Friday, July 31, 2009

Organized Chaos Grid and System

Below is my Organized Chaos grid. It is 8 by 8 squares, with 5 colors: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue. I use the grid to create plans (maps) for scrappy quilts.

Let's say I want to make a double four-patch quilt, like the sketch below, and I want to make the quilt white (white areas) and blue (gray areas).

I make a blank sketch of the quilt.

Following the grid, I color in the light areas of the quilt sketch, one color per block. The light areas represent white for this project. I use Electric Quilt, but graph paper and colored pencils work just as well. By the way, the bottom row is #9, so I repeated row #1. You can extend this way anytime you have more than 8 squares.

Next I color in the dark areas of the quilt, following the grid again. The dark areas represent blue for this project. I call the finished coloring my map. This is a simple coloring. We'll get more complicated later.

You'll need at least 10 fabrics: 5 white and 5 blue for this project, but you're certainly not limited to a two-color palette. You can use as many fabrics as you like. Create five areas or zones named for the grid colors: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue. Label the zones with a piece of paper or you can use pink, orange, yellow, green and blue fabrics, towels, scrapbook paper or whatever you have on hand.

Take your blues and whites and distribute each color fairly evenly among the five color zones. How you divide them is completely up to you. The blues and whites will share the same zone (fat quarter/towel/scrapbook paper). If you have several pieces of the same fabric, keep them all in one zone. Don't split them up. This will prevent two identical fabrics ending up side by side.

When you have your fabrics divided into zones, you can start sewing. Let's start at the top left of the colored map. You need a light green and dark green, so go to the green zone and choose a white and a blue, and make a four-patch. You can place the block on your design wall if you like. Next you need a light orange, so go to the orange zone and choose a white. Cut a plain block and place it on the design wall. And so on.

In reality, I usually count the number of light green/dark green four-patches on my colored map, make them all at once, then place them on the design wall. It's faster to sew several at the same time.

When you've finished, you'll have something like below, which uses just five whites and five blues.

That was a pretty simple coloring. Let's get more complicated now. Start with your blank sketch and color in the light areas like before. Here's where it's different. Before you color in the darks, turn the grid 90 degrees to the right or left. It doesn't matter. I turned mine to the right. Now color in the dark areas according to the new grid orientation. You'll end up with something like this:

Starting at the upper left, you'll need a white from the green zone and a blue from the orange zone to make the first four-patch. Using a complex coloring like this one, you will end up with a greater variety of fabric combinations. The end result will look something like:

The grid can be adapted to blocks that have more than two fabrics. Just turn the grid 90 degrees to color the next block element. I use light and dark for a two-element sketch. You may need to invent ways to designate the extra elements in your coloring, such as hash marks or polka dots. Do what you've got to do to keep things straight.

I hope you try my system. I'd love to hear how it worked for you, and I'd love to see your color map and finished quilt. If you have questions, please Email me. 

To see recent projects using Organized Chaos, click on the link in the labels area below.


  1. Followed you over here from your Joann Sets Sail blocks so far!

    Your grid system really caught my eye - I also have trouble with totally "scrappy", too much of a control freak I guess.

    I am going to try this on my next scrappy quilt and will let you know how things go.

    Thanks for the tip!

    Bari B - MO

  2. Thanks for the compliments, Bari. I'm so happy you're going to give the Organized Chaos system a try. I'm a control freak myself, and the system was made for people like us. We can get the scrappy look without agonizing at the design wall. Please let me know how it goes.

  3. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!


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