Sunday, March 19, 2017

Playing with Processing

March = flu season. A house full of sick children & sick adults = less time in the basement (quilting room), and more time on watch duty. But even if I can't quilt, I can play with quilting ideas ... digitally.

Awhile ago, I saw a couple of patterns by Libs Elliott called Just Like Heaven and Rebel Quilt that shared something interesting: they were both incredibly striking, and both were designed using a language called Processing. It's described as a programming language for artists. It sounded interesting so I decided to explore more.

After playing with it a bit, I saw its potential for improv-style experimentation. While I would choose EQ7 or plain pencil / paper for slightly more structured and traditional designs, Processing offered a super quick way for the computer to randomly generate designs for improv style quilts.

The fabric bundle / color palette I'm using is Creative Rockstar from Rad and Happy by Riley Blake, which is just crying out to be made into a quilt with geometric motifs. I wrote up my little quilt generator and set out to make some random HST designs. The powerful part of this program is the ability to tweak different parameters for a new look immediately. First, I experimented with having a roughly equal number of 1-patch HST blocks and 4-patch HST blocks.

Then, I decided to try a ratio of 65% 1-patch HSTs and 35% 4-patch HSTs.

I reversed the ratio and tried 35% 1-patch HSTs and 65% 4-patch HSTs.

I can tell right away that I prefer the look of more 1-patch HSTs and less 4-patch HSTs. (Plus that's less piecing to do.) However, I'm still not sure what to go for exactly. It can become addictive to keep generating new layouts, and though I find ones I like a lot, it's hard to know when to stop, for fear I'd miss out on some genius random layout!

Besides ratio of 1-patch and 4-patch HSTs, other things I can quickly experiment with include distribution of colors (for example, if I want more of one color than another), and whether the colors should be randomly scattered, or more clustered together. I'll be playing with it still, and the quilt I end up making may look nothing like what's above.

I'm really, really excited to have discovered this new tool for design! I can just imagine what it might be able to do for me. (The version of Processing I'm using is p5js, which is in javascript.)


  1. Cool random programming language! I think I like the 50/50 version best. I can see how that would be addicting--just one more try!

    1. Yes, it's completely addictive! I think I'm going to have to add something like this to the site sometime ... a dynamic pattern generator so others can play too, without having to know how to program.


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