Learning New Tricks – Pattern Freedom

I have been sewing for most of my life. I love to make things, I love fabric, I am fascinated by color, its changes and its moods, and its combinations; and I also love patterns, puzzles, mathematics, seeing how machines work, fixing things, and so on. In the past couple of years, as I have begun incorporating more of these loves into my daily life, and thinking how I might spend my days in retirement. During this time I have become more interested in the art of quilting, or quilting as art; and in the tools of the trade, machines in particular.  My sewing machine collection is documented here.  But regarding art and quilting…

I had a long hiatus during which my life was so busy with children, work and all, that I didn’t do much sewing.  Now that I am getting back to it, I have been drawn to quilting, and have been learning how to do it.  Thanks to the internet, there is lots of help available, whenever I happen to have the time.  I have taken a number of online classes on Craftsy, which I will highly recommend as a great place to learn technique, and get ideas.  But I find myself a little bit impatient with courses that encourage me to make something JUST LIKE the one the instructor is making. I do not want to make copies of other peoples’ art. I want to make my own, so this is the adventure I have embarked on.

I really enjoy reading quilters’ and other textile artists’ blogs, there are so many, and all so different, and I find lots of inspiration there.  So, why not have my own, to document my evolution and for anyone else who might be interested.

One of the first Craftsy classes I took, and a favorite one which I regularly check back in with, is “Pattern-free Quiltmaking” with Joe Cunningham, aka Joe the Quilter.  Joe’s notion of why we are quilting really resonated with me.

So, it turns out, that what I’m actually trying to do, instead of just making a quilt, what I’m really trying to do is to be free; I’m trying to find a way to be free in this world.  And the quilt-making is just a path to that–a path to freedom.  Takes a lot of sewin’ to get to the freedom.

–Joe the Quilter

Yeah!  And Joe’s madness has a method, and it provides a good launching place for individual expression.  First we cut strips of certain widths and sewed them together.  Then we cut the strip sets crosswise into strips of certain graduated widths and re-connected them, then eventually into blocks.  Then it was about the arrangement of the blocks; but also, always, always about the color and patterns.  These were my first two “real” quilts.

The first one I completed I called “Three Crazy Sisters Got Sidetracked”.


This was my first real effort at machine quilting.  I’d done a couple of comforter-style quilts before but had finished by tying at the corners of blocks.  For this one, I used my walking foot and quilted freehand wavy parallel lines.  My idea was to juxtapose these flowing lines with the rectilinear forms in the piecing.  I learned a lot about how to manage the quilt sandwich so as to avoid wrinkles and tucks and I ripped many lineal feet of quilting. DSC06212

And as you can see, I improvised the binding.  This was before I enrolled in the Finishing School course on Craftsy, where I learned how to make proper quilt bindings.  Who knew that there even was a ‘proper’ way to do this?  Not I!


My second effort, also in Joe’s class, resulted in this quilt.  This is the method he calls “Fantasy Four Patch”.  The method is similar but not identical to the Three Crazy Sisters, but results in a different look.  This time, I deliberately chose a color scheme I normally would never use.  But I shop for a lot of my fabric in a sewing and needlework thrift store that is stocked with donations, and I buy what I can find there.  I had found two large cuts of these two fabrics that I thought looked really great together.  Here is the top before quilting.


And, here are the front and back after quilting and binding.  I used straight line quilting on this one, and had  somewhat better success than the first time.  Image Image 1

I was digging this kind of construct-deconstruct-reconstruct method of putting pieces together, and I found some really cool FQs of very modern looking fabrics on sale at JoAnn one day.  I’ve always loved brights and black combinations.  I bought one of each and made this new fabric by combining them using (again) one of Joe’s formulae called “Rock the Block, Album Style”.  I made these into pillow covers and the quilting was done in a sort of improv-straight-line doodling style. Very fun, and I like how they came out.

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 So, from Joe the Quilter, I had gotten some great lessons in pattern freedom.  Though I still make other traditional pieces, I am quite drawn to exploring improvisational quilting.  My next post will be on that topic.