Quilt While You're Ahead, Part 1

I thought it would be neat to encode a message in the design of a quilt, so I teamed up with craftycovid to work out the details and put it together.

The Message

There are at least as many ways to encode data as there are ways to make a quiltl; the challenge was choosing one that makes the message subtle, fun, and personal.

Color coding could work, but the encoding would be obscure and take a long time to do by hand. Same issue with squares and triangles. What about something more standardized?

Barcodes immediately come to mind and there are so many to choose from. The most recognizable barcode that can encode text is the QR code—great, slap this on a quilt and call it good:

QR code for mossymaker.com

Hmm—decidedly not subtle, let alone nice to look at. How do I turn this into a quilt top that I'll enjoy for years to come?!

The Process

Interestingly, the process of generating a QR code takes an error correction parameter, which essentially determines how much damage it can take and still be readable. I hypothesized that I could leverage that redundancy, allowing me to artfully rearrange the barcode's bits and introduce color:

qrencode -l M -o fancycode.png <message>

I took the QR code into an image editor to see what I could do. The process goes something like this:

  1. add a layer
  2. color in black squares
  3. try to scan the image
  4. repeat

I chose #e1d6c9 , #917367, #5f3730, #f46b37, #96c4c2, #6b9097, and #2781b7 for good contrast and a pleasant progression. Working with the pencil tool at a 1:1-pixel scale, I replaced each black square with one of the four darker colors and filled each white area with the lightest to maximize contrast. Looking nice and still scans:

Colorized QR code

After checking the scan, I scaled the image up to allow for triangles and repeated the process, but with a triangle-shaped brush that allowed me to control each triangle's rotation. In this round, I also added "noise" in the white areas to break up the distinctive QR code shape a bit. This is turning out great! ✨

Colorized QR code with artful noise

What's Next?

Counting. Lots of counting. The squares and triangles of each color need to be tallied to figure yardage for when we hit the fabric store. Each color will also need to be matched to an available fabric. There are lots to choose from, so I'm not worried about the result changing much.

This has been a great opportunity to learn about quilting and barcodes. I'm really looking forward to picking out fabric and helping put it together! Part Two will cover construction and anything I learn along the way.