AHIQ Linkup – And Now, for Something Completely Different

I didn’t mean to bait and switch, but to be honest,coin-toss-black-web the Coin Toss I posted last month is still in  pieces, in a basket, waiting for my return. This happens to me…I got bored with it, and haven’t had the urge to return and finish. I think I’ll probably put it together in the format shown at left. I like the nine patch grid. I like the threes of everything.  I still haven’t decided on a fabric for the background. I the black that I used in the photoshop image, for its graphic quality, but solid black would not work with the shot cottons that make up the rest. I’ll have to go stash-diving, and I am sure that something will come to my attention when the time is right.

However, this does not mean I haven’t been working on anything, when time permits, or that I have abandoned improvisational work. In fact, I keep re-discovering how much I like working this way. Whatever you want to call it, improv, intuitive piecing, liberated piecing, it is a way of working that I really enjoy. I enjoy sitting down with some materials to see what I could make of them; and, that is exactly what improvisation is.

In my art quilt group, Pointless Sisters, we voted on the theme for our next challenge. We got three choices each out of about a dozen. None of my three top picks were the winners. I voted for Boxes, Architecture and something else I can’t recall. The winners were Flowers and Reflections. Flowers will be due in June. There are no restrictions as to size, medium, colors, or anything else. I’m not inspired yet, but no worries, I will cook up some sassy abstract interpretation of a flower, and have something to show.

But I started to think, if I am not inspired by the Coin Toss quilt, and not by the Flower theme, what do I want to do? And I thought about an recurring idea I had been kicking around for a long time. It involves layers, applique and decorative stitching, and more embellishment, and it required me to use my favorite colors. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that’s all of them.

I’ll call it the “mother quilt” for now, though she has a name. The original project generated a lot of strips and smaller scraps, and I was really liking all these colors and patterns together, so I started piecing with the scraps, first thinking they could be the back of the “mother quilt”. By about the second day I looked at what I had hanging on the wall and realized this was a whole new quilt top and much too complicated to be the back of anything. The smaller strips were all about the same length, between 5-7″ and these turned themselves into some chinese coins sets right away. I started piecing around a leftover square from the original, that hadn’t quite made the final cut, and started building an off-set, log-cabin, medallion style, alternating coins with longer strips, and the piece has now grown to about 45″ square. I plan to add additional rounds to bring it to 54″ x 54″ to match the size of the “mother quilt”. Maybe it is a series!


Linking up with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters at Ann’s and Kaja’s.

Have a great day.

Coin Toss – AHIQ Linkup Better Late than Never!

Well I’ve been a bit derelict on the blogging, but it is because I have been working on my online course with Pixeladies in Photoshop Elements, and working on a new project that is completely different to the chinese coins, on which I will comment another time. Also, as it happens, my art quilt group (of which I am now in charge of running the meetings, since last October) happens to meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month, the same day as Ann and Kaja post the AHIQ linkup.  So with that and other things, it got to be a busy week. But I enjoy the AHIQ challenge, and the community it has created, so I didn’t want to let the month go by without reporting progress. I have not touched the actual piecing I did when I last posted my Chinese coins, but I have used it as a learning tool to see how Photoshop Elements can help me work out quilt designs. I guess that takes it a little bit out of the improv world but it is an alternative way of auditioning changes, layout choices, color schemes and so on, that I have found helpful. So, by arranging, rearranging and generally fiddling around with my quilt pieces on the computer, I have come up with a layout, and decided that I need a darker, contrasting field to set the pieces in, for this quilt. I am posting this planned layout, on a black background. Now I need to search in the stash for the right background fabric that will serve as the sashing (where the black is) because it is obvious to me that stark black isn’t what is required. I’m enjoying reading everyone’s posts this month and very flattered that my goading of KL Rollag bore some fruit. She has been a regular on the Improv Handbook FB page for awhile and I admire her work, and her pluck! I love that I have developed a web of communication that reaches around the globe. I wish we could all get together for a cup of tea some day, and a good yack!

Here’s my chosen layout for the Coin Toss.


Linking up with AHIQ, this Fourth day of March, Two Thousand and Seventeen.

Coin Toss 1 – My Three Cents’ Worth

This morning, the sun is shining in Sonoma County for the first time in a number of days. It has been a long beginning of the year here, with lots and lots of rain, wind, trees down, power outages, mudslides, potholes, road closures and flooding, after several drought years during which we all forgot that these things happen. It will be nice to dry out a bit. Perhaps we will get in a hike tomorrow, while the sun still shines!

With my morning coffee, I enjoyed  Ann’s post about the beginnings of her Chinese Coins project. I’ve also gotten started on the AHIQ challenge involving Chinese Coins. In keeping with my promise to myself to limit myself to only materials on hand, I chose a set of various colored shot cottons I’ve had sitting around for awhile now. This fabric is quite a bit lighter weight than most of the quilting cottons I have been working with, and it occurred to me it would be a good material to use for some hand-quilting practice, so that is part of the present plan. I find myself in need of a “slow sewing” project.

