Tag Archives: improvisitional piecing

Orange, Layered Curves Top sans Border

Out came the last three blocks and asked to please be layered, cut, and pieced and added to their nine companions.  How could I say, No? Once that was accomplished, I moved furniture so I could use my “design floor” and tinker with arrangements.

layered curves before trim

Although I knew I’d get a better idea once they were trimmed, I also knew I might find a block that needed more layering and cutting, and I didn’t want to lose more size than necessary, nor did I want to retrim all if I lost size. So I did a first approximation, and I did add one cut to one group of three.  I toyed with keeping irregular edges as Sherri Lynn Wood suggests in her Improv Handbook, but I decided that this quilt  needed square blocks.Maybe because of the once square blocks in the starter orange quilt.

I’d started with ~18 1/2-inch squares and made 3-4 cuts in each set. At half an inch per cut, I’d expected to end with 16 1/2-inch squares. One, however, had gotten quite misshapen and it could only be 15 inches in one direction. Add a piece or trim all? I opted for the latter thinking that the added piece would disrupt the lines of the design.

I had several design considerations as I moved the parts–in the order of priority, one being most important:

  1. Something meaningful with the curves and curved stripes
  2. Balancing the amounts of orange/blue
  3. Alternating the blues with the orange, pieced parts
  4. Not placing two from the same set of three side by side
  5. Alternating the medium and dark blue blocks
  6. Alternating the blue and brown of the original 36-square piece.

Obviously, I was not going to be able to accomplish all six, and that is why I prioritized. After a lot of rearranging (wherein I was too involved to think photo), I ended up with this:

quilt top

~43 x 58 inches

I quickly abandoned #6 as impossible, but I actually accomplished all the rest except #3. I was surprised that by abandoning alternating blues and oranges I actually ended up with a better overall balance of the orange portions.

You can see from my arrangement considerations that I don’t consider planning an opposite of improv, nor do I consider randomness a synonym of improv. I don’t think Sherri does either. Apart from making the 12 blocks square, I did follow her suggestion of cutting without a ruler. I chose to use scissors because it was hard to go back and recut where  I’d not cut through all three layers with the rotary cutter and no ruler. And as I moved pieces,  I added her criterion of arranging so that colors/values “bleed” and create new shapes.

I’m thinking of naming it “Blurring the Boundaries” since it has elements of traditional, modern, and art quilting. Those “boundaries” are something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and recently was delighted to see  Yvonne’s post on Quilting Jetgirl. Do you think it could be entered into an art quilt show as well as a modern one? Why or Why not? (Don’t worry, you won’t offend me if you say, No.)

Linking with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall (Button in sidebar)

I had really thought to be on a new project by now, but since that one has been all mental quilting, here is this top, finally finished except for its blue borders. Linking to AHIQ (button in sidebar).



Filed under design, quilting

February Temperature Block and F2F

It’s been a blocky couple of days. First February’s high temperatures:

February block

Mostly 50s

It’s looking a little boring. If I’d chosen colors for groups of five instead of ten, I’d have had a little more variety, about twice as many  in the 55-59 range as in the 50-54. Oh well, I’ll stick the plan. The first three days were in the 40s. That is probably the last we’ll see aqua till autumn.  And always fun to introduce a new color, light green with the 60s. I imagine it will dominate March.

January was a little more balanced. Too bad the weather doesn’t accommodate design.

So this is my month to receive F2F blocks.  I’ll be making three on behalf of Pat, the woman who died recently, and my own three. I have made one set of three but am saving the second set to see if any colors need to be balanced out. I chose red/orange/brown with cream or beige as background.

March block 1

Dutchman’s Puzzle 12 1/2 x 12 1/2

If I keep making patterns that use the Flying Geese blocks I’ll have a good supply of “bonus triangles” to use for leaders and enders. I prefer this method because I get a more accurate rectangle this way.  Some people sew both seams before cutting, but I prefer using them as leaders and enders.

You can easily make Flying Geese any size you want this way.  Cut a rectangle of the “goose” color that is twice as long as wide then add seam allowance; i.e. a 3 x 6 block would be cut at 3 1/2 x 6 1/2. Cut the “sky” color a square of the smaller size, in this case 3 1/2.  Mark the diagonal and sew a needle width toward the part to be cut off. Sew one. Press. Trim. Then apply the second one. You must press the first one before adding the second.

bonus triangle

Someday I’ll dig out the pile of my unpressed, untrimmed triangles and take their picture. I have no idea what I will end up doing with them, but their day will come.

March block 2

Jacob’s Ladder 12 1/2 x 12 1/2

And a non-traditional block

March block #3

Layered Curves 12 1/2 x 12 1/2

I’m still enjoying working with curves from Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook. I am eager to begin getting squishies in the mail. I will probably make three lap quilts, but I won’t decide for sure till I see the blocks.

Linking with Needle and Thread Thursday (button in sidebar).






