary.

Sherri Lynn has explained all of this ably in her very detailed steps, so if you’re interested in more details and her step-by-step process, click here.

My first step was to start keeping better records of my I Ching readings. I used to use coins and refer to any one (or several) I Ching books, but now I use an I Ching app. And it stores my readings in a journal with just one tap, which is super-handy, too.

Turning I Ching readings into a quilt means translating the hexagrams into a fabric code. My approach was slightly less literal than Sherri Lynn’s, but overall quite similar (if you leave out the radical differences in our color and fabric choices).

The Fabrics

I chose warm (pink, orange, yellow) fabrics for the yang (solid) lines, and cool (blue, green, purple) fabrics for the yin (broken) lines:


Nine fabrics for each set provided a good amount of variety without too much duplication. Rather than aim for value contrast between yin and yang, I decided to include mixed values within each color group. Whether this made the finished quilt more interesting or just more chaotic is an opinion that is likely to vary with the beholder.

The Method

I cut two 3.5″ x WoF strips from each fabric, and jumbled them up in two Priority Mail boxes repurposed from the recycle bin, so I could pull a fabric randomly from the appropriate set when constructing the blocks.


Each line is represented by a 3″x6″ rectangle, either one fabric (unchanging lines) or a Flying Goose (changing lines).

My original bold plan was to code 36 readings/hexagrams into a lap sized quilt, but I’m leaning more and more to smaller/faster projects these days. This finished quilt represents 12 readings, and measures 36″x36″. It’s quilted with a spiral centered on each triangle point, with echo-quilting to fill in the background:


The quilting shows up nicely on the back.


Don’t strain to read that label; here’s a close-up:


Yep, this quilt was finished a month ago, and I only just now got around to taking final pics and getting a blog post up.

A leisurely pace of bloggy communication will persist for the next little while, as I have enrolled in Marie Forleo’s “BSchool” and it’s going to keep me busy. (Super awesome program, BTW. Registration is closed for 2014, though, so you’ll have to wait for next year.)

I’ve not given up sewing! It’s just happening five or ten minutes at a time, and that means not a lot of progress in any one day or week.   I’ve already made a second I Ching top — different fabrics and slightly different coding from this one — and will probably make more, although when I’ll get to actually quilting them is unknown. I’ll also have a finished Spring Challenge top to show off soon.

Are you quilting up anything special for Spring? Do you consult any kind of oracle (I Ching, Tarot, tea leaves…) when you can’t find clarity or direction on your own?




1 Paulette March 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Very interesting concept and a beautiful quilt!

2 Stephanie March 29, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Thanks, Paulette! It was fun trying out a new design process.

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