Curating Colors for Patchwork Installation

by Sara Remington

photo by Sara Remington ©2015 from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters

An improv patchwork score begins by setting a few limits, including color limits. This is exactly what I’ve been pleasantly busy doing this past week.

I’ve been preparing for an improvisational installation and a series of FREE drop-in, ruler-free patchwork clinics at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery in San Francisco. Score For Floating Squares: Patterns, Limits, Systems opens September 6-27, 2015.

I’m so pleased to announce that Robert Kaufman Fabrics is sponsoring the project by providing over 50 yards of their luminous Kona Cotton Solids! Whoopee! So you can only imagine how deliciously difficult it was to pick 80 colors from the over 300 they have to choose from. I don’t think this was my final list but most of these made the cut.

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Join me in covering the gallery walls with ruler-free patchwork! Here is a link– Score For Floating Squares: Patterns, Limits, Systems –to share with your local guild and quilting friends in the San Francisco Bay Area.

And thank you…Kaufman Fabrics

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Color Palettes, Community, Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Improv Patchwork Road Tales ~ Honesty

I love sharing my thoughts and ideas with an audience because so often their curiosity and insights  enrich my understanding of the topic at hand.

IQSCM in Lincoln NE

At The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln Nebraska I spoke to an audience of over 120 people about improvisation and patchwork. At the beginning of one of these talks I typically ask the audience if they have seen the Gee’s Bend Quilts and if so what they experienced standing in front of one of them, “What did you notice? What makes the Gee’s Bend Quilts so great?”

ISQSCM

Often people answer by saying things about color or design, but typically people give me the deeper answer I’m hoping for… a sense of presence, an essence of freedom, the delight of the unexpected, an energy or power in the “making do.” At IQSCM one of the audience members, the husband of a quilt maker, took it a step further.

IQSCM & Sherri Lynn Wood

He had heard the Gee’s Bend Quilters speak about their quilts as something honest. Indeed when he stood in front of the Gee’s Bend quilts he was moved by the sense of honesty they conveyed.

Sherri Lynn Wood presenting at IQSCM

The quilts weren’t striving to compete, or copy, or teach, or impress, or be anything more than the truthful, authentic expression and honest engagement of the makers with themselves and the materials.

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I am thankful that he introduced this simple word into the discussion. In The Improv Handbook I talk about the difference between seeking to be authentic vs original, but the idea of being honest in your work takes it home to a deeper level –don’t you think!

What does it mean to be honest when I create? What am I being honest about? Who am I being honest to?

I would be remiss if I didn’t credit the warm hospitality and flexibility of the staff at IQSCM. It truly was a pleasure to work with such a professional, and passionate institution dedicated to quilting and quilt makers across the world; AND the efforts of Lori and Kris, and  the members of the Omaha and Lincoln MQG for getting the word out about my talk, and for showing up! It was an incredible turnout and a highlight of my book tour. THANK YOU!

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Improv Patchwork Road Tales ~ Sweet Surrender

impov handbook for modern quilters road trip book tour

A road trip is a score, a set a of limits in which an unknown adventure can unfold, as quilt maker and improvisor Cinzia Allocca commented on my last post about flow:

…by accepting limits (chosen by me) I am removing distractions from the path I have set out for myself and my quilt. I am creating freely within a “safe zone”. The safe zone acts as a safety net.

The beauty of traveling across country on a performance/book tour is that all other distractions of daily life are removed and the primary goal is to arrive safely and on time, do your thing, and repeat. Often there wasn’t much time to spend in the actual cities I visited. Most of the time was spent on the road.

on the roadWithin these narrow limits however, there was a sweet surrender to the score of the ROAD itself and it’s adventures. My traveling partner and I said YES AND to the unexpected. We took as many back roads as possible and stopped along the way when we saw something that interested us.

eating local in blue ridge

–eating local – yes those are good ole’ southern grits.

southern illinois

— enjoying the scenery as we sped by.

vintage thrift road finds

— a man with a tractor trailer of vintage thrift items on a lonesome country crossroad.

momsgotanotion

— in the small town of Havana Illinois where I was warmly welcomed by the mayor and the local quilt shop Ma’s Got’a Notion that specializes in civil war reproduction quilting.

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— we were driving a rental truck so I said YES AND to this sewing machine bargain also in Havana Illinois.

— discovering the Mite Society’s quilting bee space, also in Lamoni Iowa, behind the community thrift store. Founded in 1883 the Mite Society is the oldest quilting society in the state of Iowa.

— rescuing a large snapping turtle crossing the road in rural Nebraska. Then realizing a large snapping turtle was harder to rescue than you might think! Luckily a local stopped by to help us help the turtle. He simply picked the beast up by his very tough tail and flung him back into the grass. (Sorry – no pictures of this!)

Colorado

–sleeping local.

on the road

— stopping for views.

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— hiking in Zion

The last stop of my cross country road tour was in St. George Utah. I arrived the afternoon and night before the event scheduled at Scrap Apple Quilts early the following morning –a rare occasion to relax and enjoy the place. Besides swimming in the hotel pool I attended a free concert in the park –a John Denver tribute performance. It was a beautiful thing  –a warm, dry evening, the lawn spacious and strewn with older people and a few families here and there– everyone enjoying the easy and uplifting message of the music.

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I was hooked! And some of John Denver’s songs I can’t get out of my mind, including this one which speaks so eloquently about the unexpected flow of life and the joy of surrendering to all that happens. Please listen!