Filed under quilting, Tips and Tutorials

Orange and Blue Progress

I’d hoped to get the top finished this weekend, but I’ll be satisfied with three more blocks. Last progress was noted here where I had six blocks.Now I have nine.

9 blocks

This is not a serious arrangement; there is much rearranging in my future. I can’t make any serious design decisions till I see all the blocks. The next three will be the medium blue again, and it will be easier to balance  out the colors in the arrangement. And some of the blue pieces look pretty big, so there may need to be more cutting and sewing. Won’t know till I see all twelve.

I’ll link  with Monday Moving it Forward and today with AIHQ (buttons in sidebar).



Filed under quilting

F2F January

January’s blocks have made it across the pond, so now I can post; though it is the second post on quilts from Sherri Lynn Wood’s book, it is the first attempt.

The January request is for greens.  That and a preference for modern. Perfect timing since I am ready to play from the “scores” in Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.

My limits. Color green (as requested); 12 1/2-inch blocks (Footsquare–the second F is for Free style, any block we choose). My plan was to start with Score 2, strings, then use the string set in Score 7, Layered Curves. (Combining Scores is part of Score 10, Showing up, so you could say I am starting at the end. The book is well enough cross referenced that this is possible.)

Green block 1

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

Wood invites reflection after each piece.

What surprised? I was surprised by how little the blocks shrunk I’d started with 9-inch “squares”  and ended with 8 1/2-inch squares so had to trim off 2 inches. (She does say to expect to lose 1/2 inch with each cut; however, I’d missed that on the first read.)

What was satisfying? I liked the couple places where I could make use of “bleeding,” blending two shapes into one. I liked the flow of the outer lines that created an irregular square in a square; I liked the piece in the lower left leading into it, but what was dissatisfying was the big light (it really is a light green, not white) piece in the lower left. It drew too much attention to itself. But to trim it more would have eliminated other colors I liked and needed.

What to do about it?  Maybe not use #7 when I have a set size and a need to trim (or start smaller and add rather than trim). The main problem was the predetermined size. Still I don’t think it is totally  impossible to combine defined with improv.

Where go from here?  On to the next block.

Block 2

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

This one was made from two light squares and two strip-set squares. I’d started out thinking some Drunkard’s Path arrangement so cut the curve and stitched. (#2 and #7 again). On a whim instead of following through, I cut the half square triangles (HSTs) and assembled.

I was quite surprised that I couldn’t arrange the squares in BOTH a pinwheel and an interrupted circle. (Geometry was never my strongpoint.) Once I realized that, I played till I got this setting and was quite satisfied.The design has a coherent rhythm; it was actually helped by having to be trimmed though I lost some color repetition.

Finally, what to do with the Sunny Lanes traditional block that I have been making for each month?

block 3

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

At first I considered cutting it all out irregularly, and I might have followed through on that if I didn’t have the size restriction. I decided to make the HSTs regular and play with what would be 4-patch blocks in the traditional version. I used the last of my strip set in the center and learned that if I want to alternate the direction of subcuts from a strip set, I really need an even number of strips to get a checkerboard effect;however, the center “stripe” doesn’t look too bad (successful “bleeding”?).

Ideally I’d have had some strip set left for the corner “4-patch” block substitute. Since I didn’t, I made do with left over bits. I did have to cut a strip of the bright green because I wanted it in each corner.

This was my first venture with Wood’s book. Other experiments have been blogged (Diluting Orange posts) about before you see this. Check there for my “What next?”

I’ll link up with AHIQ when the time is right (button in the sidebar).



Filed under design, Portland OR, quilting

Diluting Orange a Bit More

Continuing (started  here)  with Score #7, Layered Curves, from Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.  After getting a suggestion from Lisa to make stripes, I thought about it.  Straight stripes seemed too clashy with the patchwork, so I thought I’d try parallel curved stripes. I tested the idea on one patch (that will become three).

Six test blocks

I had intended more than one stripe, but the block seemed to distort more with each parallel seam than it had with the single, so I stopped with one. Of course it could have been operator error. I may try again.

At this point I am wondering if putting stripes in half the blocks is enough; if stripes in all the blocks would be too much; or if I should make double stripes in one set.

In spite of my decision to not use three blues, I ended up using them. I decided there was enough contrast for the few times they would meet and that I would try to avoid having them meet too often.

At least the orange is under control.

Linking with Wednesday and Thursday linkups–buttons in the sidebar. ETA: Just found Monday Moving it Forward–that’s what’s happening to this one, so linking up.



Filed under design, quilting

Reviving an Old Art Quilt Project

I’ve been thinking about this project for a very long time. Since 2010 in fact. When I said then that it would be a long time till it was finished, I wasn’t thinking 5-6 years! But you know how that back burner absorbs things.(Sorry, no new photos yet because I haven’t dug it out yet–just been thinking about it. So if you are curious, you will have to click the link to the old post.)

The first thing that held me back was all that red. We’d been told to select three strips, then listened to some color theory, and then were sent to select one more. When I selected the red, I’d had thoughts of accents, not of using four colors equally.

