Improv Patchwork Workshop

Improv class combined pieceThis past Saturday I attended an Improvisational Patchwork Workshop taught by Heather Jones. My friend Peg brought the workshop to my attention, and I just couldn’t pass up a day of sewing with Peg and Heather.

The workshop was held at an artist’s studio on Front Street in Dayton, Ohio. The space was big and bright with lots of room for our makeshift design walls.

Improv class classroom

Even the walk to the bathroom was cool and art-filled.

Improv class hallway

After we all got settled in, Heather showed us the first of three improvisational blocks: the improv log cabin. Our goal was to make log cabin blocks as improvisationally as we wanted. We didn’t need to measure or cut with a straightedge or think too much about our fabrics. With some suggestions and encouragement, she let us go at it using the scraps we’d brought with us.

My first block was fairly typical for me. Most of my scraps were already cut into strips, so it went together quickly. I tried not to think too much about the fabrics, but I obviously tended toward fabrics and colors I was comfortable with.

Improv class log cabin 1Next, I made one using more subdued colors.

Improv class log cabin 3

For my third block, I decided to make it as wonky as I could. My seams were all at least 1/4″, but some of them were more than that so the strips would have an interesting angle.

Improv class log cabin 4With just a little time left in this part of the class, I started a fourth block using some of the scraps Heather shared with us. I started with the two solids and just let it go from there. I think I might like this one the best of the four.

Improv class log cabin 5

As we finished our blocks, we hung them on design walls near our tables. This design wall includes blocks made by me and Peg and two other students.

Improv class design wall

Next, Heather showed us the stacked coin block. Basically, instead of going around in the log cabin formation with our improv piecing, we built strips and used neutral fabrics to offset the strips. Here are a few of Heather’s samples of the first two blocks.

Improv class Heather samples

My first attempt, again, was in my usual palette. I actually had one more strip of blue fabrics on this piece, but I ripped that off later in the day.

Improv class coin 1

As I was about to begin my second stacked coin block, Peg noted how subdued her block was. So since it was a rainy day in Dayton, I tried making a rainy day block. Yep, that’s about as rainy-day as I get.

Improv class coin 2

The final block Heather showed us was the improv cross. This block consists of three strips of fabric and four neutral squares. Again, the level of improv was up to you—for example, you could try to match up your parts of the cross or not.

Improv class heather

Both of my crosses were fairly straightforward. For the second one, I pieced some of the fabric to add a bit more interest.

Improv class cross 1

Improv class cross 2

After that, Heather encouraged us to play around with our favorite block techniques or try putting some of our blocks together. I decided to make another stacked coin block, but this time I used colored fabric, rather than neutrals, to break up the stacks.

Improv class coin experiment

Then, with all my blocks up on the design wall—something that I don’t use at home—I got inspired to put some of the blocks together. I moved them around, ripped off part of one, and added a bit of extra fabric to make the piece below.

Improv class combined piece

Not too bad for a fun day’s work. The blocks weren’t hard to master, so the fun for me was having the time to play around with them. When I sew at home, I always have a goal in mind, something I’m trying to get done. So having a day to just goof around with a group of like-minded enthusiasts was a very cool thing.

Thanks, Heather and Peg!

Improv class me heather peg

Sawtooth Stars Quilt Top

Stars head onThis weekend I finished what turned out to be my most challenging quilt top to date. It was challenging for a number of reasons but primarily because it was one of my first quilts with the blocks set on point and I made up the setting of the blocks myself. And I’m not very good at quilt math. So, yes, a few challenges to say the least.

Just a quick aside: This quilt is going to be a gift, so in this blog post I’ll discuss how I made the quilt. But I’m going to save the story of the quilt, the fabrics used, and the number of stars for when the quilt is closer to being given. I’ll try to make that within the next two years or so.

The main blocks are standard 12-inch Sawtooth Stars; the smaller blocks are 4-inch versions of the same pattern.

