Sherri Lynn Wood wrote a fantastic book called The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. I originally received this book when I had stepped down from my full time position. The ideals in the book, about letting go and using what you have really spoke to me in a quite scary, changing time of my life. I really wanted to try improv and see how it felt. But of course I had a major convention to build product for and then catching up on orders and the book sat lovingly on my shelf. Then the Central Florida MQG was very welcoming in extending seats for a class they had with Sherri Lynn Wood on Modern Improv, to our Tampa MQG. I jumped at the chance!
I had read in her book that she began classes with a centering exercise and silence. I have a very difficult time sitting still and doing absolutely nothing. This was quite difficult. Especially since my mom was aacross form me and if we opened our eyes knew we would start laughing. But it lead me time to consider which fabric I was going to use. Since with the class being improv, I had no idea what we were making! Or what I should bring. So I brought three stacks of fabric collections. During the centering exercise I had decided upon my bright green and blue leftovers from a previous jaybird quilt.
For this specific class, we were doing her Modern Block Improv score. You take a known quilt block and alter, change it with each creation. You do not use rulers! This was difficult, I will admit I used rulers when I got home. But I did keep it crooked! I just wanted that hard edge. For her example, Sherri Lynn demonstrated with a flying geese block and how to change it up. Most of the class chose the flying geese. I do not like to be like most people! I chose the Quilty Cross.
I started with two perfect crosses. Then I changed it up with fabric selections, thickness of the cross, angle of the cross, and then size of the block. During the day I made 40 block units of crosses. Now the class was split really well in terms of the morning session you are making the block units. In the afternoon session you are composing the quilt top. I had so much fun making blocks, I just kept making them in the afternoon instead of composing.
When I returned home, I just had to keep going with the project. I used my design wall to start composing the quilt. At class I was afraid of the quilt becoming a crazy quilt, not an improv quilt. Improv is about making choices, limiting your work, not about being random. Sherri Lynn suggested making relationships between the blocks based on color. Color of the cross and then color of the block. This way I could create paths from the crosses into the next block. Or have the print bleed into the next block when placed next together. That suggestion really helped me. I really enjoyed composing and finding ways for the blocks to extend into the next. I even know how I want to quilt it, which is rare. And who knows when that will actually happen.
I really enjoyed this process but actually felt the cross hindering me. I was afraid to lose the ‘cross shape’. A good extension would be to do a few blocks with a single cut, not cross. But I was not ready for that on this quilt. Hopefully the next I will be. For the next improv quilt I will try her Score #1, the floating squares. I really enjoyed improv, and want to continue it. But alas, the same problem from the summer. I must prepare for my next convention! But I cannot wait to quilt again!