Former geologist thinks quilting rocks

“Moroccan Tile” features 10 sides. Cheryl Phillips will teach a class on this technique Oct. 8 at Hi Fashion Fabrics in Grand Junction.

Rock, paper, scissors is more than a game for Cheryl Phillips of Delta. It’s a way of life.

Rock relates to her geology degree, paper to her use of circular graph paper, and scissors to her successful quilting career.

After working as a geologist for three years on the Western Slope, Phillips applied her math skills to circular quilt designs, which remain her specialty.

She has written 10 books, created numerous patterns and designed several acrylic tools, or templates, for quilters. Phillips and her husband, Gary, own an online business, Phillips Fiber Art Inc., http://www.phillips

Quilting is ingrained in Phillips as a family tradition, having made her first quilt as a third-grader and admiring the complex patterns sewn by her grandmother.

“We feel fortunate,” she says of her family business now, “being able to do what you like to do” for a living. “It’s nice to be able to set your own hours,” though her husband tells her she works at it too many hours in a week.

Phillips has taught in 27 states and, in April, she traveled to Australia to teach her methods for 10-sided medallion quilts, also called decagons, for which she has developed new acrylic templates based on concepts of the golden triangle and Fibonnaci numbers.

From these, artists through the centuries have determined proportions that are aesthetically pleasing. Similar sequences in numbers can be found in naturally occurring patterns, such as in flowers and seashells.

“You’ve heard of the golden spiral, the divine design that da Vinci used in his painting?” Phillips asks. “I find that just fascinating.”

In October, she brings her expertise to a three-day event at Hi Fashion Fabrics in Grand Junction. During a trunk show from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7, she will illustrate the progression of her techniques from double wedding ring quilts to her latest Jewel Box collection of decagons. Cost for the trunk show is $15.

On Oct. 8, Phillips will teach a six-hour Jewel Box class, and a Bargello Color

Wheel class from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 9. Fees for each are $55. Samples of her class projects can be seen at the store, 2586 Patterson Road.

The bargello pattern forms a figure 8 and is cut with a 15-degree angle template from short striped-piece sets of fabric.

“The interlocking wedges fit together with no fabric waste,” Phillips says.

The pattern is in worldwide distribution and shipped through Phillips Fiber Arts, which employs several people to handle that part of the work.

“The majority of our business is distribution,” she says, noting that their Internet business “has picked up considerably in the past two years.”

Phillips has advanced, too, from early days of designing on circular graph paper to a drawing program on her computer, experimenting with the various properties of angles. She’s delighted whenever she makes a new discovery with geometrical shapes.

Most recently, Phillips has designed four quilt patterns for Northcott, a fabric company with headquarters in New Jersey. The company sends her digital files of its new fabric lines, and she incorporates them into her patterns. Her newest patterns use Northcott’s Stonehenge fabric collection. It resembles rock, Phillips says.

Company officials were sure the stone images would appeal to her, she says. In fact, Phillips’ “Morrocan Tile” pattern features a rock fabric called Stonehenge Colorado. Can that be a coincidence? I wonder.

Northcott obviously knows what rocks with this geologist-turned-quilt-designer.

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