Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My quilt in the "The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters"—the process

Welcome to my stop on the Improv Handbook testers Blog Hop! This is a recap of my process, color and fabric choices, and a quick review of the book,  The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood. Here goes...

Early in 2014, I was chosen to be a tester for Sherri Lynn Wood's improvisational patchwork process. Sherri was gathering pieces for her new book, "The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters," and invited participants to compose a piece based on one of her "scores." My quilt, "Guitar Strings Improv," was one of the 22 chosen to be included in the book out of 165 that were submitted. I'm thrilled that my quilt made the cut.
"Guitar Strings Improv"
43" x 40.5"
Photo by Sara Remington
What appealed to me about the project was that there was no pre-conceived idea/image/composition/pattern of what the final improv quilt should look like. The "Score for Strings"—the score I was given—was provided in a text format, so my interpretation of the words of Sherri's guidelines was how I proceeded. The adventure began!

My color palette was a "loose" complementary color scheme of red-orange and green. Bits of black, turquoise and yellow were added for contrast. In the finished quilt, you can see how the yellow bits against the red ground add a twinkle to the composition.
A red-orange and green color scheme.
I had done some improvisational cutting and piecing prior to using Sherri's score, so I was looking forward to these spontaneous and liberating parts of the process. Rotary cutting without a ruler is freeing and energizing! If you haven't tried this, please do. Watching the free-form, organic shapes of the patchwork emerge is inspiring and exciting. The more you do, the more you want to do.
In-progress strip sets.
The String Score offered the option of a "neutral background" fabric, but as my composition developed, I liked the strength and energy of the bold colors playing off each other, so I opted not to introduce another fabric.
Piecing the patchwork.
Patchwork problem-solving is required to get all the improv strip sets to "fit" together. For me, that is the part of the challenge (which I like)—and part of the fun! Sherri Lynn offers great tips in the book for getting improv patchwork to lie flat and how to ease in any bumps and ripples that may occur in the piecing.
A view of the design wall.
A design wall is so very helpful with this part of the process. It provides the opportunity to stand back and fine tune the composition as needed. If you look back at the finished quilt (above) you'll see that the pieces were turned 90-degrees before this quilt was all said and done.
Work in progress.
The free-motion quilting—another of my favorite parts of the quiltmaking process—in this piece takes a back seat to the saturated colors of the improvisationally pieced composition. The textures and patterns of the quilting appear to the viewer only upon closer inspection.
Free-motion quilting.
Here are some in-progress views of the free-motion quilting from the back—where it's much easier to see the quilting. I used a tonal 108" wide backing for my backing fabric.
Free-motion quilting (back view).
Free-motion quilting (back view).
Free-motion quilting (back view).
Instead of a binding, I decided to use a facing to finish the quilt. 
Finishing the quilt with a facing.
"Guitar Strings Improv," appears on page 38 of the book, sharing the 2-page spread with Beth Lehman of and Barb Mortell at [By the way, all the websites/blogs of the contributors are listed at the back of the book—great addition!] A shout out to Sara Remington for the fabulous full-color photography of all the contributed quilts. I'm honored to be in the company of the other talented quilters that participated in the project.
"Guitar Strings Improv" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
Photo by Sara Remington
About the Book
I'm looking forward to devouring the rest of Sherri Lynn's book and exploring the other 9 improv scores. There are 5 (big, fat) chapters in the book including one on finishing techniques. Lists of references, design considerations, and "mind tools" can be found throughout the chapters as well as in the back. There are oodles of color photos—in-progress detail shots, close-ups and full front views. The book's typography is clean and playful, and the layout is organized, easy to follow and approachable. Hey, kinda like improv! 
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This is a must-have book for your quilting library and especially for those curious about trying improvisational patchwork. So, are you ready to try improv? Have you done improv piecing already? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about it.

Best of luck with "The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters," Sherri Lynn! Thanks for the opportunity to participate and contribute to your project. For a list of the other sites on the Blog Hop, click here.
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