"creativity"

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

Solid Triangle Play Quilt Top

solid triangle improv 1.jpg

In a way, it makes perfect sense to finish this quilt as summer ends. Although I started it a few years back, only as a class sample, it symbolizes the play of this past summer. And the stress relief that comes from play.

A bit of a loose plan - the rules of the game:

  1. Each block to be made from only two fabrics.

  2. Fabrics must be high contrast.

  3. Piecing is improvisational.

  4. Use the triangle and the many ways to make it, manipulate it, shape it to piece together the blocks.

That’s it. The rest of it evolved as it went, like kids making up new rules as they play the game. Square up to similar sizes once I’d made a few blocks. Oh look, I like it in rows so it goes in rows now. And then it was big enough and the game was over. Actually, the game was over and I just made it big enough.

(It finishes at about a lap size but I don’t know the actual measurements.)

As I shared the blocks over on Instagram I had some people mention different shapes they saw. How cool, like watching clouds! That completely changed my plan for quilting. For now, though, it gets added to the pile of quilt tops and moves places on the list of quilts under construction. Soon enough.

Solid fabric Improv Piecing

Now, as our brief moment of fall starts to pull back the curtain and as I ready myself and the family for our active schedule I will hang on to this spirit of play for it did me a load of good!

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!

Firefly Quilt Top in Solids

Pattern Drop Firefly Quilt

All 15 fireflies taking flight!

After finishing up my epic scrap quilt last week I needed a break. Not from sewing, mind you. Only a break from little pieces and all those scraps. Like a sorbet course in a very fancy meal I thus turned to my palate cleanser - precision piecing.

Thanks to my handy dandy list of Quilts Under Construction it was easy to pick and locate a project to play with. And when I took out the blocks I had already made I realized I only needed 3 more to finish my top. A few Morning Make sessions and the blocks were all done. A quiet Sunday and the top was assembled!

There is a reason I only made 15 fireflies and left a block blank, I will share that later. If, and when, I get this quilted.

Pattern Drop Firefly Quilt
Pattern Drop Firefly Quilt

Each firefly is unique. I played around with my small stash of solids, going with colour combinations that felt right. There was no regard for colour theory or even a colour story, to be perfectly honest. I would pick three fabrics for the body, sometimes a gradient, sometimes not. Then I would pick a dark for the head and back and a light for the wings. The only really conscious decision was trying not to repeat combinations or colours in each part. For example, in the photo above the two top fireflies have a pale pink and a pale peach for their wings, they aren’t the same colour.

Do you want to hear something else? I’ve never actually seen a firefly before. They aren’t native to around here and I’ve never been somewhere else during firefly season.

That didn’t stop me from trying to have a little glow in each precious bug. The highlight around their bodies is actually Metallic Essex by Robert Kaufman. It almost blends into the regular Essex background, almost. Just enough of a sparkle to me. And I liked the idea of the metallic being woven in as I find most metallic prints fade quite a bit with regular washing.

Cheryl Arkison Firefly quilt

A few things to note:

- The combination of solids and the Essex linens mean there are A LOT of loose threads on the back of the quilt. It will require a thorough going over but I will do this right before I baste it so no more appear in the night.

- It is extraordinarily hard to get a full shot of this quilt when you are taking selfies in the back alley. But hey, at least the lilacs smelled nice.

For those of you wondering, the pattern itself is by Pen and Paper Patterns. It is one of the most detailed patterns I’ve read, I don’t think she forgot a thing! As I am not generally a pattern follower I truly appreciate it when it is so clear, no questions for my improv brain! You can buy it from Pattern Drop, Lindsey Neill designed it exclusively for them. (I was a Pattern Drop designer myself last year.) Here I thought I would make one or two blocks to help promote the pattern and now I have a whole top!