Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters - a Review & Giveaway

Now here's a book I can get behind. And beside, and into. Sherri Lynn Wood's Improv Handbook is just that: a handbook. This is the most inspiring, informative and useful book I have in my quilting library. Honestly. I'm going to try and explain why without writing a novel (because I could, but I know you probably have other things to do today).

Regular readers of Poppyprint know that I've been quilting for 15 years. I learned in workshops at my LQS and later, through my guilds.  I have taken, and taught, many, many workshops.  In the past, I have described myself as a 'schooled' quilter, meaning I learned from experienced sewists/quilters who taught me technique and skills towards making a defined pattern/block/quilt in a prescribed way.  Over the past two years, I've moved towards exploring creative ideas beyond simply selecting fabrics for a pattern. I really feel like my technical confidence has come far enough to let me explore creating in a new way instead of just following a checklist of instructions and measurements to achieve someone else's idea.  It is unlikely I'll ever stop using patterns altogether, but I'm ready to venture out and see what happens.

Sherri's book is a guide for this exact moment in my creative life. I was lucky enough to purchase one of the limited copies at QuiltCon and have her sign it during the full day workshop that I took with her. She advised me to "be my own ruler". In the book, she discusses this more and encourages quilters to add their own voice to their work by free cutting, thereby creating a personal 'line' or signature. It is an interesting concept that I like - sort of like your own signature line or angle that could appear again and again throughout your work. As a practised "squaring upper", I've never actually built a large quilt from oddball shaped hunks of piecing or blocks that don't have squared know, the jigsaw puzzle approach. In our "Floating Squares Score" class, this is how the quilt came together. Sherri refers to this as "finding the natural fit" between two pieces of fabric and explains the concept with illustrative photos in the book.

Class work from Floating Squares workshop with Sherri Lynn Wood at QuiltCon2015
My piecing work from the workshop (I am itching to get back to this!)

Class work from Floating Squares workshop with Sherri Lynn Wood at QuiltCon2015
Classmate work  

The book is a collection of 'scores', not patterns. The scores are like recipes for improv concepts that are often related to shape, like squares, strips or curves.  You can explore each score using your own fabric that you love, but sometimes limits are put on the number of colours you can choose, or the sizes you cut. The score gives you parameters, but also permission to adjust, add, subtract or abandon certain elements as you progress.  Almost 250 volunteers accepted Sherri's call to test her scores and possibly have their quilts included in the book. In the final edit, 22 contributor quilts are shared alongside Sherri's own work to give you plenty of inspiration. I found a certain comfort in seeing the subtle similarities in the quilts (thanks to the score), while also recognizing the unique results of each maker's work. Here are a few of the excellent examples of the Patchwork Doodle score made by some of the volunteer testers for the book (click on the photos to read the makers' feedback on the process of working from the score):

"curve" / 37" x 39" / Lucie Summers
Curve, by Lucie Summers (a star improv quiltmaker and author of  Quilt Improv)

Maria Shell - 36" x 33"

"you are here" / 40" x 52" / Sharon O'Brien
You Are Here, by Sharon O'Brien

Returning to the idea that this book truly is a handbook, Sherri not only provides parameters, encouragement and permission to explore, she also includes a lot of practical advice.  When you create without patterns and you sew oddly shaped hunks of fabric together (many with stretchy, bias edges), sometimes crazy stuff happens.  Detailed photos and diagrams show you what to do when your quilt ends up with a pucker or wobble that your iron can't tame.  I know I will have to give these techniques a try. It is such a different approach to squaring everything; I like the idea of not having ruler-cut straight angled seams between the patchwork sections.

There's also a lot of new-to-me quilting and creative vocabulary in the book.  Phrases like "bimodal construction", "flexible patterning", "cutting from your core" and the concept of improv quilting as storytelling referencing African American quiltmakers.  There's just so much great stuff!  The book is 175 pages long and it is packed with quality text and gorgeous photography. It is possible I'm unable to be objective about it at this point, because it really is a game-changer of a book for me.

You know how children are often the creators of the most beautiful, free and colourful artwork because they just make what they like without self-restraint or critique?  I wish I could make quilts in this same way, without censoring my choices or demanding more perfect results.  Reading The Improv Handbook really gave me the confidence to try, and I have big plans to stretch myself creatively in the coming months and years.   The work I'm doing with my Improv Under the Influence piecing technique is still ongoing, but I foresee expanding my improv skills with Sherri's guidance. I'm definitely ready to move in this direction and I'll be referring to Sherri's book, and those of my other improv mentor Gwen Marston, along the way.  I'm also trying to adopt Sherri's method of evaluation by looking at my work and, instead of immediately identifying everything I'm not happy about, asking the following questions (we did this as a group in our workshop):

What surprised you?
What did you learn?
Are you satisfied or dissatisfied?
What would you change?

