Lilla Quilt - a Testing Version Comes to Life

Lilla Quilt Improv Quilt Pattern

Testing, Testing

45'' x 45''

About 18 months ago I started working with Lotta Jansdotter on the Lilla quilt pattern. We wanted to time it so a pattern came out when her Lilla fabric line was launching. You can read more about the process here. Before I made anything with Lotta's fabric though I needed to test out the block designs and instructions.

How many of you have stacks of selected fabrics? Colour inspiration hits and you pull fabrics. Then the piles sit there until time or secondary inspiration suddenly appears. Well, when I needed to test the blocks I pulled one of those stacks at random. This particular one was chartreuse and navy, inspired by an outfit Lady Edith was wearing on Downton Abbey once. But as I made more blocks the chartreuse collection of fabric was clearly not going to be enough so I picked peach to play along.

As we tested I had to take pictures in greyscale so colour did not cloud our judgement. Always a useful step, no matter the project.  Once we were happy with all the blocks - some got swapped out at this point, I think I designed about 30 in total - I went straight to making them in Lotta's fabric. And the test blocks were set aside.

Improvisational quilt pattern Lilla Quilt

A few months ago I remembered the blocks and decided to put them all together. More accurately, I found the pile of blocks under a bunch of other stuff and suddenly remembered that they could be a quilt.

You see, the Lilla quilt pattern provides 25 different block patterns. The cover quilt on the pattern uses all 25 four times over. My version here uses each one once only. Queen size versus baby. Of course, you could only use a handful of the patterns instead of all of them too.

Then the quilt sat, basted, for a couple of months. I started the quilting, but it wasn't quite right. Neither was my machine. So I ripped and repaired the machine. Then, two weeks ago, I was looking at a photo of Lotta's original paper cuts that started us down this design path. Ah ha!! Quilting inspiration. A couple of Morning Make sessions later and the quilting was done.

The binding is this great Cotton and Steel. It happened to be sitting in a pile of fabric for another project, but it was too perfect here. And it matches the back perfectly, a piece of Anna Maria Horner's Loominous fabric. 

Cotton and Steel Lotta Jansdotter

In all my years quilting I will fully admit to having a hard time following patterns. But once you start writing them you see things differently. Suddenly you get excited at the possibilities. No one says you have to make it exactly the way it was written, or the way the pattern cover shows. I think it is fantastic to see these two quilts side by side, to see the differences. And I made them both.

The Lilla pattern is a mix between improv and precision piecing. It provides guidelines for the improv work and walks you through it. If you are new to improv, this is a great introduction. There is just enough precision piecing to provide order to those who crave that too. Don't like a block design? Don't make it! Love one particular one? Make 30 of them. There is so much freedom of expression in this pattern. 

Loominous fabric Anna Maria Horner

Pattern available wholesale and retail through C&T Publishing.




The Truth Behind Morning Make

morning make Lilla Quilt Improv Quilting

My alarm went off this morning precisely 7 hours and 1 minute after I got in to bed. I did not jump out of bed. I lingered, staring into the mostly dark, listening to my husband breathe. For at least two minutes I debated rolling over and going back to sleep. For another two minutes I wondered if I should go to the gym instead of sewing. And for two minutes more I stretched out my arm with the tennis elbow. Then I got out of bed.

In my PJs I shuffled to the sewing room. My dog is sick so I hugged the wall in case he'd pooped in the basement again overnight. (He didn't, but if he did I needed some sewing before I dealt with that.) I clicked on the machine and turned on both the design wall lights and the overhead lights. Normally I don't make it so bright because, damn, it's first thing in the morning, but I am machine quilting so it helps. I settled on my pillows and set to finishing the stitches on this particular quilt. 

I've been thinking about my Morning Make practice lately and how much it is saving lives. Mine and those of the people around me. Okay, so that's melodramatic. Morning Make is definitely changing lives though. I first wrote about it in May of last year. I'm amazed at what it has done for me since then.

Life came at us hard once September hit. Like any other family it is the daily barrage of school lunches, playdates, sports, homework, drama, driving here and there, work, and moments of glory, beauty, and snuggles. It's exhausting and most days I feel like the only time I sit down is in the car and then the kids are all talking and nothing is silent or calming about traffic. Add to that family drama,  a bountiful harvest, and financial stress and life is like the peach tree done for the year - all the promise and the lingering sweetness, but ready for a good long rest. 

