Incorporating kaleidoscopes into a slice quilt

This past summer I was invited to join four other women in a “slice quilt” challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with it, a slice quilt is where a photo is “sliced” into a number of pieces (based on how many people are participating) and each person takes a slice to turn into a quilt. The pieces are then re-assembled into a full quilt once everyone has completed their slice.

Our group decided to do things a little differently in that we didn’t want to have to decide who would get the quilt in the end. So, we decided that each of us would make the entire quilt and we would trade pieces so that everyone would end up with a quilt that was composed of pieces from all five of us. We also decided to first work only on the quilt top and hold off on quilting until we traded pieces. Then we would each re-assemble and quilt as desired.

The first part of the process was to choose a photo to work with. We ultimately decided to work with the following photo that I took of Double Arch in Arches National Park. (It is actually composed of four photos which I merged together, so it seemed appropriate to use it for a slice quilt.)

The original photo

The next decision was to determine how I was going to turn this into a quilt. Often when I’m part of a project that is not directly related to Kaleidoscope Kreator, I use it as an excuse to learn a new technique. I decided that I wanted to try “painting” in Photoshop – not just applying filters, but actually making brush strokes using the Mixer Brush tool in Photoshop CS5.

I should probably mention that I have had no training (formal or informal) in painting since I was 6 years old when my grandmother guided me through a simple oil painting. In fact, I usually panic when someone puts a paint brush in my hand. But it seemed a bit less daunting to try this in Photoshop since it’s easy to correct mistakes with a simple “undo”. How hard could it be? (Why oh why do I do this to myself? ;) )

I started off by watching the video training series “Transforming a Photo into a Painting with Photoshop” by John Derry at After watching about four hours of video tutorials, I was ready to start!

Step 1: Increase the saturation and vibrancy as well as simplify the photo, i.e. remove some of the details. Piece of cake!

Simplified image with increased vibrancy

I almost wished I could have just stopped there. But truth be told, it still looks like a photo – a manipulated photo, but a photo nonetheless.

Step 2: Since I was hoping to create something that actually looked like a painting, I started to create the underpainting. For those of you who don’t paint, the idea is that you paint in very basic shapes and remove the detail from the photo. (This gives you a base from which to add detail back in.) I used a fairly large brush and made brush strokes as best I could over the entire painting removing details with abandon. This step gave me a little confidence. “OK,” I thought, “maybe I can do this.”

The underpainting

Step 3: Time to add some rough details. I wanted to paint some rocks and boulders in the foreground, but I discovered that I have no talent in the rock-painting arena. Seriously. I tried everything, but could not paint anything that even remotely looked like a rock! I was stuck. Now what?

One of the neat things about making a slice quilt is that each person’s style is represented in their slice. The only thing about this “painting” that was part of my style is the fact that it was created on the computer. I had never done anything else like this, so was it “me”? It was completely void of kaleidoscopes and in fact, one of the other participants mentioned to me that she was surprised I hadn’t included any of them in my design.

When I first started working on my design, I couldn’t quite figure out (1) how a kaleidoscope could be incorporated into a painting and (2) how a kaleidoscope would “read” with the other slices in the quilt when they were re-assembled.

As I tried to figure out how to get past the fact that I was unable to paint rocks, I wondered what it would look like if I covered up the area where the boulders should be with a kaleidoscope “quilt”. So I saved what I had painted so far and ran that image through Kaleidoscope Kreator to create over 30 kaleidoscopes. I then created a “quilt” of those kaleidoscopes in Photoshop:

Kaleidoscope "quilt"

Now came the task of “draping” the quilt over the ground in the painting. I utilized both the Vanishing Point and Wave filters in Photoshop to drape the quilt into its allotted space in the painting.

Kaleidoscope quilt draped over the ground in the painting

That looked better than just the underpainting to me, but it needed shadows and highlights to make it more dynamic, so I painted those in manually.

The final image

I was moderately happy with the design, until I printed out the strips. Once I saw the first strip at full size, I started to fall in love with it! It’s hard to show the scale of the printed slices, but I’ve attempted to do so by standing next to them.

The printed slices

We traded our slices yesterday and it was really fun to see everyone else’s designs. Now I have to figure out how to take everyone’s slices and make a coherent quilt out of them. And I may just print out another set of slices of my own design and make a quilt just for me!

Trackbacks Comments
  • Stunning! Your tutorials are always so good.

    Reply: Thank you Joyce!

  • Pamela

    Id like to make a quilt using a kaleidoscope design but am unable to find how to break it down into squares. can you help me with this ?
    Thank you Pamela

  • Sonja

    breath taking is all I can say!!!!

  • Nili

    This was fascinating Jeanie. Is there a follow up? I’d love to see your finished quilt an dam sure I’m not the only one.

    I’ve just come across KK today. I’m reading and watching everything I can find about it, have downloaded the trial version and am about to begin playing. I loved the cards you made on The Quilt Show.

    Jeanie, you are very good at explaining both on video and in writing. You have an easy, comfortable and clear style. It gives me confidence as i set about following your directions.


Leave a Comment