The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters

Improv Handbook cover

This past week I had the great pleasure of meeting Sherri Lynn Wood, the author of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, when she stopped by Cincinnati’s Sewn Studio on her cross-country book tour. I worked with Sherri on the book as her technical editor, and it was definitely one of my favorite projects of last year.

Sherri’s book was a fun one to edit because it is very unlike many quilting books. Since the topic is improvisational patchwork, it really didn’t make sense for it to be a regular project book. And yet, someone trying to learn improv patchwork needs more guidance than having the author say, “Go! Play! Be free!” So, rather than presenting the quilts as projects to follow step by step, Sherri shares a “score” for each quilt. The score offers up limits that you can explore as you try different improvisational quilting techniques. The limits you determine can be as simple as the number of fabrics you use in the quilt, the size of the pieces you cut, or the way that you sew those pieces together. To me, the scores give the “project” just enough structure to get you going but allow you enough leeway to do what feels right.

At the Sewn Studio event, Sherri shared many of the techniques she teaches in the book while making an improvisational piece using fabrics brought by the attendees. First she did some ruler-free cutting of fabric strips. Here she’s showing her method of ironing where she softens the seams with steam and then lets them fall in whichever direction they go.

Improv Sherri pressing

After sewing strips, she made some improv triangle blocks. Then it was time to sew the sections together like a patchwork puzzle, looking for ways the sections fit together naturally.

Improv Sherri sewing

We were fortunate in Cincinnati to have one of the contributors to the book on hand. Drew Steinbrecher was very familiar with Sherri’s techniques from her blog, so he helped her with some sewing and showed us some of his quilts using her techniques.

Improv Sherri Drew

Each step of the way, Sherri auditioned fabrics and asked for input from the group.Improv auditioning fabrics

And at the end, this was the piece she/we came up with.Improv final piece

It was fun to watch Sherri in action and to see the enthusiasm she generated in the crowd. I think everyone—myself included—is ready to try our hand at a little improv patchwork.Sherri Christine