Precision Piecing with Tighe Flanagan

Lisa Bourgeault
Author: Lisa Bourgeault, VP Programs
Rachel Petterson

Tighe Flanagan taught a great course about precision piecing to about 20 of our members on September 17th.  Our guild has been focusing on skill-building this year, so his piecing techniques were right on point.  Many of the students came to class for that purpose, but others came to learn more about tessellating quilts and Islamic geometry.  

Tighe is most known for his quilts that feature his modern interpretations of classic Islamic geometry and art, and he told us that he especially loves finding designs in situ as inspiration for making his own quilts.  We worked on his Fig Leaf quilt pattern that is based on a fairly common motif in Islamic tile work.  Tighe likes fig leaves so much that he planted a fig tree in his yard—presumably, he likes figs, too.

Emily Harris
Amy Wang

In class, Tighe used a slide presentation to describe the “silver ratio” and how it is derived from using a pattern of diagonal lines drawn using specific points on overlapping large and small circles as guides. The concept sounds extremely complicated, but his drawings and explanation made it clear. Using the silver ratio grid, the resulting shapes can be much more nuanced than if they were built around squares and half-square triangles.  Students included a math teacher and other math fans, who all really enjoyed his explanation, and it was clear enough for even the math-phobic to get a sense of the idea.  

Students started class with their fabric pressed and starched and a set of templates (either paper ones printed from his pattern or acrylic ones purchased from his website), but we weren’t asked to cut pieces because we would learn some important cutting concepts in class.  One tricky thing about the silver ratio for sewists is that it doesn’t result in pieces that measure in inches, so the templates or his paper piecing patterns are a must. 

As we cut and sewed some of the blocks, we had ample opportunities to ask Tighe questions.  Some were quilt-related, but others ranged through math, computer programs for designing quilts and publishing patterns, and art in Islamic cultures.  Tighe shared his impressive knowledge with us.  He is warm and clear in his teaching, so it was really fun to talk with him.  

Some people were daring and used multiple colors in their quilts, while others of us played it safer with just one foreground and one background color.  It was really amazing to see the tessellating pattern come to life as we placed our blocks up on our design walls—almost like magic!  

One great thing about Tighe, whether he is talking in class or writing a pattern, is the respect he shows for the cultures from which he draws his design inspiration.  He also does a great job of describing the geometry behind the design, which is especially important given the development of geometric concepts in Islamic culture.  

You can check out Tighe on Instagram at @TigheFlanagan and check out his line of patterns and templates on

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