I started thinking about stacks of coins, and how in traditional Chinese or Roman Coins quilts the stacks are very regular and straight, and the coins usually of a uniform size. But this is AHIQ, and I imagined my stacks as sort of irregular and wobbly.  I chose five colors for the coins, and found I had plenty of the sort of gray-beige neutral (I think it was called “mushroom”) to use for the background/negative space relief. First off, I made some wide strip sets, each with a color in the middle and background on the sides, and cross-cut them to make the individual coins. I eyeballed the measurements, so the coins would be variable in size. I sorted all the strips into three piles of equal numbers of strips, trying to distribute the colors fairly evenly. Then I stitched them together more or less randomly into three stacks. I say more or less, because I did not allow two adjacent coins to be the same color, and I began and ended each stack with colors different from each of the others.


old-ccWhile I was sewing them together, I kept thinking about actual Chinese coins and how I always liked the shape of them. I have some on top of an old sewing basket that I’ve had since the 1970s. When the wobbly coin stacks were done, I proceeded to make three blocks with this coin shape.


These are fused applique, with the edges turned under. I would like to add some Chinese characters like the ones on my actual coins, and am thinking how I might do that. Now, these three coins made my thoughts turn to all the meanings of coins; coin toss to decide a question; three coins in the fountain; small change; changes. This led me to thinking how three coins are thrown to generate the hexagrams of the iChing oracle. I formulated a question and threw three coins, three times, resulting in the three hexagrams, and made a block representing each of these.hexagrams

This is where I came to a stop, and turned to another project that was needing to be done. All these parts are hanging on my wall, where I see them every day, and I am waiting for them to tell me how they want to be arranged.

A New Start

I have been absent from this place for quite some time. Our holiday season was fun, and full of food and family get-togethers, and somewhat hectic, what with one thing and another, and there hasn’t been much time to spend in the “new” sewing room let alone to write about it. Finally on Boxing Day, we had the time and some chilly but sunny weather favorable for one of our hikes, so we went out to Pt. Reyes and walked the path along Abbott’s Lagoon to the shore. Here is a photo that I took that day, which I decided to use for inspiration for an improv piece, knowing that the AHIQ linkup was coming. I have enjoyed being part of that, and want to keep my hand in.


I chose fabrics fairly quickly; that’s always the easy part for me. Then I cut up the photo in a grid shape, as a tool for deciding on the proportions of the colors, and hopefully to give me some ideas about how to compose the piece. abbots-process-2

I liked the resultant collage a lot! For my first attempt at a composition I tried making one large square block, free-pieced. I thought I might make a series of these and then put them together somehow. img_3235It is a nice looking block that I might use for something else some day, but it was way too literal for my improvisational purposes. Next I thought maybe I would riff on a traditional block and put together a more geometric, abstract rendition. I made four large-ish dissappearing nine-patches and cut them up. img_3234

I like these too, but they were not going in the direction I wanted to go. Finally I just started cutting up strips and putting them together, plus some wider bands of piecing. This was more what I was going for, an abstraction of the image of the lagoon, but using the colors from the photo, in approximately the same proportions. I’m fairly pleased with this result…and now I am pondering where to take it next.

img_3273Better late than never, linking up with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters.

Happy New Year everybody!

AHIQ Linkup – In Search of Wai’ale’ale (Rippling Water)

The Inspiration

We were lucky to spend a week on Kauai in March, and I’m holding on as long as I can to the sensory treat of being on an island in the middle of the South Pacific; the warm, fragrant, soft breezes, the green of the land and the blue of the sea. It’s all about water out there, everywhere you look. We traveled to the ends of the roads to catch glimpses of one of the wettest spots on earth, the top of Mt. Wai’ale’ale, which receives over 400 inches of rain a year on average. The top of the mountain is actually a crater, so it’s not all that easy to pinpoint the exact spot…but there are clues. This one was at the end of the road, and start of the trail at the top of the Kalalau Valley, in Koke’e State Park. We were in tourist mode, not hiking gear, and all of the people finishing this trail were covered in mud up to their waist.

DSC00671Usually, it is shrouded in clouds, but we got lucky one day driving through the Waimea Homesteads in the hills to the East of the mountain. When we looked back, the clouds lifted just long enough for us to snap a shot in the general direction. DSC00891

Anyhow, I have had an idea for a water piece in my head for months and months, and I found a beautiful little collection of nine fat quarters in my donation store. These were mostly from a line by Andover called “Jewels of the Sea”.IMG_2136 I wanted to experiment with different ways of depicting falling, flowing and rippling water. Since I had only spent about a dollar on the fabric (half-off Friday) I figured I could be brave and if it didn’t work out, I’d always have a few pieces I could use for a small bag or something of that sort. In other words, I gave up my expectation that it would result in an actual quilt, and just started cutting. As it turns out, that was a good call, because I did not succeed in realizing my vision!

I did not take a lot of process photos. I started by cutting each of the FQs up into several strips, between about 2″ and 4-5″ wide.

Image_2The first set of blocks (right) I made by putting sets of three strips together lengthwise with freehand cut curvy seams. I originally intended these to go vertical, but ended by putting them into a horizontal orientation and joining them end to end, representing a river.



