improv piecing

Plus Size - Scrap Quilt Extraordinaire

Scrap Quilt Values Plus Cheryl Arkison

Plus Size

96” x 96”

When you get the kids involved in the quilt photo shoot there will always be a Dab. There were a few other moves, if I’m being perfectly honest. Good for laughs, and fun photos.

Finished the binding on this massive quilt recently. It took me a few weeks to get it done due to that whole chronic pain thing and a desire to not sit much. And this is definitely one of those instances where I didn’t quite appreciate just how big of a quilt I was making!

Values Plus Quilt Cheryl Arkison

The entire quilt started with me walking the walk, instead of just talking. An IKEA bag full of scraps that needed to be sorted combined with a few sample blocks. An obsession with making blocks and dealing with all those scraps later and I have a finished quilt. Well, a few more steps in there. But funny how as soon as you finish the quilt your forget all the steps that got you there!

Of course, it helped that I had someone else quilt it for me! When I finished the top my local friend asked if she could work on it. Um, yes! I made up a back with some multicolour prints in my stash and dropped it off. The good thing about a scrappy quilt like this is that an all over design is absolutely perfect. With so much going on in piecing and prints you won’t see the quilting. Well, unless the sun is directly shining on it! Lee picked this great modified paisley. I’m a girl who likes contrast so I really like it against the angular piecing.

All over long arm quilting Quilting By Lee
Pieced Binding Cheryl Arkison

Initially I was going to do a black binding. Too harsh in this case against all the prints. Then I was going to do a black and white stripe but I after tearing apart my stash for the one I had in mind I remembered that I used it on the back! In the end I went with a grey from my Tag fabric collection. The text is written on the bias so it makes a perfect binding. To keep it from being too boring I pieced in other colours where there was grey on the edge of the quilt.

The name - like many of my quilts - has a double meaning. Triple, actually. 1. The blocks are based on a class I teach called Values Plus. 2. I like the double pluses - using the plus blocks to make colour block pluses. 3. Today was a fat day. Hey, we all have them. And when I was lamenting my plus size body I saw the quilt and it made me smile. My body is real, and this quilt is Plus Size.

Plus Size Quilt

Sewing Scraps with Chronic Pain

Log Cabin Scrap Quilt

For months I could only sew standing up so I would be in the sewing room at 3 am, hoping for relief. Beats letting the insomnia and pain wreak havoc on my brain. Full confession, I generally sleep without pajamas. This means I might find myself in the nude sewing away. I know, I’m weird, I embrace it. So one night I am in there - pain high but feeling some mental relief as I make little log cabins. I did not hear anything but the snip of the scissors and whirr of the stitching. Which means I did not hear my husband come into the room. To be fair, he was checking on me after waking up and not finding me in bed. But at that moment I completely startled. He should be thankful I dropped the scissors out of my hand on the cutting table before I turned around. I may have screamed too.

And that is how quilts get made in my world.

Log Cabin Improv Quilts

Anyone who has worked on scrap quilts before knows how the scraps multiply in the night, like gremlins. You think you’ve made a dent in them but no.

It’s also how I’ve come to refer to my chronic pain: there are Gremlins living in my lower back. When they feel extra precocious they travel down my leg. And yes, some times they multiply at night.

This particular quilt is one I distinctly associate with my pain. I started it a year ago, which is also when my pain started. Not a coincidence. But it is also one that has given me tremendous relief, both physical and mental. Whether it is sewing naked in the middle of the night or my standard morning make, the relief has been palpable when working on this quilt.

I’m not sure people understand the toll on our mental health when chronic pain or illness are in the picture. While I have general anxiety and the odd panic attack, my mental health is generally okay. Nothing to really worry about on the whole. I do think that my Morning Make has a huge impact on that. A regular practice of self care does wonders, as does the benefit of being completely present in something. That is, it all worked well until I started living with the pain.

Improv Log Cabins

Those same gremlins often feel like added weight when I am just trying to hold on to a cliff’s edge, making it harder to hang on or even preventing me from pulling myself up. I’ve cried and yelled more this past year, I’m definitely angrier. I won’t lie, some days are truly awful. If it didn’t hurt to lay down I wouldn’t get out of bed those days. Maybe, in that way, the way the pain is ends up being a blessing? I’m not going to walk around the neighbourhood in the middle of the night, but I can sew. So physical and mental health topped up at 3 am. That’s the way, at this point, I choose to look at it.