Despite all that, or maybe to spite it, I am committed to my Morning Make. Some days it is 10 minutes of random piecing of scraps, others it is machine quilting. Some times I take an hour to write. If the kids get up early I sketch and colour with them. The phone, as always stays on the nightstand. The computer does not get opened. I use my hands, my feet, my heart, my brain to do, to be. I create before I consume.

Morning Make Values Quilts Cheryl Arkison

The reason Morning Make is saving lives is two fold. One, most days that is the only time I get to actually be consciously creative. The whole day is a juggle and even making your bed or dinner can be considered creative acts. Yes, even those. You have choices to make and hopefully the end result is somewhere between passable and beautiful. That counts as creativity. If I've started the day with a creative act, a dedicated moment where I did the thing that gives me so much joy and peace, then I've set up my mood for the whole day. And when Mama is calmer we all have a better day. No to mention I won't be cranky or frustrated quite so much when I elect to watch the Daily Show when my day is finally done instead of heading in to the sewing room.

Two, Morning Make has turned in to a daily practice. From what I understand what I do is very similar in practice and impacts as a meditation practice. It is about being present, with no outside influences. I focus on the task in front of me and that is all. Just rather than that focus being on breathing, a mantra, or a particular thought, it is on the creative act I am doing right then. It is focused concentration. The more you do that, the more the benefits extend to the rest of your life. That's why meditation is so strongly recommended for anxiety and even problem behavours in children.

Beyond these two amazing benefits, Morning Make has made me far more productive. In terms of sewing I am getting things done. A little each day goes a long way! That ability to be more present in what I am doing also means I waste less time when I am doing things. I can stay off social media, avoid click bait, and process the news in smaller chunks. So the little time I have for all the things means it is getting used well.

In no particular order, these are quilts or quilt tops I've finished via Morning Make:

Improvisational Picing Small Piecing Cheryl Arkison

The icing on the cake is quite literally, the creative energy. Not just the making of things, but the fuelling up I get from this daily practice. This is my time to play, explore, improvise. Zero expectation for what I do, only some time to try. Creativity begets creativity. I get a million more ideas, I see things differently, I want to try more, do more. 

So today I finished quilting that quilt. Then I went about my day of momming, part time work, cake baking, driving, and all the rest. And not once did I have a temper tantrum or even say something snarky. I totally give credit to Morning Make for that!

Tonight I will put out some fabric. I will set my alarm for 7 hours and 1 minute after I get into bed. When I wake up in the morning I will breathe and stretch and make. 

For practical tips and more about Morning Make check out this piece on the Craft Industry Alliance blog

Shiver of Sharks - Quilt Top Complete

Shark Quilt Improvised Piecing Improv Quilting

The Shiver of sharks is complete!

I could have kept making these blocks. Highly addictive and so easy. Not to mention that it was terribly fun to play with the colours of the background. I could have bought all the blues, turquoises, teals, and greens from all the solid manufacturers and had a lot of fun laying it out. Alas, at some point you either run out of fabric or the quilt is getting rather large. It was a bit of both.

My daughter still sees orcas...

This is definitely at the top of the quilt top queue for finishing as well. Just yesterday I was at a party and doodled potential quilting designs on the paper topped tables. I'm sure people thought I was strange. 

Well, I made a quilt of sharks, so yeah, I acccept that.

Cirrus Solids Cloud Nine Fabrics Kona Cotton Ombre Fabric

Tag Fabric + Improv Applique = Fun

Improv Applique Kona Cotton Tag Fabric Connecting Threads

Seriously, I might just call this quilt Fun. It's nothing precious and doesn't take itself too seriously. It was just some play time that resulted in a finished quilt top - shocking!

I started with a bundle of mini charms of my Tag fabric. It was one left over from a guild trunk show where I gave them away. I also happened to have a bundle of Kona Cotton charm squares. One day they landed on the table together. It happened that that day I was sheduled to teach Improv Applique. So I grabbed to two bundles and they became friends. And well, you know me, I don't like mini quilts all that much so I couldn't very well just sew 20 charms together and call it a day. So the solids got attacked by the scissors too and then those got sewn to more Tag Fabric.

True confession: there was intense debate with my daughter about what shapes I should cut. She said the initial shapes I cut out of the mini charms reminded her of Alberta so the other ones should have been too. I argued that it would get too meta, even for me. So now we have gems/envelopes/whatever you might see. 

That's the joy of Improv Applique. Take some scissors to the fabric and see what happens!

Improv Applique Kona Cottons Tag Fabric