May 11, 2015

Wild Geese: Improvisational quilting with Sherri Lynn Woods (and book giveaway)


I'm delighted to be a stop on the blog tour for Sherri Lynn Wood's new book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.  I was one of the quilters who volunteered to follow an improv "score" assigned by Sherri, so that she could illustrate the range of quilts that could result from the same underlying guidelines.  165 quilts were submitted and 22 accepted; I'm delighted that mine made it in!  In this post, I'll describe the process through which I came to the final composition, talk about what I learned through the process, review Sherri's book, and, last but not least, offer a giveaway of the book to a lucky reader.

The score that I was assigned is called "Modern Block Improv."  The basic idea of this score is to take a traditional block--here Flying Geese--and to work with it improvisationally.   My finished quilt: 
"Wild Geese" (38 x 40")

I had taken a class from Sherri at QuiltCon in 2013, and the class had focused on the same idea of starting from a traditional block.  In that case, we had been asked to come to the class having chosen a block that we wanted to work with.  I had chosen "Rail Fence," and really enjoyed the process of discovering totally new directions from the focused improvisation.  You can see posts on the workshop and later work based on that here, here, and here.

For the flying geese project, I began by trying out a number of variations on the block.  I found doing improv with triangles quite a bit more challenging than the rectangles I'd used before (in working with Rail Fence, and also Log Cabin)--but that also meant some interesting surprises.  The photo below shows the earliest versions at the top (two normal flying geese blocks, but cut by eye rather than by measuring), and the later versions below that.  I was glad I tried out a variation with curved "triangles," but they didn't end up in the quilt.  One side effect of improv piecing--quite a few experimental blocks end up in the scrap bin.


After I had a stock of blocks, I played around with juxtaposing them.  Really interesting shapes can develop.


I find making the array of blocks, trying out one thing after another, to be a very playful activity; the really hard work comes when trying to put the blocks together into a composition.  Without a set pattern to follow, there are so many possibilities.  I found it important to continually and consciously keep design principles in mind as I moved the blocks around the design wall--e.g., line, shape, color, balance, asymmetry.  (Value and texture didn't come into play  here, because of my decision early on to use only red and white.)


The traditional flying geese block lends itself to be organized in rows, either in a border or in the whole quilt; you can see an array of such uses in this Google image search.  I wanted to reference that traditional layout in my quilt, but not to make it the central design feature.  In this first pass at making a composition, I put a row of traditional blocks in a column on the left side of the quilt, and some version of that stayed through to the end.


It bothered me that I could see a cat's face in the composition:  two white ears and a chin.  Improved by taking out the "chin" and simplifying the center of the quilt:


Better yet--I like the addition of more red, including reversing the colors of the flying geese blocks in the bottom left:


The version above was sandwiched, and I was about to start the quilting the finished top.  But the two large vertical triangles that had previously bothered me as "ears," now bothered me as "mountains."  The human mind sometimes fights against abstraction!  Rather than undo a lot of the piecing and trying to insert new sections, I decided to use applique to change that area of the design by sewing other pieces of fabric over the composition.  It worked--once the quilt was quilted, even I can't find the spots that were appliqued unless I compare the photos.  The final composition:


Deciding on the quilting was another challenge.  I wanted to quilt white on white and red on red, which meant a lot of starting and stopping as I sewed.  I also wanted to change quilting designs in the various areas of the quilt.  I tried out a number of designs with pencil and paper, many of which were included in the quilt:


I love how the back of the quilt has it's own design, as a result of the red quilting showing through on the white back:



I definitely recommend Sherri Lynn Wood's book to anyone who is interested in improvisational quilting, either trying it out for the first time, or looking to extend the ways in which you already use improvisation.  Take a "look inside" on the Amazon listing to see the table of contents and sample pages.  One of the main sections of the book are the ten quilt Scores, which will guide you through a variety of strategies for improvisation, and another main section is on "Patchwork Techniques" that are used in one or more of the scores, techniques that are helpful no matter how you incorporate improvisation into your quilting.  I'm looking forward to trying out more of the scores, starting with Patchwork Doodle, Layered Curve, and Showing Up.

I'm happy to be able to offer a copy of the book to one of my readers--just leave a comment by Friday, May 15, and I'll choose one person at random to receive the book--U.S. residents only.  Please be sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.

I'd encourage you to check out other stops on the blog tour.  A number of them show or give a link to all the quilts submitted for a particular score, so you'll see a wider range than the ones published in the book.  May 13 will show the quilts for the "Modern Block Improv" score that I did for my quilt.

May 2Sew Mama Sew – Score for Floating Squares Gallery
May 4 STC Craft – Score for Rhythmic Grid Gallery
May 4Plaid Portico – Score for Strings Gallery
May 6During Quiet Time – Test Quilter Amy Friend – GIVEAWAY through May 10
May 8Wise Craft Handmade – Score for Get Your Curve On Gallery
May 11Studio Notes – Test Quilter Penny Gold – GIVEAWAY through May 15
May 13Quiltville – Score for Modern Block Improv Gallery
May 15Peppermint Pinwheels – Test Quilter Stacey Sharman
May 18Quirky Quilts – Test Quilter Kim McPeake
May 20PoppyPrintCreates – Score for Patchwork Doodle Gallery
May 22The Last Piece – Test Quilter Sara Fielke
May 25Cauchy Complete – Score for Layered Curves Gallery
May 26Diary of a Quilter – Score for Bias Strip Petals Gallery
May 28Getting Stitched on the Farm –Score for Improv Round Robin Gallery
May 29Spoonflower – Score for Showing Up Gallery
May 30Fresh Modern Quilts – Test Quilter Rossie Hutchinson












60 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading about your process on this quilt - it is a beautiful quilt.

