Last year in January, a friend of mine sent me this screenshot, with the comment, “Here’s your next quilt.”

My reply back: “Damn you.”

Turns out it’s a well-known illusion first introduced by B. Pinna and R. Gregory in 2002, and it’s commonly referred to as the Pinna Illusion. There are several iterations of it but this is the original one. So of course I had to get on Illustrator and construct it myself. 

And then I had to experiment with colors. 

The illusion fell flat unless the colors were kept monochromatic, so I chose to just stick with the original image and go with black, white, and medium gray. I built paper foundations in Illustrator and set to work. 

18 tilted square wedges in the first ring. 

32 in the second ring. This was not thrilling yet. Pretty dull, actually. 

Then the innermost ring was significantly smaller than it needed to be on the outside edge, so I was going to have to figure out how to correct that somehow. Thankfully I’m a geometry teacher so drafting doesn’t terrify me… so I constructed a regular octadecagon (perfect 18-sided polygon) out of freezer paper and attached it to the smallest ring so things would fit right. 

And turns out the math wasn’t quite right on the second ring so I ended up having to rip all of the wedge seams out and redo them correctly. 

Prepping to make more boring square wedges. 44 in ring 3. 

Finally, the illusion started to emerge. 

That was just the incentive I needed to press on and finish. 58 squares in the outer ring, for a total of 152. 

Then I had to figure out how to attach the rings together. I was going to machine sew them, but there wasn’t really a good way to do that. Ultimately I used pins, an iron, and Elmer’s school glue to appliqué the rings together by hand. It took quite a while to complete this step. 

Attaching it to a background was interesting, too. I prepped a background and fought with it for several nights until it was flat enough to hand-appliqué down. 

And finally, it was ready for quilting. Since I didn’t have a longarm and have not mastered using rulers on my HQ16, I drew the straight lines with a water soluble marker and just free-motioned them in groups of three. The imperfect nature of the quilting bothered me and excited me at the same time, but ultimately it made the piece look less computer-generated. 

I backed it in black and quilted the whole thing in medium gray, so you can see the quilting well on the back. Outside the outer ring, I let the quilting lines wobble so that imperfections in squareness would be less obvious. Turns out I loved the effect anyway just as a design choice. 

Through all of this I didn’t share any revealing photos of it on social media, because I knew that it was going to be amazing– and I also knew that if someone had the right combination of computer skills, it would be pretty easy to copy.  

I ran out of thread and had to wait for more so I could finish.

Friday and Ella were very helpful, as always. 

Mom and I pin-blocked it square in May with several hundred T-pins and a full bottle of water…

And then Jeff White took photos of it for me so that I could enter it into the International Quilt Festival’s World of Beauty show.

I got permission from Baingio Pinna to compete with it and It was juried in and was first seen by the public in at the Houston Quilt Festival in November! Then I entered it into QuiltCon East, which will be in Savannah, GA in less than 2 weeks. It got juried in to that one too! I didn’t get to see it in Houston but I’m taking classes at QuiltCon so I’ll be able to visit with it there.

And when it’s finished entering shows, the friend who suggested I make it in the first place has called dibs. Heehee!