Secondly, I had never really liked the first three blocks from the beginning sewing exercise.

The third objection didn’t occur till later, several quilt shows later. The 9-patch layout and accompanying accents became a recognizable “I’ve been to a Jean Wells workshop” thing.

One advantage to letting a project sit for a long time (I’m enabling other procrastinators here) is that you learn new techniques and get new ideas. I’m not sure which order the new ideas appeared in, but it really doesn’t matter.

–It occurred to me that I didn’t have to finish as started. (Duh!) I could add more color and thus make the red into the accent I had originally envisioned. I didn’t have to stick with the 9-patch layout just because that was what had been taught.

–At a PMQG retreat I participated in an improv exercise where we made a start, passed it on and the next person made a change. After four or five rotations we got together to discuss what we had done and why. One member’s tactic often was to slice and rearrange. (Sometimes I wonder why I couldn’t have thought of such things, but meanwhile I am glad to be led to them somehow.) Now I had a potential solustion for redoing the three blocks from the first color exercise.

Now that I have the beginning of an idea, it is time to dig those blocks out from hiding. Stay tuned (not planning on it taking another 5 years).

Linking with Off the Wall Fridays, button in the sidebar.


Filed under design, quilting

More on Improv

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living CourageouslyThe Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously by Sherri Lynn Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My opinion changed as I progressed.

At first I wasn’t thrilled with the assumption that I didn’t do improv because I was afraid of failure and that I needed meditations to decrease anxiety. I am not afraid of failure, and I try many new things. I am not convinced that I need to abandon use of rulers entirely. I did not like the first several “scores” (what Wood offers instead of patterns). But I usually finish a book I start, and as I continued I began to like the samples better and  Wood also decreased the assumption of fear. So by the end, I enjoyed the book.

In the ten “scores” and the color chapter there are an interesting variety of approaches to improv piecing. I’d say I started out with about two or three of her tactics in my repertoire. It was good to have options expanded. Her explanations were mostly clear (and I reasoned, on those few times when I didn’t understand, So what? it is improv.)

A valuable section is her tools section where Wood explains techniques unique to improv: how to solve problems and inconsistencies that occur because of the free style cutting and stitching, like bumps and bubbles and matching up irregular seams other than straightening them.

A valuable book for quilters who want to do improv in more ways than random bits of fabric and wonky log cabin.

View all my reviews


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Classic Meets Modern BOM–Flying Geese

It’s still October in the Pacific Northwest, so my BOM is on time. October’s challenge was to do a modern version of Flying Geese.

Flying Geese

Independent Geese

This started out as slice and insert flying geese of various sizes. At first all were pointed up and the orange ones were flying straight. The only decisions I had started with were that the angles were not to parallel the yellow print “goose,” and the orange ones were farther away.

Relative size is one way to show distance, so is chopping off part of the distant ones traveling “under” the closer–so be assured that the partial orange geese are done purposefully. The upper blue one is purposefully partial too: I think there is more motion when they enter stage left.

As I played with angles, it seemed fun to make the orange geese be a little disorderly; it was an easy step from that to turning the blue ones in the opposite direction.

And for once, a title came easily, Independent Geese.

ETA: Flashback to the 70s. This block is somewhat traditional in the fabric choices. Then white background was a given. One chose the print then two solids that went with it. Probably not so bold as these, however.  And for the record, in this case I chose the read-as-solids first, wanted a yellow that wasn’t too pale and came to this print. (In the 70s, if we wanted read-as-solids, we used pin dots.)

You might want to check out what others have done with this traditional block at Sew At Home Mummy’s Classic Meets Modern. Come Monday I’ll be linking with BOMs Away  and Anything Goes Monday (buttons to the right).


Filed under design, quilting

SuperBaby Bib finished

1/26/16 Reviving this post for Val’s Tuesday Archives–button in sidebar.

This is the project that has been distracting me from quilt tops.

superman fabricI was tickled to find this Superman patch among my scraps.  So it became part of the bib back.

I had been wanting to play with improvised letters and seeing a bib with the following saying on it provided an inspiraton to play.  Next time I try letters, though, it will be for a larger piece and shorter words.

Bib front

The letters are all red; I don’t know where my camera found black. Plan A had been to have the gold shaped in the shield like Superman’s S; however, I was doing well to fit the letters onto bib-size.

Pile of blocksTo show how fussy the improvisational process was for me, here are the leaders and enders that I sewed along with it. There are 45 finished 9-parch blocks. That is 8 seams each for a total of 360 starts and stops. I usually make about 10 seams on leaders and enders at a sewing session. So improvisational piecing is fun, but it is not a shortcut.

This is the 7-inch block that  the 9-patch blocks will become when they grow up. scrap block

It has been so long since I posted about this project that I’ll post the link for Michele Foster’s  tutorial again in case any of you are interested.

Now I have to cut the neutrals and triangles to add to the 9-patch blocks. I am aiming for a twin size charity quilt unless I get tired before I make enough.  I won’t be stopping because I ran out of scraps!


Filed under quilting