Improvisation

MOOD QUILT EXERCISE a la Sherri Lynn Wood

So, I googled “improv quilting” and found Sherri Lynn Wood’s site Daintytime.  Gosh, there’s a lot on there, but what really caught my eye was the Modern Mood Quilt.  I decided to try to make one.  I won’t re-state Sherri Lynn Wood’s very words, and I didn’t replicate her instructions exactly, but I did take the journey, in my own way.  And, while I was doing it, I wrote about it.  It was that much fun.

October 17, 2014  TAKING MY EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE & SELECTING COLORS

I am recovering from surgery on my eyelid.  I feel sore and tired, and unable to be seen by other humans.  My husband was taking good care of me, until he was sidelined a migraine. I have time to sew, and an excuse to do little else.  It is quiet in the house, and I can think my own thoughts for hours on end.  I have been filled with the desire to create, for many, many months now, years, even, and it is all I want to do.  I feel hopeful and excited about making my own brand of art.  I could spend all day sorting fabrics into different piles and combinations.  I lie awake most nights thinking about colors and patterns.

Step one for the MMQ is to identify what emotions one is feeling.  Sherri Lynn did this over a period of weeks.  I am doing a snapshot in this moment.  These are the emotions I identified, and the associated colors.chart copy

As I look at this array of colors on the screen, I am not too excited about them, but I’m pretty sure I can find examples of in my stash.  My stash is eclectic and about 90% made up of things I’ve found on half-off Fridays at The Legacy (a local needlework donation store).  I buy what catches my eye, pay by the pound (usually only $1.00 or $1.50 per pound on half off days, $2 to $3 on regular days).  You might not believe how much fabric makes a pound.  Sometimes there are nice, multi-yard cuts of fine quilting cottons, and sometimes I make up a whole basket by plucking small scraps from the “category” bins.  The categories I favor are Novelty, Ethnic and Stripes, and in season Holiday prints.

I do not have a large selection of solids.  Nor do I have many of the trendy, modern fabrics.  And I don’t know them by their names, their designers’ names or their “color ways”.  I think that for my MMQ I will try my experiment using prints and solids together.  I think the black, grey and white are unambiguous and will have to be solidsbut that prints and colors are ambiguous.  What is orange?  What is yellow, or lime, or blue green?  I think that the variations in the prints will add the unexpected element to the array that I may be looking for.   

Okay, after thinking about it a bit more, I am getting excited about this exercise.  I try to work fast and go with my initial selections on color choices, these days.  What’s the point of drawing it out?  I want to get to the sewing, after all.  If I take too long and overthink, I seem to have an overpowering tendency toward analogous schemes.  I guess that’s okay if I want something soothing and predictable.  This time, I want to stay with the uncomfortable edginess in the palette that I chose based on my emotional state. 

Here is the first pull. IMG_3536That brightest orange is verging on red (energized, will, desire) but it feels good, like sparks!  Tomorrow, I’ll start cutting and see what happens!

October 18, 2014 CUTTING AND SEWING

My eye feels a little better but I still look like a hallowe’en monster.  In the light of day, while preparing rectangular pieces for cutting, I noticed that I had chosen several greys, though my estimate of how much grey was required was low. Perhaps I feel less “well” than I wanted to admit!  I deleted the second “yellow” and the red.  My yellow is really yellow splotches on orange, but the only other yellows I found were pastel and seemed very out of place.  The red really was red, and didn’t belong after all, though it is my favorite color.  I will reserve it for a time when I am feeling great!  This is not that time.  Artistic license rules.  Here is the final color selection.

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I cut all my wedge-shaped strips about 6” long, and put them all into a paper bag.  It is difficult to “mix” them, but I try to pick randomly from the bag, as I begin sewing them together.  The only rule I observe is to avoid two of the same fabric adjacent.  Sometimes I take out a handful and pick from it.  I start several blocks at once and chain pieced them.  I try putting some reverse curves into the curving blocks. 

After a few hours at the machine, I have some curved sets

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and some more or less rectangular sets.

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After lining them up on my “design wall”  I join the (sort of) rectangular sets together for a background.

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I start piecing the curved sections together, more or less in random order, just fitting them as they seem to want to go.  The last few pieces are the most difficult.  I have to re-do some places to make it all lay flat.  I am mindful of Sherri Lynn’s advice to “iron the hell out of it”, and I do.  This gives me a thrill of guilty pleasure, being used to all the trad quilting admonishments to “press, not iron” for fear of distorting my rigidly constructed blocks.  When I step back from it to look, I see an image of my poor sad eye right there at the top! 

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I decide not to use the bias-strip piecing that Sherri Lynn does in her tutorials.  I am saving that for another piece that is already bubbling around in my head.  Instead, I use my pieced, rectangular background sections as a frame for the curved piecing. 

October 19, 2014 QUILTING AND FINISHING

Then I start quilting.  That eye is just begging for something circular, so I start there with a spiral.  The other sections, I just “doodle” in the quilting lines, section by section.  What fun, great work flow, very relaxing.  Here are a couple of quilting-in-process shots. 

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I  attempt something similar to the “invisible binding” that Sherri Lynn describes, but I confess, I haven’t really followed the advice on that (i.e. put it on the quilt top before quilting), because I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop.  I cut strips 1.5” wide.  It was a convenient width for the remaining scrap I had, enough to stitch to the 4 sides of the quilt in a “log cabin” fashion…first the two verticals, then the two horizontals.  I press a crease in the binding strip at about 5/8”  from one edge, leaving 1/4” free for the seam.  

Since I’m putting it on post-quilting, I can’t really thin the edges, and especially the corners, of their excess bulk of extra fabric and batting.  I do my best to conquer this problem with some selective surgery at the corners, especially the upper two where I had also added some hanging corner pockets, and am just muscling it into submission as I hand stitch the binding back.  Plus more ironing like hell.

And voila!  I am done.

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I am sure that not everyone will see beauty here, but there is something very satisfying in creating something totally unique, and not like anything anyone else could ever possibly have done. And, it really does feel like it represents my state of mind during the past few days.  Well, I have to give the nod to Sherri Lynn Wood for helping me with some suggestions for a process to follow.  Now, I want to invent my own!

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