One of the joys of writing The Improv Handbook is watching other quilters blossom. Get Your Curve on with me at Quilting By The Lake, July 27-31.
I always make a big mess when I'm piecing a quilt top. I mean a HUGE mess. It's insanity. There's fabric everywhere, underfoot and on every surface. If my studio was in a zero gravity zone scraps would be floating to the ceiling. Imagine that! I can't show you the quilts I'm making for my book on improvisational patchwork, but I CAN show you the aftermath!
Once I've finished piecing a quilt top, it feels great to get my studio in order again. Wouldn't it be nice to be the bionic woman --able to condense eighty minutes of scrap sorting into one? Okay now it's on to the next quilt.
How do you sort your scraps?
Fooling around with hand-dyed scraps. Modern bias and diamond patchwork quilt.
I've been asked to create a memorial quilt for Ruth Anne from the clothing of her mother, Dolores Wolfe. Ruth Anne began this quilt herself in the Passage Quilting™ Workshop that I taught in Cincinnati last fall. She asked me to continue the quilt and finish it for her.
So here are Dolores' clothes. As I began cutting to preserve certain architectural features, a vocabulary of shapes and images began to emerge...
Trees, mountains, peaks, knolls and valleys... Can you see them?
Always at the start of something new, a few simple shapes mysteriously bubble to the surface. The unknown begins to be known in this way.
After two months of moving, and settling I have begun my first quilt in my new studio, in a new spring. I'm wondering about the shapes mysteriously surfacing in my life right now...
A new acceptance of myself, a sense of peace with where I am, renewed attention to my creative life, joy in having my own space to live and grow.
In Part 1 of the Mini Keepsake Quilt-Along, I cut my clothing into sections according to the architectural features I wanted to highlight. Now it is time to improvise a pattern based on those features to create blocks or sections.
Tips on Improvisation
- Improvisation is simply creating without a pre-determined pattern.
- Take the piecing process one step at a time. (Don't over plan.)
- Allow yourself to be surprised by the outcome. There are no mistakes.
- Follow your heart. Find your rhythm of attention.
- Start with any feature that resonates strongly with you.
- Square off your feature by filling in curves or odd angles.
- Continue to build and add to your section until you reach a sense of completion.
- Once you complete one section set it aside and start on the next section.
- Your finished sections should roughly have straight edges, but they can be any size or shape.
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Curve Piecing Technique
- Fill in the curve of a arm hole with a contrasting fabric.
- Layer fabrics right sides up to cut the line of the curve.
- Leave a 1/4 inch over hang on filler piece.
- With right sides up chalk along the curve line.
- Turn right sides together, match chalk marks and pin perpendicular to edge.
- Ease fabric between pins and sew along pinned edge with a 1/4" seam allowance.
- Remove pins and iron seam in one direction.
Hand Piecing a Neckline
- Arrange neckline on background fabric with right sides up. Pin in place.
- Hand stitch with matching thread using a hidden applique stitch.
- On backside carefully cut away as much bulk as possible from the collar.
- Trim background material to within a 1/4" of the appliqued seam.
Next Monday, in Part 3 of the Mini Keepsake Quilt-Along, we will arrange and build sections like a puzzle into finished mini quilt. On Wednesday I'll announce the winner of the Whip Up Mini Quilt Book giveaway along with a review of the book.
Did you learn anything about the way you see patterns by following your rhythm of attention? Any surprises? Please share!
I am so impressed with all of the comments about ideas and materials for keepsake quilts, by those of you who entered the Whip Up Mini Quilt Book Giveaway. The possibilities are endless.
Choosing Your Materials
If you have gathered your materials and are ready to begin, guess what? You have already completed the first, and one of the most significant steps, of the process. For those of you still on the fence, choose materials and pieces of clothing that resonate most strongly with memory and meaning. These will be the heart of your piece.
- Choose the most resonant materials for the heart of your piece.
- Supplement with less resonant pieces but good colors, texture, pattern, etc.
- Don't limit yourself to woven cotton materials. Anything goes except for leather.
- For a mini quilt try to limit yourself to two or three pieces.
- Beware of too many t-shirt logos.
