Improv Houses

Last week, I was fortunate to take three days of classes with modern quilter Jacquie Gering. It was a great experience, really adding to my learning. And since I went with my friend M, it was a mini vacation, since we supplemented our classroom hours with walking around the small town where the classes were held, eating nice foods, and laughing and talking in our hotel room in the evenings. When you can combine quilting and carrot cake, you know good things are going to happen!

Jacquie Gering improv housesThe first day, Jacquie led a class on improv piecing, focussed on making these awesome house blocks with a mid-century modern look. This quilt was her sample.

I liked how the blocks were both extemporaneous and bounded — the improv piecing added so much fun, colour and freedom to the houses, while the black framework and solid backgrounds provided the contrast of stability that allowed the houses to pop. If the houses were on a busy background, they wouldn’t be so dramatic.

my 3 improv houses

It was one of those fun classes in which everyone happily sewed away all day, with Jacquie occasionally interrupting us for a teaching moment. I enjoyed wandering around the room and seeing what had gone up on everyone else’s design walls — we started by making a couple of houses that were similar to Jacquie’s, and then people got creative and made all sorts of funky buildings.

Here are the three that I managed to finish that day — I especially like the adobe-style one on top. I’m looking forward to trying some other variations now that I’m home. I think these blocks will become a great quilt that will add a punch of colour to one of my walls!

The class contributed to my experimentation with improv piecing. At one time, I thought “improv” had to be a sort of lawless chaos. I wasn’t sure I liked that. But as I work with improv techniques, trying them in different projects, I have come to view improv as an approach that can be experimental, freeing, whimsical, and expressive. I can control the colours, shapes, or quantity of the improvisational pieces in a project, and use improv to the degree that it contributes to what I want to accomplish.

Giving back

Well, it’s a good thing I made so much progress early in 2017! Once I realized I was starting a Studio art class at the local university on May 1st, my sewing time became complicated.

Not that I haven’t done any sewing, because I have. But not on any of the existing UFOs I’m supposed to be completing this year. I’ve been using the limited time now available in my schedule to work on some charity projects.

First, let me tell you about the May meeting of the modern guild I belong to. We did a charity quilt sew-in, and by the end of the evening had created 10 quilt tops! It was a fun event. Everyone brought fabric strips of a designated colour, and basically you sewed on one strip to the side of a centre square, then passed on the quilt to the next person, and everyone ended up with a rainbow-ish log cabin style quilt, for our children’s charity. (Oh, except Wendy, in the front right. She is showing a top she made with the quilt lotto blocks she’d won at the April meeting.)

While preparing for that meeting, I made another charity top. I’m happy to say that he block in the middle was a UFO, and all the fabric used was from my stash. I think it will be cheerful for some young recipient who is stuck in the hospital.

I have a second, similar, UFO house block that will become the centre of another charity quilt. It’s in the queue.

I also used some scrap triangles from my friend Megan and some more stash fabric to try out the Delectable Mountains pattern, before setting it as the June lotto block for the modern guild. I made blue and green sections, then mixed them up for fun. Just a few more pieces to make!

In addition, a new member at modern guild, Lisa J., lent me a copy of the The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, by Sherri Lynn Wood. So of course I had to try the first exercise in that book… Again, I was able to use stash fabrics, and it’s still in pieces on my design wall. Getting close to done. Both the Delectable Mountains and the improv quilt can be kids’ charity quilts when they are finished.

Finally, I’ve recently become involved with Days for Girls. If you don’t know about this organization, it strives to provide homemade, reusable sanitary products for girls and women in the Third World, who otherwise couldn’t go to school or work because they currently have no way to manage their menstrual flow. The volunteer group I’ve joined sews reusable pads and panty shields, and packages them with purchased underwear, soap, and a Ziploc bag that allows the recipients to launder their items using just a small amount of water (since water availability is usually also an issue). It’s amazing to think that I can change the life of another woman somewhere in the world by spending a few hours to create these items for her. It feels like a very worthwhile use of my sewing machine.

That’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve also been super-busy with my studio art class… it’s fun, and I think I might be learning things I can eventually apply to quilting. Maybe. Or maybe I will end up with yet another hobby. Here’s the most recent thing I made in class: paper cranes on draped fabric.

