This 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.
Even the walk to the bathroom was cool and art-filled.
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.
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.
With 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both of my crosses were fairly straightforward. For the second one, I pieced some of the fabric to add a bit more interest.
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.
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.
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!