improv piecing

Time for PLAY

Triangle Play Improv Quilting

My big Bernina is acting up. It is making me more than a bit frustrated. 1. That is an expensive machine that, for me, has not lived up to the hype. 2. I want to finish quilts and that is my machine for quilting! In an effort to chill out and still be hanging out in the sewing room I pulled out my old machine (which is perfect for piecing), consulted my great big list of quilts under construction, and picked this improv piece to play with.

I checked and it turns out this project was my summer play 2 years ago. And I haven’t done much on it since!

Improv Piecing Solid quilts

As I said in my last post, this summer is low key when it comes to quilting and my business in it. I am encouraging my kids to be free range and PLAY as much as they can. We are swamped in the school year between classes and their chosen activities, life is Capital B Busy. Just like them maybe I need to be putting aside the ‘supposed to’ things and need to play a bit more. Yes, I am swimming and frisbee tossing and bike riding with them, but I mean play for myself.

Yeah, this time is for me to play so that is exactly what I am going to do with these blocks. Unexpected or weird colour combinations. More angles and less angles. Experimenting. Making mistakes and getting creative trying to fix them. Moving my body and brain in ways it isn’t necessarily used to doing but is exactly what it needs. Venturing into the unknown with a sense of adventure and only a little bit of direction.

Play.

Neutral Values Quilt Top

Values Quilt Cheryl Arkison

Woah! Major back pain/sciatic flare up here. I spent last weekend either laying on the floor or rocking on my feet - in between ballet recitals and year end parties. I needed a creative boost. And, frankly, something to do that was distracting. Since I needed to stand a lot I spent some time on the design wall.

You see, this is the nice thing about so many quilts under construction. I needed a set of blocks for some design wall play and was able to pick from a few stacks. I chose a bunch of half square triangles. They started life as sample blocks in my Values class. Always make samples that coordinate and eventually you have enough for a quilt!

neutral values 2.jpg

It was just a stack of random blocks. I asked my sick, bored kid to count the blocks, then I played around with an idea until I could make it work with the blocks I had. In my time on the floor I lay below the design wall to contemplate options. While standing I could move things around and eventually sew here and there. I’m really happy with the way it worked out. It isn’t that big - only 55” square - but for now I’m adding it to the list of quilt tops. But if I teach that class again this coming year I might have more blocks to add to it!

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