Cirrus Solids Improv Quilt


60'' x 60''

Improv isn't just for wonky cuts and pulling fabric out of a bag. You can start with a shape, precise cuts, and a playful spirit. That's exactly what I did when I started this quilt, oh... almost 3 years ago.

I did have a plan, but when that didn't work I had to figure out something else that would still make a beautiful quilt. There was no way this beautiful fabric was going to waste. It is made from the Cloud 9 Cirrus Solids, their first colour release. It is extremely soft and oh so delicious. Bonus, it is certified organic cotton. So when my initial intention did not work out, I came up with an alternative quilt top.

This is what playing with improv teaches you to do - figure out a solution no matter what. Whether it is running out of background fabric or making a mistake in piecing, whether you simply don't like the way it turned out or you suddenly want to make the quilt bigger, having the spirit of improv means you can come up with a low stress solution. It is about tapping into that ability to embrace the unknown and find a path forward. 

So back to the quilt.

Half Square Triangles Quilt

When I took my mostly random half square triangles and settled on a layout - after a lot of design wall play - the top got pieced and added to the pile of tops in the closet. Periodically I would pet it (that fabric is seriously soft) but that's about it. Fast forward to last month when friends of ours asked if just maybe I had a quilt to donate to a charity event they were hosting. I think my husband answered for me, with the strongest yes ever. Rather than take a finished, and therefore used, quilt from the racks I decided to finish one fresh for them.

I've also learned that for charity donations like this people seem to like quite traditional or quite bold quilts. This one is definitely bold! The other thing I've learned is that while I am generous, I can't be ridiculous with my time. I do have that family/work thing to do. So I went with straight line quilting that actually added some movement plus a cool secondary pattern of an Ohio Star where the lines intersected. I picked a turquoise Aurifil because when any colour will work that is always an excellent choice! It also looked great on the back, one of the first Prints from Rashida Coleman-Hale with Cotton and Steel, Moonlit.

Heather Givans Paper Obsessed Quilt Binding

Binding choice was probably the most difficult. Again, any solid colour would likely do. I was leaning towards hot pink or carrying the turquoise out. Then I spied the perfect fabric peeking out of my stash - a ruled sheet of paper inspired print from Paper Obsessed by Heather Givans (of Crimson Tate fame). It's already on the bias, and the touch of blue and pink is just enough to make it so much more than a solid binding. And thankfully it looked great on the back.

The quilt has already been auctioned off. I'm always a little bit sad that they don't fetch more, but happy that the quilt is going to a loving home. And I met the winning bidder so I know it will be well taken care of. I may however, need to restash some of those Cirrus Solids now.

New Obsession with Tiny Piecing

Improv Cuves for Size

I'm a fan of a big quilt. Always in favour of sewing more to make it bigger I have a hard time making something smaller than 84'' square these days. I have to push myself to go smaller. None of that, however, applies to piecing. The day may have now come where I have to push myself to go larger in piecing, at least for now.

While at QuiltCon East in Savannah last month I had the great joy of taking a tiny piecing class with Chawne Kimber. Mostly, I just wanted to hang out with Chawne for a day. She rocked my world in so many ways!

Small patchwork squares
Tiny Improv Curved quilt blocks

After a demo and short talk about the mechanics of tiny piecing she let us loose. Not one to follow the crowd, I decided I would try my favourite improv curves scaled down. Way down. I started with squares cut anywhere from 1 1/2'' to 2'' big. With scissors I cut a curve and started sewing. 


Not easy, especially on the classroom machines. But also not too difficult. And once I got home and could use my own machine with a smaller foot it got much easier. So much so that I am totally addicted. I can't stop cutting fabric and sewing blocks!

Tiny improv Drunkards Path quilt blocks

To keep from going totally insane and to make a finished pieced more interesting I change up the size of the starting squares. So far, the largest ones cut are in the 3'' range. They seem enormous in comparison. I square up according to what it can be, but the smallest ones are about 1 1/4'' wide. Even though Chawne taught us how to make log cabins and pineapple blocks with 1/8'' finished pieces, I think that is about as small as I can go and still be able to sew them in the first place. 

It takes a lot of work to get to any size when working this small. I break it up to keep from total insanity (although, I may already be there). One day I might cut and sew a bunch of the curves. After the kids go to bed I might press the handfuls of little blocks. With some good music I tackle the tedious job of squaring up, sorting the blocks into piles of different sizes. This, by far, is the part that makes me doubt myself the most. Then it is play time. I took about 4 hours to get this piece together, from ready blocks. It measures about 9'' by 28'' at the moment. 