The next set (left) I made using essentially the same technique I used for my “improv bargello” piece a few weeks ago, and this yielded a panel more or less representing falling water (rain or waterfall).



For the third set, I cut approximately square pieces, stacked them in fours and cut a curve horizontally across the middles, then shuffled the layers and re-stitched them. These I put together in rows to represent waves.

Water Three Ways

Here are the three panels together.



I tried to let the prints in the various fabrics provide needed value contrasts in this exercise, since my intention was really to work on piecing methods and to create some pieces that imitated the movement of water. I think the various prints in this set of fabrics did help to contribute light and reflections, but there are still too many straight lines here for the look I’m after. I like the colors but am not satisfied with the piecing. I think that these may go into the ‘made cloth’ pile as potential material for some other work later. Meanwhile, I’ve had another brainstorm how to accomplish what I’m going for, but I’ve been busy with other projects and haven’t tried it yet. While pondering all this, I read Kaja’s recent “What if?” post where she said

“There are so many techniques in quilting and indeed in other forms of sewing, like garment-making that we could regard as options for improv, tools to enable us translate the ideas in our heads into fabric – let’s be encouraged to keep pushing the boundaries.”

This is very timely advice for me, because I keep trying the same things expecting a different result…and we know what “they” say that means!

Linking up with AHIQ and cannot believe that April is almost gone by!


AHIQ Linkup

A quick post jammed into a very busy week. This month’s improv work was the “Strings” score from Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, as I try to follow the quiltalong on the Facebook Page.

Here is the finished piece. I wrote about process here.


LInking up with AHIQ this morning, and I’ll be spending some time looking at everyone’s links later today. There is sure to be a lot to see!

Have a great weekend,


Kente Cloth – A Score for Strings


For some time now I have been fascinated by Kente cloth from Africa. Kente originates in Ghana, and legend there says it was first made when two brothers on a hunting trip came upon a spider spinning her web; after watching her for two days, they returned to their village and wove cloth inspired by what they had seen. It is a ceremonial cloth that is woven from strips of cloth, into intricate patterns, and in all colors. Each color and pattern has its own attributes and connotations. It is called the cloth of Kings. Here are a few examples:

dsc_1555 2t-1409 2Kente_Cloth_multi_6001

So I thought, Hmmm, cloth woven from strips of cloth, I could do that! And I made a couple of pieces based on that notion. These two were made in a traditional quilting mode, and involved plenty of measuring, exact cutting and piecing, matching of corners, etc. One was made using only striped fabrics to enhance the “cloth woven from strips of cloth” effect.


The second was made using some stripes and other fabrics from my “sort of ethnic” stash,

4557b702ed012bf52a8853ee631fbc26 and was used as part of a larger (as yet unfinished) piece I was working on called “Giraffes in the Moonlight”. (Apologies for poor photo quality.)

Giraffes in the moonlight 2

As I began my score for Strings as part of the Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters sew-along, I thought again of the Kente cloth, and how much I like sewing and slicing and dicing many fabrics into one fabric. Could I make something that replicated this “cloth woven from cloth” in an improv style, using the string sheets from that score?

Curating the Fabrics

I chose the bold, saturated colors first, as I always do. Here is the first pull, but after I took this photo, I added some other darks…with red and black patterning. You’ll see them later.IMG_1670

In order to make three “related but distinct” string sheets, as per the instructions in the Improv Handbook, I elected to keep the color-way the same, but vary the value in each set, and also vary the predominant color. So I chose two more sets of colors for the strips, one set of medium value, and a third of light value.IMG_1675 IMG_1707

I pieced the medium set first. I liked this one a lot, but was unsure how it would play with the others. The lighter colors went together last, and made a very large sheet, about 2 feet wide by 8 feet long. It is pretty, in a pastel sort of way, but I quickly decided was discordant with my strings score. It has gone into the bag of “made fabric” for another day.

Then, I made two small panels using the intense colors. Here they are undergoing quality control inspection.IMG_1696 They passed the inspection, at which point I cross-cut them into very narrow strips, and recombined them into three narrow panels, about 10″ x 24″ or so. IMG_1700The more I considered these panels, the more I liked them. One commenter on the Improv Handbook FB page suggested leaving them as individual panels, but because of their small size, I was worried about losing too much “real estate” to the seams required for finishing. So, I stitched them together to make one piece. It preserved the woven effect that I had been aiming for (see “Inspiration” above) better than leaving them separate, and much better than any attempts I made to combine them with the other string sets. In finishing, I decided to leave the edges slightly wavy as they were naturally, and did not square it up, as that also would have interrupted the patterns. I used a pillowcase finish to attach the batting and backing and quilted with orange cotton thread that followed the slightly wavy vertical lines of the piecing.








Here is the finished piece, which I will be linking up with AHIQ when the time comes. The color in these last few pictures of the finish is different, due to the fact we’ve gone from brilliant blue skies and temps in the 70s to cold and rainy since I took the first set. The earlier ones are more accurate.


Finished quilt measures about 25 x 23.