improv quilts

Improv Quilts Can Be Precisely Pieced

Stars BOM Quilt

Sometimes I just get in the mood for some precision piecing. Actually, it was more that I needed the distraction that comes with the need to focus when precision piecing.

The first of these blocks was probably made a decade or so ago. It was part of a BOM I found online called Constellations. I think I did the first 3 months and then never looked at or saw it again. Years back I tried to find the pattern to finish it because it was quite good, but never located it. Now and then - about once every year or two - I would pick a star block pattern I could find and make another block. I didn’t have to recreate the original quilt, after all! No plan, no rush though.

This is actually improvisational quilting. Yes, even though I am doing precision piecing. I define it as improv because I have no idea where I will end up. Improv = starting without knowing where you will end.

But this past week of dealing with stress and needing a different kind of break with my quilting brought out these blocks, and a path forward.

  • 36 blocks needed

  • 3 blocks of each star pattern

  • Add more variation in the shapes of the stars for remaining blocks.

So I am digging through the scrap bins and raiding the stash for more combinations of fabrics, playing with the original colour scheme I started. I cut a block or two at night, to be ready for my Morning Make. And I’ve picked out patterns for the two new sets of three blocks I need to make to get up to 36 stars in total.

It’s exactly what I need right now.

Star Quilt

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.

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



Make Waves Quilt Top and Vacation Dreams

make waves quilt top 1.jpg

My obsession with this quilt is strong. From a random suggestion in a phone call to a live online quilting class to this. If I had a long arm or a clean floor this one would already be in the quilting phase.

It started with the planning for The Thursday Club with Marisa Anne Cummings. I’ve known Marisa for years and we were chatting about the class I would teach with her. She said something about the water and I quickly sketched a block. When I went to test the design it worked exactly as I sketched. Well, after we filmed the class - which you can still catch - I became obsessed with making more an more blocks. For me, this is normal.

Make Waves Thursday Club by Marisa
Make Waves Quilt Thursday Club by Marisa

It made a dent in both my scraps and stash as I searched for all the colours of all the prints. I didn’t want too much repetition so it was a deep dive in to the fabric closet.

On a related note, I am thinking of a new class on using prints in your quilts. Thoughts?

It took me a bit to come to the final layout. You can read more about that design wall play. Some days I only moved two blocks. It had to be just right. And now it is. It makes me think of sunsets at the beach. Or sunrises. Take your pick. But it has me all dreamy for sand and the crash of the waves and a Tequila Sunrise. So basically, it is a vacation in a quilt.

Alas, it is heavy competition season for my girls and we are at the pool, not the beach. And I make them help me take quilt photos after practice.

Thursday Club Make Waves Quilt

And you can still catch the class if you want to make your own sunset or just like the block. It comes together quickly and by the end of one block you will be the master of improv curves! Catch it here.