For the Mini Quilt that I created for Kathreen's book, I asked my friend Liz to provide only two pieces of clothing, one from her son's infancy and one from her pregnancy. These two pieces represented her passage into motherhood, while celebrating the life of her first child.
A mini quilt is a small format so I recommend that you limit yourself to two or three pieces of clothing. Include more pieces if you want to make a larger quilt. The finished size of my mini quilt is only 30" x 24".
Cutting the Clothing Apart
You can always cut your clothing into small squares and create a nine-patch keepsake quilt. However, Passage Quilting™ is about the process of transition, growth and healing. For this reason I work with the architecture of the clothing to create an improvised quilt without a predetermined pattern.
- As you begin to cut your clothing apart consider which architectural features you want to include in your quilt and cut accordingly.
- Cut the clothes along seam lines.
- Remove extra linings and bulky seams.
- Prep, cut apart, all of your materials before moving to the piecework.
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Next Monday, in Part 2 of the Keepsake Quilt-Along, we will begin making blocks or sections from our clothing parts. I will also review tips on improvisation and curve piecing techniques.
What was it like to cut apart your meaningful materials? Was it liberating? Scary? Sad? Joyous? A relief? A surprise? A mixture of emotions? Please share!
Finally, I'm making progress in patching together these re-purposed wool shirts into a modern improvised bed quilt. I was stuck for a while, so when I began working yesterday I decided to keep my mind peeled for restraining forces, things that were holding me back from flowing through the process. I soon realized that worrying about the outcome was my number one restraining force. As soon as I let go of the outcome, things started to flow. I expect to finish piecing my improvised [ ] parenthesis quilt today.
Follow this project as it has evolved:
What does it mean to be an artist? It's about the truth of who I am in relationship to my self, to others, to my craft and to my being in the world.
The quilt pattern inspiration for this week are [ ] parenthesis. See my interpretive sketch and it's translation into an actual quilt block, made from re-purposed wool clothing.
In step 7 of the Mod-Mood Quilt craft-along, quilt-along with me and learn how to use bias-cut strips to machine piece the curvy corners of your moody modern quilt.
November 19, 2009
The first two front panels were originally one full mantel, but it took so long that the project was going over budget. I decided to cut the one into two and add a simpler pattern to either side that will wrap around the back.
When made into a three dimensional object only a narrow section of the design will be visible most of the time.
This made everything else go much faster, because there is less surface to design. Four out of five front panels are pieced. One more to go, then I’ll add the sides.
Follow my process re-posts of the Beth El Synagogue Torah Mantels.
October 26, 2009
I like the way it’s coming out but I’m surprised the piecework is going so slowly. Only about a third of the composition will be visible when it wraps around the Torah.
October 22, 2009
Arranging shapes (lots of fun):
Reality – things change quite a bit when the design gets sewn together:
Follow my process re-posts of the Beth El Synagogue Torah Mantels.
October 20, 2009
Many hours spent cutting and piecing 1/2" to 1" strips from clothing donated by congregation. Also mixing prints with solid silk shantung that was purchased for the project. Some how I will mix these sheets of striped fabric with the kippot.
October 21, 2009
I am pleased with the vivid colors so far. The kippahs are so bright. My goal is to bring out as much contrast and vividness as possible by by juxtaposing high contrast clashing colors. As the designs for the mantels develop I will ground the colors with neutrals, black, white, creams, navy and deep plum.
October 16, 2009
Strips are cut irregularly without a ruler from Beth El clothing and silk shantung purchased for the project, 1" to 1/2" wide. I'm making sheets of fabric. Some are all solids, some alternate light prints with solids, some alternate prints and solids, all prints, etc. These strip pieced fabrics will all get cut up and remixed later on.
I was inspired to make Torah mantels from kippot donated by the congregation at Beth El Synagogue.
In 1992 I took my first quilt making workshop with Nancy Crow. It was on improvisational process and one of the first things Nancy said to the class was, "You don't need a ruler to cut and sew fabric together." This seems so obvious now but at the time it was a light bulb popping on in my head.