We all love to be our own worst critic. Try using Sherri's evaluation questions and I bet you'll immediately feel better about your amazing quilting skills! The maker of the quilt below did just that.

"Primary" / 65" x 51" / Elisa Albury
Primary by Elisa Albury is one of  my fav quilts from the score testers. I really enjoyed Elisa's evaluation of her work, which is super honest and insightful (click photo to read it in the Flickr comment).

I could go on, but it's time for the giveaway before I lose you altogether. Are you eager to try something new and make your own original work, or further explore your creativity in an improvisational way? Leave one comment for your chance to win a copy of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.  At the request of the publisher, this giveaway is open to North American addresses only.  I request that your email MUST be linked to your comment (or appear in your comment) to win. A random winner will be selected on May 23 at 5:00 p.m. PST.

Disclosure: STC Craft provided me with a review copy of this book (which, like 90% of the free stuff I get through my blog, I'm passing along as a door prize in one of my future workshops/retreats since I already had my own copy!).  Some of the quilts shown in this post do not appear in the book, however they were made by volunteer testers who have given their permission for images to be shared for promotional purposes. They're amazing, so I'm sharing them.

Have a look at the other stops on the blog tour as I'm sure each post will offer more inspirational photos and more chances to win your own copy!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bloggers Quilt Festival Spring 2015 - Power Nap

Hello and welcome to another edition of the fabulous Blogger's Quilt Festival: the only quilt festival best enjoyed in PJ's and bare feet! I've been participating off and on in Amy's great festival for years and I always enjoy meeting new quilt bloggers and enjoying the work of old friends alike. 

This time I'm sharing my first ever QAYG (Quilt-As-You-Go) quilt, made with upcycled, worn out work shirts of my husband's along with some chambray, linen and a few yardage scraps. I'm entering it in the Scrappy Category. This quilt was gifted to a friend of ours on the occasion of his 50th birthday last month.

Power Nap by Poppyprint

Power Nap by Poppyprint

Most of the blocks were spiral quilted individually, then joined together into rows with narrow joining strips. The rows were then joined with wider sashing strips stuffed with a strip of batting and quilted with straight lines. Initially, I liked the idea of the red "power tie" in the centre of each improv pieced block, surrounded by shirt fabrics, so the quilt was going to be called Power Tie. Then I found out that our friend likes to take a brief nap every afternoon in his downtown office, so I renamed it Power Nap (plus, he's not a tie kinda guy anyway).

Power Nap by Poppyprint
There's even a sleeve placket with button and a chest pocket left on and quilted over. 

 The quilt was started in a class with Marianne Haak at the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild last fall. Before the class, I precut all of the laundered shirts into strips of various widths. Each block began with a red square-ish shape in the middle area and was built out improvisationally. At one point, I made a very traditional style log cabin with light fabrics on one corner and darker fabrics on the other. When laying out all of the blocks, that one really stuck out, so I decided to make three more and put them in the corners. I like the resulting big blue circle effect!  Check out Marianne's blog for excellent tutorials if you would like to try this technique. It is a great way to create a big quilt, fully quilted, on a small domestic machine.

Power Nap by Poppyprint

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check out the rest of the festival. You can really make someone's day by nominating a quilt for Viewers Choice sometime in the next week, then vote for your category favs when voting opens on May 22!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Just (mass)Dropping In With Some Incredible Deals!

It is a bumper week on Massdrop. I'm going to share a few of the drops of notions I use and love myself and fabric I wish I had!  First up is a Clover pin set. You can choose two packages from three options: flower head (I use these for heavier construction like pouches, bags, hemming and for pinning rows of blocks together for transfer from design wall to machine), Patchwork glass head pins (my all time best pins for piecing) or Quilting glass head pins (also fine and excellent, but extra long). I've never met a Clover notion I didn't like and these pins are the best. Whenever I teach, I encourage people to use the fine glass head patchwork pins for accuracy when matching points or locking seams.

The drop is 1/2 way to the lowest price of $12.99 US for two packages. That's a smokin' deal even with our exchange rate (thankfully, our Canadian dollar is on the rise!).

The next awesome drop is for two pair of Karen K. Buckley scissors. If you are like me, you likely have more than enough pairs of scissors, but honestly, the large purple-handled scissors have been a game changer for me since I bought a pair last spring. They have micro-serrations that grip your fabric as they cut and cushy handles perfect if you have arthritic thumbs like me. AMAZING for cutting through multiple layers of batting as well as lightweight slippery fabric like lawn or the pre-washed chambray I just cut out.  All of my current embroidery scissors have dulled at the tip, so I'm going to join this drop for the two small pairs now that the cheapest price has been unlocked and they are 40% off MSRP (this drop is open for 6 more days). Check out the video of Karen introducing her scissors on the drop page.

