Martha Chapin's Ensanche Quilt
In this quilt by Martha Chapin (block 1)
the clever use of sashing creates an
overall design for the middle section of
the quilt top in which the edges of the
individual blocks are blurred

At Quilt Expo VIII there was a marvellous display of wall quilts organised by Gloria Llopart with designs based on patterns from tiled floors. Striking ceramic mosaic floors are characteristic of homes in the Ensanche area of Barcelona. Some of the patterns date from 1859 and there are still examples to be found in private homes and public buildings today. Unfortunately, many traditional floors have been replaced rather than renovated, by residents and builders who have failed to appreciate their bold, geometric appeal. This exhibition was designed to celebrate the everyday art that is underfoot.

Margarita Tussell's Quilt
Margarita Tussell uses an eight
pointed star in the middle of this
block but the pieced borders and
sashing create a totally different
effect to the quilt by Nuria Pons

Tile makers tend to work with simple geometric shapes which lend themselves to patchwork. Many of these Ensanche quilts feature diamonds and intricate woven effect borders created with triangles. However, this style of ceramic tiling is not unique to Spain. Have a look around your local area; many Victorian houses had tiled entrance halls and doorsteps, crying out to be interpreted as patchwork designs. (In Glasgow the ceramic tiles from Wally Closes in tenement buildings often feature more naturalistic Art Nouveau designs - suitable for appliqué or quilting). Churches are also often a good source of more elaborate designs.

Tile Transformations

Francina Casamitjana's Ensanche Quilt
Francina Casamitjana (block 2
and lozenge border). This striking
pattern makes good use of the
diagonal across the block and
gives interest from any angle. The
slightly wider choice of colours also
gives an added dimension
to the design

In the UK, tile patterns tend to use only triangles, squares and rectangles. The next question is how do I change this into a pattern I could use for patchwork?

  1. Make a quick sketch or drawing as best you can of the pattern and back this up with a photo if possible. If you can measure the pattern even better. Don’t worry if you get funny looks, but remember to ask permission if it is someone’s doorstep!
  2. Using graph paper draw the pattern again with straight lines using your ruler.
  3. Take measurements from the paper and use for rotary cutting - remember that square cornered pieces need 1⁄2in added to allow for the 1⁄4in seam on both sides. Triangles and other shapes can be traced onto greaseproof paper and then using your ruler, lay the 1⁄4in line on the drawn line and add the seam allowance on all sides. Try to keep your pencil close to the ruler or you will add more than 1⁄4in. Or follow these rules for rotary cutting: add 7⁄8in to the finished size for half square triangles and cut the square in half to get the triangle template. Add 1 1⁄4in to the size of the finished square for quarter square triangles and cut the template into four diagonally. You can of course draft onto paper and use for hand pieced templates.
Nuria Pons' Quilt
The striking, striped borders in Nuria Pons’
quilt create an octagonal effect round these
eight pointed stars. The triangle and diamond
borders could be pieced with flying geese
and half square triangles

TIP! For accurate adding of 1⁄4in seam allowances to templates, use a Quilter’s Quarter - a small acrylic rod of the correct dimensions

  1. Start to plan the pattern - you can use the same colours as the original or you could swap dark and light areas which will create new patterns. The examples from Barcelona all used plain fabrics to reproduce the pattern exactly, but patterned fabrics would be just as effective.

Two of the Spanish block patterns really caught my eye and I have worked out the block patterns for you. The first shown in Figure 1 uses clever pieced sashing strips to connect the sashing to the block. In Figure 2 accurate piecing will be needed to keep the sides square. All the Spanish examples have fantastic border designs too. It would be possible to take these and work the designs separately to make up strips for a border strippy quilt.

Figure 1: Martha Chapin quilt Figure 2: Francina Casamitjana quilt
Figure 1: Martha Chapin quilt, Figure 2: Francina Casamitjana quilt
Figure 3: Simple pieced Ensanches border designs
Figure 3: Simple pieced Ensanches border designs

Each of the photos shows the blocks in a square arrangement with a border taken from the original tiled floors. These borders can be constructed very simply from half square triangles and squares. Joining the triangles together creates diamonds or zigzags. See Figure 3 for these patterns broken down into sections.

Further Reading

Inspired by these patterns? Photographer Robert Field has travelled far and wide looking for architectural patterns to be used as sources of design. His findings are published in a series of small 64 page Geometric Pattern books.

  • Patchwork Quilts
  • Roman Mosaics
  • Islamic Art & Architecture
  • Churches and Cathedrals
  • Tiles and Brickwork

If you cannot find these titles in your local bookstore, you can order direct from Tarquin Publications.

Teresa Vila/Lopez Quilt Guillermina Tómas' Quilt Maria Angels Pineda's Quilt
Quilts by Teresa Vila/Lopez, Guillermina Tómas and Maria Angels Pineda

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 10 Number 8 - August 2002