Step 4: Get your line on
A. Cut wedge shaped strips across the width of the rectangles you created in step 3. All your strips should be approximately the same length (equal to the width of your rectangles). Your wedges can vary in thickness according to the parameters you set earlier.
B. Don't use a ruler and cut with intention. The cut is your signature. Be present and imagine that you are drawing. The result is your distinctive, hand-drawn line.
C. Mix all of your strips in a pile or a paper bag. Begin piecing them together with your sewing machine. Choose them quickly, intuitively and without much thought. After doing this for awhile, try choosing them blindly and randomly out of the paper bag. Compare and contrast your experience of the intuitive vs random process. Compare and contrast the results of these two approaches. Do you have a preference?
D. Don't worry about seam edges that don't seem to match. Pretend like they do. Line them up, right sides together and sew your 1/4" seam anyway.
E. After sewing several wedges together to make a section, use a lot of steam and iron the hell out of it. Iron from the center out.
F. Special tip: You can control the intensity of your curves by alternating the fat and thin sides of your wedges. Create gentler curves or even straight edged sections in this way.
G. Continue to create sections from your strips according to your moods. A section is like a block but it can be any size or shape. They do not need to be consistent. Work on a section until it feels intuitively done to you. You don't have to think about how they will all work together. In step 5, we will put all of the moody sections into place like a puzzle to create an overall composition.
Rowing the Boat:
Please post any questions you have about the process or techniques and I will respond. Share images of your process on the Mod Mood Quilt Flickr pool. Any surprises? Discoveries? Satisfactions? Dissatisfactions? If you are working on your mood quilt, give me an update!
I am migrating a Passage Quilting project to daintytime from an earlier now defunct studio blog, which I used for the purpose of updating clients on their projects in progress. In 2009, Beth El Synagogue in Durham, NC commissioned me to do five Torah mantels from meaningful materials donated by the congregation. The project unfolded nicely and I think it's worth publishing more widely. I hope you will enjoy following the process posts on this project for the next few Wednesdays.
March 20, 2009
Starting a new project. Materials for Beth El Synagogue Torah Mantels on the studio wall. Lots of blue and white. Good mix. All I need is something black. Would also like to use more kippot in lots of different colors. I like the curved triangular shape. Can imagine lots of these triangles scattered through the striped pattern.
This project is on hold until I can see about the additional materials. Will there be enough for five mantels?
Step 3: Get Your Pattern On
Once you have identified your moods and chosen corresponding colors in step 2 what are you to do? It's time to choose a pattern.
A. For your Modern Mood Quilt you can choose any pattern to work with. You can stick with a traditional block pattern but I encourage you to plunge into the wide and free world of improvisation. Don't be intimidated by the word improvisation. All it means is to create without a predetermined pattern, but not without limits or parameters.
B. Decide on your parameters. The parameters for my Modern Mood Quilt are to work with wedge shaped increments to create curved flowing sections. I have also decided to change the length and thickness of my wedge shaped increments according to the depth and intensity of my moods. On certain days I may use 4" strips that are only 1" to 2" wide to create my wedged curve sections and on another day if my mood is really strong I might decide to work with 8" strips that have a range of width between 2" to 5".
From here on out I will give instructions for working with wedges and curves but feel free to improvise within your own parameters. For example you could decide to work with squares and even thickness strips to create improvised sections base on a log cabin construction.
C. Prepare rectangles to cut your wedges, out of the fabrics you chose according to your mood in Step 2. For instance, if you have decided to work with wedges that are 6" long and 1" to 3" thick then cut or build rectangles of fabric are 6" in width. If you have a piece of fabric that is only 4" wide and 10" long, then add a 2" strip to make a rectangle 6" wide x 10" long or cut it down to 6" wide x 4" long. Prepare several rectangles of fabric in this way.
D. You don't have to use a ruler to make these cuts. Instead cut them freehand. Your measurements do not have to be precise only approximate. In Step 4 we will review cutting and piecing without a ruler as we begin cutting our rectangles into wedges.
Rowing the Boat:
Please post any questions you have about the process or technique and I will respond. Share images of your process on the Mod Mood Quilt Flickr pool. Any surprises? Discoveries? Satisfactions? Dissatisfactions?