There are two fabric drops on as well; Lizzy House Butterflies and Denyse Schmidt Franklin + coordinating solids. Both are gorgeous lines that work out to about $2/FQ before shipping.

40 FQ of Denyse Schmidt Franklin + coordinating solids

Massdrop is really working hard to source great deals for our community - they really do listen. Since this giveaway I hosted, they've already offered many of the items that you suggested in the comments! Click through to their site and you'll see many other active drops including thread, a cordless iron, rulers and more.

Disclosure - if you click through from this post, Massdrop will know that I sent you. I am an affiliate and from time to time they send me products to review and host giveaways. I have not received any of the products in this post - I truly do love them and use them myself.  I'm sharing here so you don't miss out.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Professional Poppyprint

One must have a professional-ish business card when one visits their first ever trade show, right?  I've had lots of fun trading and handing out my little Moo cards over the years, but it was time for the real deal.  Not really having a logo of my own has kept me from ordering business cards in the past.

While writing my book I had to prepare almost 200 drawings. I enjoy hand-drawing technical things very much, but thought I should take advantage of the necessity and learn some kind of computer drawing program.  When I attended the Fat Quarterly retreat in London a couple of years ago, Lynne taught an introduction to Touchdraw morning workshop. Touchdraw is a very user-friendly, inexpensive, 2-D drawing program for iPad that you buy from the appstore.  With the very small amount of information my exhausted and jet-lagged self retained from Lynne's class, I was able to trial and error my way through all of the book drawings. I also invested in an iPad stylus, which is much more accurate than fingers and a huge help. Yay!

So, back to the logo. I knew I wanted a stylized poppy print of some kind, so I started with a radial design of elongated ovals.  I figured I'd get something basic together, then ask my design guru Berene for help.  It turns out I was able to draw something all by myself that I liked very much, so I went with it!  The ombre is kind of quilty and overall, it is pretty similar to the print you'd get if you used a stamp pad and poppy seed pod to make a print.

poppyprint fabric

poppyprint process3

My new cards arrived today and I'm very happy with them! They were ordered on The price, quality and ease of designing them right on their website made it a no-brainer for me. I love that you can put a photo on the back of your card and crop it however you like. 



I'm going to carry them in this PERFECT needle-felted pouch gifted to me last year by a fellow Circus Mom after the hours and hours we spent sewing together for the show.

Ok! I think I'm ready for market. Well, just as soon as I figure out what to say at my schoolhouse. Yikes.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sample Spree Big Tote

With the release of Make It, Take It, I decided to make the trip to Spring Quilt Market in Minneapolis to help promote the book. I've never been to a Market before, but I've seen enough photos and video of Sample Spree to know it is mayhem. If you haven't heard, it is a giant ballroom filled with FQ packs of all of the soon-to-be-released fabric at wholesale prices or less. You have to buy a ticket in advance for $15 to get in and some people wait in line all afternoon for a chance to be the first at the fabric manufacturer's tables.

There are a couple of new lines that I'm interested in and truth be told I am not planning to go crazy (because really, do I need more fabric?), but I do want to be prepared. Just in case. Since you are not allowed shopping carts or rolling luggage at spree (haha!!!!), I thought a large tote would be a good idea (and experienced friends advised this, too).

So I give you my Sample Spree Big Tote.  This is a project in the "Take It" section of my book, designed by the very clever Ayumi Takahashi. The construction is so quick and painless! It makes a great gift and there's a companion Little Tote that is perfect as a lunch bag, loot bag or small project bag.

Big Tote made by Poppyprint

It is made with some of my favourite prints (that Martha Negley Farmington feather is just so incredible!) and I quilted the outer panels to some fusible fleece. There is a fitted sheet of heavy weight interfacing quilted to the flat base panel as well. There are no pockets, zippers or closure. Just maximum fabric-buying cargo space!

Big Tote made by Poppyprint

The opening is topstitched with my go to triple-stitch in a variegated pink/yellow 28 wt Aurifil thread. The bag and handles are lined with two excellent Lu Summers prints, Alphabetty and Weave. I purchased multiple yards of both and only have bits sad!

I've made a second one to gift a friend with of some of her favourite fabrics, too. All Anna Maria Horner prints.

Big Tote made by Poppyprint

Big Tote made by Poppyprint

I hope I get lucky at Spree. If so, you'll be the first to know!

Just in case there are store owners reading who may be at Market, my schoolhouse presentation is in room 210B from 4:55 - 5:25 p.m. on Thursday.  I'll be signing books and doing a little demo for folks pre-registered with Martingale at their booth #325 from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Friday. A second signing takes place at the Brewer booth #2019 from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. Saturday.  I hope to see you there!