Tiny impov curve quilt blocks

Another student in the class - a woman who has actually taken an Improv Curves workshop with me - teased me for being so on brand with this. After a good laugh I conceded that she was right. I just like what I like!

Because it is me, I have zero intention of stopping at a wall hanging or even a baby quilt size. Must go larger! For now, I will play with this until I don't want to play anymore. Seeing as this seems to be pulling me out of a funk I don't anticipate boredom anytime soon. 

Amazing what some experimentation and a lot of play can do for the soul.

Kawasaki's Theorem Quilt with Maze and Vale

Kawasaki's Theorem quilt with Maze and Vale

Kawasaki's Theorem 1

28'' x 28''

It's a bold and cocky move to name anything Number 1. It completely implies a series. That's a lot of pressure to put on yourself... if you care that much.

I met never get to Kawasaki's Theorem #2. That's okay. In my head this was just the first round of play though. So maybe, just maybe, there will be more.

This particular quilt started before there was fabric. It was an image in Uppercase Magazine, an issue on paper. The image is actually about a paper folding and angles. There is a formula and everything. It was the image that illustrates the theorem that got me though. It immediately screamed quilt block. I sketched up some repeats for fun, then dated and parked the idea.

Kawasaki's Theorem Uppercase Magazine

When in Australia I had the great chance to take a private silk screening class with Leslie from Maze and Vale. Rather than use her screens she encouraged us to create our own stencil. I pulled out my ever present sketchbook to see if anything struck me as a possibility. My Kawasaki's Theorem sketches were there and my brain was broken for any other ideas so I went with it.  We printed fabric and went on our merry way. 

Then I had the idea to go very meta with my fabric. Sometimes I can be rather cheesy. I designed a block based on the theorem and used the fabric in the block. Then I made a few more. And then, as I contemplated my quilting plan, I extended the design there and quilted it to reflect the theorem as well. I am a total nerd.

Kawasaki's Theorem Uppercase Magazine Maze and Vale

Who knows if Number 2 and 3 in the series will ever get made, but there are sketches. If not, the play is still totally worth it. It is in the play that new ideas grow, techniques get better, and the joy is found.


Lilla Pattern Launch

Lilla Quilt Lotta Jansdotter


90'' x 90''

Lilla is a collaboration between myself and Lotta Jansdotter. It is also a pattern available from C&T, launched this week.

Last year C&T approached me with the idea of working with Lotta on a pattern. I hesitated for a split second then agreed. Hesitated only because of timing, but I didn't want to turn down the opportunity to work with an artist and person I truly admire. So Lotta and I started emailing.

While it would have been fantastic to visit her in her Brooklyn studio or have her come out for some Prairie and Mountain air, we had to settle for the back and forth of online collaboration. She chose the fabrics we would work with - a selection from her soon to arrive collection, Lilla. We discussed style of quilt - medallion versus block based, improv versus precision, pieced versus applique, scale of piecing, and so much more. Lotta sent me some inspiration images, I made sketches. My job was ultimately to translate her ideas into workable quilt patterns. It was up to me to interpret her inspiration for the home quilter.

Lotta Jansdotter Inspiration

One of my favourite moments was when I opened up my email with this image in it. Lotta made some paper cut shapes. Up until this point we'd been going back and forth with little progress on something feasible for a quilt or a quilt that she liked. But these images! I went straight to my sewing machine to play, instead of sketching. Soon after we had a workable design. 

I really tried to take the organic nature of Lotta's work and translate it to the need for blocks to lay flat. Her shapes lent themselves well to some basic improv techniques, thankfully. Combining those with some precision piecing creates a challenging and graphic quilt.

The pattern itself lays out the techniques as a whole and then instructions for 25 different blocks. Yes, 25 blocks. As presented the quilt is queen size, but the pattern includes a baby size option. Make 1 of the blocks many times over or make all 25 four times over or make each one only once. It's entirely up to you, but the pattern includes it all. It also includes specific fabric notes to make it with Lotta's Lilla fabric as we designed it, but feel free to go on your own.  

I've made another version of the quilt, with totally different fabrics. It changes it up! Watch for that soon. 

In the end I am so glad I didn't let the time factor get in the way of this great experience. Sure, it was a rush as I frantically finished just before I had to leave to Australia. Thank you to Bernadette at Wonderfil for guiding me through the quilting. The experience of collaboration was worth it. It presents a creative challenge, for sure, but that's a good thing. It gets me outside of myself and the insular world of my own creations. On to the next one!

Pattern now available from C&T, or ask for it at you local quilt shop.