Depression is very real and quite debilitating for many, many people. I’m extremely thankful that I’ve had bad days and even weeks on end where it feels like that Bill Murray movie, Goundhog Day. Over and over again the same crap. That being said, I manage to keep myself going. Walking the dog and sewing. Getting outside and creating. Deep breath, we can do this. At least this week I can.

At the end of the day, too, you have to laugh. When my husband scared me that night he walked into a strange scene for sure. He alerted me to his presence with a “what the hell are you doing?” which was a valid question as I sewed naked at 3 am. And then we laughed. Belly laughs with all their jiggles in this situation. And for that brief moment the gremlins fell off my back.

Scrap Quilts



Improv Curves - Scrappy Versus Scrap

Improv Curves Color Girl Quilts

I knew there was a reason I couldn’t throw away the scraps.

There I was, playing around and making this improv curve quilt. It was completely inspired by a very precise pattern by Sharon at Color Girl Quilts (Indigo). But the way I chose to make it meant then I was left with a lot of cut out curves. They matched and all, but they weren’t needed for the quilt I was then making.

Rather than toss them aside to get jumbled or lost I kept the pairs of pie and crust together then sewed them up when everything else was done. Then they got tossed aside and nearly jumbled and lost.

A few weeks ago I was in the mood to finish something. I was also in the mood for some design wall play. With zero plan for these scrap curves I started playing. For a few evenings I arranged and rearranged. Some layouts were too much like the original. One was, ahem, a little too lady-like. I had flowers and other things up there too. In the end I settled on the one that - at first - felt too predictable. But that first instinct proved the best. It used up all but 9 of the blocks and I am thrilled with the results.

Improv Curves

When I went to take the photo I discovered a very interesting thing - the scrap quilt was bigger than the original! Side by side they relate by way of colour scheme and the improv curves, but they are too very different quilts! One fundamental difference, however, is that I would call the first quilt scrappy, while the second is a scrap quilt. That is, the first one has multiple fabrics, all chosen deliberately. The second one was me working with what I was handed in scraps. It might be a subtle or even a semantic difference, but there is a difference.

Side note: The difference between scrappy and scrap is one of my new truck shows!

These now get added to the pile of quilt tops. No matter when they eventually get quilted though, I think they will have to go to a certain pair of sisters that lives in my house.

Improv Curves Color Girl Quilts


Binding Scraps - Amanda Jean Made Me Do It

Scrap Quilts with Triangles

Amanda Jean Made Me Do It

50’’ x 60’’

Those little triangles you cut off when joining strips for binding or Jelly Roll Race quilts? Do not throw them away!! Keep them for years and years and then you can make this quilt.

Years ago, when I was writing Sunday Morning Quilts with Amanda Jean Nyberg she convinced me to start saving those little triangles. Until then I confess that I was throwing them out. Fast forward a few years and her next book, No Scrap Left Behind, has a delicious pattern for all those little triangles!

It can be daunting when working with So. Many. Small pieces at once. Generally, I would recommend having this be an ongoing project. A little bit here and there or maybe using them as leaders and enders. I ended up doing nothing but this project for a few weeks, at least to get the top done. It nearly killed me. Tedious, to say the least. But the end result was fantastic!! The top needed to sit a little while though, to muster up the steam to see it again.

My recent desire to finish things though brought this quilt up again. I actually had the back made a long time ago too, a request from my oldest, The Monster. At a time when she was feeling down she asked me if I ever made something as a reminder that life can get better? Until then, I had not. Now we have this two sided quilt for the rough days.

It Gets Better

It wasn’t too bad to quilt it, even with all the seams. I lifted up the presser foot a bit and dove in with an angular meander. On a scrappy quilt like this you aren’t going to see much in the way of quilting so something all over is perfect. Any colour thread would do as well, so I picked a favourite turquoise variegated from Wonderfil. It worked perfectly.

For those of you that also follow me on Instagram I had a fun time getting help with binding choices. Usually I know exactly what I want to do but this time I was torn. So I put the top choices out to the world. It was really interesting to see what other people thought too. In the end I chose away from my norm. I typically go for a high contrast binding. This time I went for something that blended. I think it was the perfect choice.

Quilt Binding Samarra Khaja

And now I’ve finished two quilts already this year. That is already more than last year, I think!