When I arrived home in Oakland things had changed, another relationship hoped for came to an end, and the words of Sweet Surrender have been ringing true more than ever:


Lost and alone on some forgotten highway, traveled by many, remembered by few.
Looking for something that I can believe in,
looking for something that I’d like to do with my life.
There’s nothing behind me and nothing that ties me to
something that might have been true yesterday.
Tomorrow is open and right now it seems to be more than enough
To just be here today, and I don’t know what the future is holding in store,
I don’t know where I’m going, I’m not sure where I’ve been.
There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me,
my life is worth the living, I don’t need to see the end.

Bird in the air at zion national park

Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care,
like a fish in the water, like a bird in the air.

This song so easily applies to the process of improvisational patchwork – don’t you think? —I don’t know what the future (of this patchwork) has in store, I don’t know where I’m going and I’m not sure where I’ve been. But there is a spirit (internal cues) that guide me, a light that shines for me (the patchwork itself), this (patchwork is worth the making) and I don’t need to see the end!!!

Ps… my story telling is not linear. There are more road tales to come!

Posted in Community, Personal Heritage, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Improv Patchwork Road Tales ~ Flow

I serendipitously came across this embroidery in the bathroom of the Bed & Breakfast I stayed at while traveling through southern Illinois on my way from Cincinnati to Lincoln.

Finding Flow Setting Limits

I’ve taught the workshop, Improvising From A Score, six times since introducing it at QuiltCon in February, including A Gathering of Stitches, LAMQG, San Diego MQG, and the Triangle MQG and Front Range MQG while on the road tour.

This workshop begins with brainstorming the limits of patchwork –size, fabric amounts, time, shapes, colors, tools, techniques, procedures, scale, complexity, etc. The idea is to pick any combination of limits to create a “score” for flexible patterning.  You might decide to make a baby quilt for a friend, with triangles and strips out of pastel fabrics. That’s the starting place. The set of limits you begin with are size (crib) shapes (triangle & strips), colors (pastels) and then you go from there. BUT oh you say, don’t I need a plan?

Many people feel restricted by having to stick to a plan yet they are scared or anxious without one. A plan gives us a sense – a false sense perhaps – of security and control. With pure improv there is no plan. There may be a loose seed of an idea or image in our minds, but it’s important not to hold on to this seed or to control it’s growth.

Improvising From A Score workshop with Front Range MQG

The limits we set for flexible patterning, replace the plans we depend on for fixed patterns. Setting limits “between too little and not enough” so that we are not overwhelmed by too many choices or restricted by not enough choices is the key to finding flow or “happiness.” Flow replaces the security that we cling to when following a plan. FLOW is sweet and restorative, free and surprising. Whereas security may be comforting it can also be restrictive, tedious and rife with judgement if we dare to deviate from the plan that guarantees it.

When I outline the limits for the first score featured in The Improv Handbook, the Score for Floating Squares, participants are always welcome to push beyond the limits introduced – and many do. The point is to first clearly see the container for the improv in order to clearly see our choices, preferences, and habits in relationship to the container.

Improvising From A Score workshop with LAMQG

The challenge is to TRUST the limits we set, even as we question and push beyond them. There are many obstacles to overcome; learning to be more restrictive with fabrics – most of us suffer in our over abundant culture from too many choices than not enough; yes butting – many of us prefer to judge and doubt rather than affirm and build – I include myself.

Once I begin trusting to the limits I set by affirming and building on all that I choose, the sweet surrender of being in the flow restores and delivers me to new territory almost effortlessly.

Seeing my students struggle and find their flow reminds me to seek this place between to much and too little in my life and my relationships with others. I’m reminded to trust and affirm the decisions I make for myself each day, and allow life to unfold as it happens.

BTW – There are still spaces left in my 2-day Improvising From A Score workshop, July 27 & 28, 2015 at Quilting By The Lake.

Posted in Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Improv Handbook Test Quilter Blog Hop

Over 250 people signed on to test quilt the ten scores for The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters – without visual references. There were 165 quilts completed and submitted for inclusion into the book.

The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood, photo by Sara Remmington

Only 22 of the test quilts were published in the book, but all 165 of the test quilts can be viewed in the online test quilt galleries linked below. I hope you agree that all of them are worthy examples of the scores, each in their own way.

  1. Score for Floating Squares
  2. Score for Strings Gallery
  3. Score for Improv Round Robin Gallery
  4. Score for Patchwork Doodle Gallery
  5. Score for Modern Block Improv Gallery
  6. Score for Rhythmic Grid Gallery
  7. Score for Layered Curves Gallery
  8. Score for Bias Strip Petals Gallery
  9. Score for Get Your Curve On Gallery
  10. Score for Showing Up Gallery

The efforts and feedback of the test quilters significantly shaped the ten scores, or flexible patterns, featured in The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters. As you view the galleries, may you feel inspired and encouraged to know that there are an infinite number of interpretations for every score.

Test Quilters’ Process July Blog Hop

The Test Quilt Galleries also include links to process posts written by many of the test quilters describing their unique improv experiences. These process posts are inspiring and I’m happy to introduce another round in July.

July 1: The Quilting Edge by Marianne Haak with giveaway!

July 3: Andrew Steinbrecher

July 6: Heather Kojan Quilts with giveaway!

July 8: Fiber Antics by Veronica

Date TBD: Latifah Saafir Studios

July 16: Marion’s Journal

I will be updating these links as the posts are published. May you enjoy and be inspired to improvise YOUR WAY!

All images from The Improv Handbook are copyrighted (c) 2015 Sara Remington unless otherwise noted, and all text and illustrations (c) 2015 Sherri Lynn Wood, and can not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher Stewart, Tabori, & Chang.
Posted in The Modern Quilt | 6 Comments