People of Minneapolis (or those who have visited before) - What should I do/see/check out downtown if I have some time? I've never been! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Mom's Gotta Do What a Mom's Gotta Do

For those of us Mothers in North America, this Sunday is our BIG DAY. It is when our significant others and children wake at the crack of dawn to sneak to the kitchen, creating a masterful gourmet breakfast which will arrive on our laps in bed accompanied by lovely hand drawn cards filled with messages of gratitude and love. There will be delicious coffee or tea, French pastries, chocolate, gold and diamonds....offers of pedicures, massages, and someone else to fold the laundry.

*******************REALITY CHECK**********************

Just in case the above scenario fails to play out in your bedroom Sunday morning, here's a back up plan for you:

I was never a fan of breakfast in bed anyway.  Just bring me my laptop & a latte, kids.  The sale includes yardage on clearance, too. I might check out the Botanics on sale or Lizzy House jewels (great blenders!). There are some super sweet 30's repros and plenty of Free Spirit Designer Essential solids to choose from!

Thank you Sew Sisters.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Macarons in Spring Bloom

Hello and welcome to the Spring Bloom Blog Hop!! I've only just met Amanda Caronia, the talented designer behind Spring Bloom, but already I know she's going to make a splash in fabric design. Her bright, colourful and fresh palette are a welcome sight for spring.  Read on to find out how you could win a FQ stack of Spring Bloom to play with!

Spring Bloom Macarons by Poppyprint

In my quest to make every contributor's project in my book, I decided to sew up a delicious Macaron Quilt with Amanda's fabric. Christina's quilt design is really interesting; there are no blocks in this quilt. The macaron shapes are pieced right into a long strip of background fabric that has been cut like a hunk of swiss cheese. Once all the cutting prep was complete, I could not believe how fast this generous lap-sized quilt sewed up!  I didn't pin any of the curves. I don't do tons of curved piecing, but when I do, I follow this awesome video tutorial by my friend Leanne. It works like a charm for 1/4 circles and these 1/2 oval macaron shapes.

Spring Bloom fabrics by Amanda Coronia for Windham

As my deadline for today was approaching, I needed to figure out quilting designs. I considered vertical wavy lines right across the quilt using my machine's triple zig zag stitch set wide and long. I considered an art-deco pattern that was a combination of straight lines up the middle of the macarons and curved back down around them, echoing the shapes in thread colours that matched the fabrics. Finally, I considered FMQ my recent standard of all-over looping meanders.  Then I had a little chat with myself that turned into a pep talk ( I'd been convincing myself I wasn't able to do all that negative space justice with my out-of-practice FMQ skills).

I had another look at Amanda's fabric to see if there were some shapes I could adopt for quilting. I grabbed some old practice quilt sandwiches from a previous class (and said, hey, you did a great job on these practice designs, just get busy and go for it!). Seriously, I did have to pull on my big girl panties and just GO!

Spring Bloom Macarons by Poppyprint
The flowers in this print inspired my petalled paisley quilting.

The first thing I did was define the vertical columns between the macarons with a stitch in the ditch of the seam and then a line 1/4" away. Between these lines, I did a loopy back and forth thingy that I've always liked - I think it looks great in a long narrow space and on this quilt, sort of like the delicious cream filling for the macarons!  Everywhere else in the negative space I quilted a sort of petalled paisley shape.  In spots where I needed to fill to the edges, I went around with a second row of petals here and there. For now the macarons are not quilted. I'm contemplating a handstitch with coordinating perle cotton about 1/2" inside each macaron (what do you think about that?).

Spring Bloom Macarons by Poppyprint

All of the quilting was done in one long day at Quilt By the Bay on Saturday. I think my Pfaff was running for about 8 hours!  I'm so glad I went for it. It's just been ages since I filled so much negative space with FMQ and to be honest, I've seen so much incredible work from talented long-armers, that I had psyched myself out.  I'm happy to say that this finish has renewed my confidence, so yay!

Spring Bloom Macarons by Poppyprint

Amanda's fabric makes the prettiest macaron's don't you think? Strawberry, lemon, blueberry, pistachio and raspberry flavours come to mind.  There have been so many pretty makes with this line already. Check out the other stops on the tour to see some adorable little dresses, colourful quilts, pillows and bags. I'm excited to see Felicity's quilt tomorrow and was super impressed by Cindy's cool idea from yesterday!

If you'd like a chance to win a FQ stack of Spring Bloom, leave ONE comment here (your comment must contain your email address, or link to your email to win). I'll choose a random winner  on Thursday at 10:00 p.m. PST. Good luck!!  ETA: Comments are now closed. Congratulations Janet of WhatComesNext, you've won a FQ set of Spring Bloom!

Thank you so much for sharing your lovely fabric, Amanda and Windham!


April 23 Jessica Darling

May 2 Bella Caronia Blog That’s a Wrap