Quilt Blocks: Scan and Montage

Mary has been working on the Splendid Sampler project, with 56 completed blocks (*) stacked on her sewing table. We agreed that those blocks would make a nice background for our Christmas Letter, but the labor involved to photograph all the fabric squares and turn them into a page seemed daunting.

Turned out it wasn’t all that hard, at least after we eliminated all the photography and hand-editing.

The 6½x6½ inch blocks include a ¼ inch seam allowance on all sides and, Mary being fussy about such things, they’re all just about perfect. I taped a template around one block on the scanner glass:

Quilt block in scanner template
Quilt block in scanner template

Then set XSane to scan at 150 dpi and save sequentially numbered files, position a square scan area over the middle of the template, and turn off all the image enhancements to preserve a flat color balance.

With “picture taking” reduced to laying each square face-down on the glass, closing the lid, and clicking Scan, the scanner’s throughput became the limiting factor. She scanned the blocks in the order of their release, while tinkering the auto-incremented file number across the (few) gaps in her collection, to produce 56 files with unimaginative auto-generated names along the lines of Block 19.jpg, thusly:

Block 19
Block 19

The “square” images were 923×933 pixels, just slightly larger than the ideal finished size of 6 inch × 150 dpi = 900 pixel you’d expect, because we allowed a wee bit (call it 1/16 inch) on all sides to avoid cutting away the sharp points and, hey, I didn’t get the scan area exactly square.

With the files in hand, turning them into a single page background image requires a single Imagemagick incantation:

montage -verbose B*jpg -density 150 -geometry "171x173+0+0" -tile "7x" Page.jpg

I figured the -geometry value to fill the 8 inch page width at 150 dpi, which is good enough for a subdued background image: 8 inch × 150 dpi / 7 images = 171 pixels. Imagemagick preserves the aspect ratio of the incoming images during the resize, so, because these images are slightly higher than they are wide, the height must be slightly larger to avoid thin white borders in the unused space. With all that figured, you get a 1197×1384 output image.

Bumping the contrast makes the colors pop, even if they’re not quite photo-realistic:

Quilt block montage - contrast
Quilt block montage – contrast

I’ll lighten that image to make the Christmas Letter text (in the foreground, atop the “quilt”) readable, which is all in the nature of fine tuning.

She has 40-odd blocks to go before she can piece them together and begin quilting, with a few other projects remaining to be finished:

Mary quilting
Mary quilting

(*) She’s a bit behind the block schedule, having had a year of gardening, bicycling, and other quilting projects, plus whatever else happens around here. Not a problem, as we see it.