Stars detail2

The Sawtooth Star block is essentially four Flying Geese blocks surrounding a square. As I mentioned in my Gaggle of Geese post, there are lots of different methods for making Flying Geese. For the large blocks, I used the “no waste” method, where you make four geese at a time—just what I needed for this block. I used this post on Thought & Found for how to make the two sizes of blocks using this method. The technique was very easy once I wrapped my mind around it, but many of my geese points came out too close to the edge of the blocks (meaning the points got cut off when I sewed the blocks together). I’m guessing I didn’t use the scant one-quarter-inch seam allowance as directed.

For the smaller blocks, I used the technique where you sew one goose at a time. (Cut a rectangle, sew squares to two of the corners, and then trim the excess from the corners.) There’s more waste with this method, but the fabric I used for these stars were all scraps anyway, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

Once I had the stars made, I realized that I liked the bigger stars better on point rather than square. So next I needed to figure out the size of the setting triangles (the triangles you use to make the quilt square when your blocks are on point). This link at the Quiltville site helped a ton. But after I had cut out my setting triangles, I decided to sew smaller stars into each triangle. Super cute, but it kind of messed up my math. Some of the triangles fit fine. But on others I had to add a strip of fabric to make them large enough to fit.

Stars setting block2

Another challenging aspect of this quilt was getting the setting triangles in the right direction. Wow—that made my brain hurt. And as you see, I didn’t get it right on the first (or second) try. Here I needed to take apart and resew three of the five setting triangles I had sewn on. Not a very good percentage.

Stars error

But—holy cow, I am happy with the way it turned out! If I just ignore all those cut off points and wonky additional pieces of fabric, I kind of love it.

Stars right

Stars detail hanging

Now, on to the quilting! And I’m stumped. Any suggestions for how to quilt it? I’m even stumped on the thread. I’d like to use blue thread on the background, but I’m not sure what to use for the stars. Let me know what you think—I’d love the help.

Gaggle of Geese

Gaggle of geese

I spent this past weekend in the company of flying geese blocks. Kara, one of the members of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, organized a Make and Maybe Take for the April meeting. Participants are to make flying geese blocks using at least one of two specific fabrics. You can make as many blocks as you like. At the meeting, all the blocks will be pooled together, and one block will be selected. Whoever made that block will win all the blocks. Fun!

Make and Maybe Take 02_15

The two fabrics we were to use are from Valori Wells’ Ashton Road collection by Robert Kaufman. And because Kara is so awesome, she secured a donation of that fabric from Robert Kaufman for us to use. So 15 of us got these little bundles to use in our blocks.

As soon as anyone mentions flying geese, I immediately think of the Circle of Geese paper pieced block that I’ve made a bunch of times (like here, here, and here). So, of course, that was the first block I made with the fabrics. The other blue and green fabric that I added is a vintage piece that I’d never cut into. But it seemed to work perfectly with these fabrics. This block marks the first time I used a print for the background of a paper-pieced block. I usually choose a solid, so I don’t have to worry as much about having the right side showing. But I’ve done this particular block so many times now, I used a print without any trouble!

Circle of geese block

Next I made a block called Birds in the Air. I saw a whole quilt made using different sizes of this block, and I wanted to give it a try. Since I had blues to use for the sky, I decided to go with white for the geese. Click here for the tutorial I followed for this 6.5″ Birds in the Air block.

In the air geese

Next, I made two large individual flying geese blocks and put them together to make an 8.5″ block. For these blocks, I cut squares for the backgrounds, sewed them to the base rectangle, and then cut away the corners. This results in a lot of wasted fabric, but I used my scraps for the paper-pieced blocks I made next. It wasn’t until we were talking about these blocks at guild that I learned a true flying geese block is half as tall as it is wide. So putting two together makes a square block.

Large geese block

Finally, I used up the rest of my fabric with some paper-pieced blocks. For these I paper pieced the individual flying geese blocks using templates from Fresh Lemons. Then I added additional fabric to make square blocks. Both of these ended up being 8″ blocks.

Four geese with stripes

Three geese on white

It’ll be fun to see what everyone else comes up with for their blocks. Kara plans to have two more of these Make and Maybe Takes this year, and I’m really looking forward to them.