Fun with Fractured Images

I’m scheduled to teach a class on Fractured Images in a couple of weeks so this seems like a good time to update my class notes and look over my class samples.

Fractured images are created when four identical layers of fabric are cut into squares and sewn together. Three of the four repeats are trimmed different ways before being cut into squares. When the four sets of squares are arranged in a grid and sewn together, a striking ripples-in-a-pond effect emerges. Squares can be cut in many different sizes but 2” and 3” squares are the most common.  Bold floral designs with secondary motifs in the background and lots of contrast fracture especially well.

When I taught this class last spring at the Pine Needle, the shop had just received some fabrics in the Hickory House line by Faye Burgos for Marcus Brothers Fabrics. I was curious to see how one of the florals in that line would fracture and whether it would be more striking made from 2” or 3” squares. Here is the image before fracturing . . .

Hickory House floral, unfractured

. . . and here are the two fractured images side by side:

Fractured Images made from 2″ and 3″ Squares

The image on the left, which measures 13″ square, contains 81 squares, each square finishing at 1½”. The image on the right, which measures 14″ square, contains 25 squares, each square finishing at 2½”. Which one do you like better?

One way of cutting the fabric for a fracture is to pin the layers together, matching design elements, and then cut only the image intended for the fracture. What to do with the remaining fabric that’s already layered and pinned? Why, cut it into 4-Patch Wonder blocks, of course. (“4-Patch Wonder” is my name for a block made of four identical layers of fabric that are cut in squares and then rotated to make a pleasing symmetrical design. If you’ve looked at the quilts in my Gallery, you know that I’m a big fan of this faux-kaleido block, as well as its more sophisticated cousin, the kaleidoscope block.)

Look how dramatic these 4-Patch Wonder blocks are that were made with leftover Hickory House fabric:

These 4-Patch Wonder blocks are 5″ square
These blocks are 6½” square

Let me show you another fractured image made from a beautiful tropical floral fabric a friend brought me from Hawaii. Here is the image before fracturing. . .

Tropical Flowers, Unfractured

. . . and after:

Tropical Flowers, Fractured

This one was made a little differently. Instead of sewing the squares together, I arranged them on a piece of featherweight fusible interfacing and fused them in place. Then I covered the raw edges with grosgrain ribbon held in place with ¼”-wide Steam-a-Seam-2. I added a pink polkadot flange and a wide black border. The squares were cut 3″, by the way, and the piece is 21″ square including the border.

I haven’t decided what to do with this fractured image. I think it could hold its own as a finished piece, but it looks so good set on point that I can also see it as a center medallion in a larger quilt . . .

On Point

. . . perhaps accompanied by some of these 4-Patch Wonder blocks made from the leftover fabric:

4-Patch Wonder Blocks (6½” Square)


If you’ve never fractured an image before, I recommend that you try it. It’s a lot of fun, and I predict that it will forever change the way you look at fabric!

This entry was posted in 4-Patch Wonder, faux-kaleido quilts, fractured image, kaleidoscope quilts, update. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Fun with Fractured Images

  1. Oh I love that 4 patch wonder… I made several of these when I first started quilting… I’d forgotten about it… I should totally revisit it.. .. I just love having subscribed to your blog that it just shows up in my inbox… thanks for that..

  2. Ellen in Oregon says:

    I have admired all the quilts on your blog as well as the beautiful apron pattern you recently started selling, but the Fractured design is amazing and opens a whole new way to look at the patterns within a fabric. It figures that I favor the 1st block using the 1 1/2″ squares and 3 times the number of squares, but the ripple effect just looks more complete to my eye. I’m sure it will depend on how a person’s brain interprets the pattern. Tomorrow I am going to look through my fabrics and try out your 4-patch wonders. I might even try it out on a fabric that I don’t really care for and see if reconfiguring the pattern can make me like the fabric once it is cut and reassembled. I have always liked kaleidoscopes and that is what the 4 patch wonders remind me of. I agree that the tropical block would look terrific as an on-point medallion for a quilt and I look forward to seeing the final project. I hope you and your class at the Pine Needle have a wonderful time learning your techniques. These methods of manipulating fabric patterns would make a great quilting book. Hint, hint.

  3. Dawn says:

    I like the first fractured block better, too, Ellen! You’d be surprised how fast those 81 squares went together (9 x 9 grid) with chaining. Let me know how your experiment with 4-Patch Wonder blocks comes out.

  4. sallee says:

    The fractured blocks are very cool. Makes me want to try it! Thanks.

  5. this is mind boggling for I have never seen this method before. Can’t wait to try it out. Just love it.

  6. Nancy says:


  7. Mary says:

    Could you give me a little more detail how to do this technique? I have done one block wonders with 6 fabric layers. Is this done with four and you cut squares? Thanks.

    • Dawn says:

      Yes, Mary, that’s how you fracture an image. You start with four repeats of a large image but each repeat is cut into squares a little differently. I’m sending you an email with some additional information.

      • Betty says:

        Can you send me how to do it too, or where I can find the book I really want to get started on this

  8. Mary says:

    Thanks so much. I look forward to the email.

  9. Betty says:

    I want to learn the fractured design. Where do I buy the pattern so I can get going on learning it.
    thank you so much
    [email protected]

  10. Mary says:

    There is a book on called Fabulous Fractures that explains. Otherwise you could contact Dawn.

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