As I was working on it, I thought, isn’t it ironic that when I’m not sewing fabric, I’m drawing it??


Motoring through April…

I feel like I’m getting lots done in the sewing room — and other parts of my life, too! — but I’m not getting to this blog often enough. I need to add some blogging time to my weekly schedule, that’s for sure.

Brown is not my favourite colour.jpgOkay, first: finishes! I finished my colour study quilt, which I am calling “Brown is NOT my favourite colour”.

It is also a study in circular quilting with a walking foot, because I wanted to quilt another quilt (up next) in a spiral, but wanted to try the technique out on something small first. In this quilt, I discovered that I had a tendency to push the fabric toward the walking foot during the spiral, which ended up creating a slight twist in my fabric as I went on… good thing to learn here. I had to remind myself to slow down and let my walking foot do the work.

april showers.jpgThankfully, things went more smoothly in “April Showers”. This lap-sized quilt was a bit tricky to do — a lot of quilt to feed through the throat of my machine. The good thing was, that as I spiralled further and further out, the arc became increasingly gradual, and the amount of quilt in the throat became increasingly less!

I started the spiral with a circle about the size of a dinner plate and worked out. When finished, I picked up the beginning of the quilting line and spiralled in as far as I could, until it became too awkward to continue. I’ve also heard that you can do the smallest part of the spiral with a free-motion foot, but I was afraid that I would be too wobbly.

may lotto block.jpg.jpgSo that’s two more off of my list of UFO’s to complete for 2017, and it puts me well ahead of where I need to be. Yay! Oh, I also made this lotto block for the modern guild’s May meeting. It’s part of a modern BOM series found on Sew Mama Sew. Done!

On an entirely different topic, I started a learn to draw class, with the hope that I would start learning more art-type things that would bring an extra dimension to my quilting. Never having taken an art class after grade 8, I had to admit to having some gaps in my education when it came to things like colour, composition and line. I’ve been to three classes so far, and it’s been challenging! My big assignment for last week was drawing a shoe — specifically, my running shoe.

running shoe.jpg

This week’s assignment? Self-portraits! Gah! I don’t even want to show you what I’ve managed so far. Yesterday’s attempt… well, I told my DH that I made myself look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. He laughed, but didn’t disagree!

I do have more UFO projects in the queue — really looking forward to clearing off the last of the lingering old projects! More in a few days…


March wrap-up

March was a very productive month. On top of the Balinese quilt I already posted about, I finished quilting and binding my Values quilt:

It’s definitely imperfect, but I learned from the process of trying to quilt it. And that’s what it’s all about, right? If I’m always afraid to quilt my stuff because my quilting isn’t perfect, it won’t ever get any better.

Wait till my next post, when I show you the experimental quilting I’ve been working on!

Anyway, back to March. I also got the top pieced for the third charity HST quilt for my Wednesday sewing group:

I don’t know if there’s a name for this lay out, but I think of it as “The Twist”. It was a bit tricky to do with random fabrics that people donated, but I think that I was able to make it work, thanks to the helpful input of a couple of ladies in the sewing group.

Now it’s all pieced — but I need a backing fabric, and to decide who will quilt it. Me? Or someone else?

But that’s not all. I also managed to finish piecing another quilt top — the one I’ve been thinking of as “Spring Rain”.

This one was made from scraps left over from another quilt. I thought the fabrics were so nice, I wanted to do something special with them. I like the clean, modern look of this quilt. (Obviously, the top and bottom rows still need to be trimmed to an even edge!)

I have already purchased a backing fabric for this one, so I need to press, baste and quilt it in April.

Now, I have to confess, I’ve also added a new project to my UFO list. The local quilt store was offering a course on fabric collage, and I decided to take it. And of course, I foolishly picked the largest project — a tall flamingo. I should have picked a little cat! Oh well. So here’s my flamingo so far:

This was taken during the class. The flamingo is now on my design wall at home, and I already have some ideas for how to edit her. So stay tuned for updates.

So that was my March. April will be busy, but I plan to fit in as much quilting as I can, so hopefully I can stay ahead of the curve in getting through my UFOs.

Off to the gym — need to stay in shape if I’m going to do all that sewing, you know!