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  2. Inspiring as always!!!! I love reading about your process.

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  3. I liked your use of the flying geese and the red white.
    karls256@att.net

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  4. It looks like you had a lot fun making this quilt. I love the impact of using just red and white!

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  5. Isn't it wonderful to see such refreshing colors and designs that represent our times! Beautiful as always!

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  6. The two-color improv looks great! Thanks for the insight into your process.

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  7. What a fun way to do improv with the geese block and I love the 2 color.

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  8. The great explanation of your process only makes me that much more interested in this book. It reminds me so much of Gwen Marston's liberated quilting. I'm so thrilled that her legacy is being carried on and expanded upon by the Modern Quilting movement. Charlotta 58 at gmail dot com

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  9. HI, what an interesting post!
    Thanks for sharing!
    msstitcher1214@gmail.com

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  10. Wasn't Mommy's Scotty dog quilt just red and white, too? Yours is such fun to look at! Well done!

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  11. Love your focused improv. It is so much fun to see what everyone has done.

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  12. So exciting to see flying geese improvised!

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  13. Love this book! Your quilt is just incredible. It's great to see flying geese in an improv. setting!

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  14. Beautifully done quilt . I don't generally use a pattern when I quilt. Whatever the Lord drops in my spirit it what I make. I have issues following patterns. But my quilts are very pretty and turn our very well.
    It would be very nice to win the book. Happy quilting
    Lorij

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  16. I simply love this quilt, keep up the good work. lemonade56@verizon.net.

    Annette

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  17. Wow - I love seeing the process of it going together!!!

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  18. I love red & white quilts and this is an amazing improv. The odd shaped edges adds so much interest to the quilt.

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  19. I really love being able to take a block and make it my "own"! Letting creativity run wild!!! medic4666@gmail.com

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  20. Improv doesn't come easy to me at all so I enjoyed reading through your process. It is hard to "erase" an image once you see something in a composition like the cat ears or mountains. You solved it beautifully though. Would love to win this book and give improv a serious try.

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  21. Red and white quilts are always so pretty whether traditional or modern!

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  22. I'm so interested in this, and would love a copy of the book. Your red and white abstract take on flying geese is fabulous!

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  23. Improv piecing is challenging for me and I think this book could help push me out of my comfort zone. It looks like fun!

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  24. Love this way of making the geese!

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  25. Love the way you created this quilt....fascinating. Thanks for the giveaway chance! akronne17@gmail.com

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  27. Thanks for sharing your process. The projects in thus book are exciting and I can't wait to try them.

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  28. Wow! Really need to give this a try. Love the backside detail on your quilt- so glad you gave us a peek!

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  29. Wow... thought process as to why instead of just how...I love it!

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  30. Thank you for sharing your step by step process. I'm going to go outside of my box and try improv!

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  31. Your quilt is amazing, love the red & white.
    Rose
    drclearwaters@rcetronics.com

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  32. I loved reading about your process. Those two white triangles next to each other were bothering me too! And I LOVE how the quilting looks on the back! mcglen8 at gmail dot com

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  33. I like the flying geese block you made. I know this would take me beyond the boundaries I've let myself stay in. Thanks for the great review and the opportunity.

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  34. I would love to have a copy of this book.

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  35. Love the red and white! This book looks like so much fun- thanks for the chance to win! Sarah: crjandsbj(at)netzero(dot)com

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  36. What an amazing metamorphosis of a flying geese block in your quilt. Using only two colors just emphasizes the shapes! I would love to study the whole book. Thanks for sharing��

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  37. I've never done improv. I like the way you played with the flying geese blocks though. Makes me want to give it a try! Thanks for the inspiration.

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  38. Improv is scary and this book looks like it would give the guidance I need to not worry about wasting my beautiful fabrics!!! Love every quilt I've seen in it!

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  39. Such a long road but a beautiful quilt in the end. I will need to read this book.

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  40. I'd love to try some improv ideas! The flying geese block is great!
    nikilsend(at)outlook(dot)com

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  41. A fascinating look into your creative mind! The book looks so inspirational!

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  42. Beautiful quilt loved reading about the quilting process.
    ketchh@gmail.com

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  43. I love this quilt!
    I wish I could enter the giveaway but I'm in the UK!!

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  44. Interesting to follow the steps in your process.

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  45. I NEED this!!
    lag110 at mchsi dot com

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  46. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your process. I do some of the same things, but not in such an organized way. I am looking forward to getting this book for the push to my creativity.
    quiltschon@att.net

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  47. Thanks for the chance to win! Liked reading your thoughts...

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  48. What a wonderful post on your processes! I am a traditional quilter who admires the improv style. This book would really give me the inspiration to take that improv leap!

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  49. Thanks for showing how you used the book ideas to create something so fun. Thanks for the
    giveaway.

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  51. i just love your quilt...ive looked at my local library copy of the book, definitely one i want to own! thanks for a chance krousegirl2 aol

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  52. Your quilt tuned out really cute! I enjoyed reading about the steps you took to create it. Thanks! cknapp3626@sbcglobal.net

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  53. I definitely want this book in my collection. I love what you did with the flying geese.

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  54. Loved reading about your process and seeing this in Quiltcon

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  55. What an amazing review and beautiful quilt. I'm intrigued with using the word score and want to learn more. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  56. I love your quilt--red and white quilts hearken back to traditional, and yet yours has such modern energy, too. Thanks for the chance to enter the giveaway. I have a lot to learn about letting go and going "improv".

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  57. I came across your blog via the Pixeladies course starting today. I'm not a quilter and can only stand in awe at the stitching and the whole technical business of the thing! I especially love the geometric shapes and the contrast in your quilt. Really looking forward to seeing what you do on the PSE course ...

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  58. I love flying geese and I love red and white quilts. Beautiful.

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