QuiltCon Day 3 ~ Quilting From the Heart

The Impact of the Gee’s Bend Quilters’ Faith on QuiltCon

Tonight the  Gee’s Bend Quilters gave the keynote address at QuiltCon.  I felt a bit embarrassed when someone in the audience asked them if the quilts they saw at QuiltCon would have an impact on their quilting or change it in anyway. Mary Ann Pettway simply answered “No,” which I thought was an honest reply to an extremely awkward question.

(edit – I personally found the  question uncomfortable because of what I didn’t hear in it, a respectful understanding that their work has a certain visionary integrity that comes from within. I think many contemporary quilters, myself included, are overly influenced by exterior factors, design/color/fabric trends and what other people are making. An open ended question would have been better put, something like “What are your impressions of the quilts you have seen at QuiltCon?” Wondering about their take on our quilts is certainly valid – and I suppose that was the gist of the original question – the way it was put felt awkward to me.)

Shouldn’t we instead be asking the reverse question?  How will our exposure at QuiltCon to the Gee’s Bend Quilters’ faith as the source of their creative process change the way we make our quilts, or our perceptions of what quilting is all about. What are your thoughts? Not only did the Gee’s Bend Quilters give the keynote to hundreds of attendees, they taught two workshops a day. If you were at QuilCon will the witness of these women impact your quilting on a personal level in any way? Do you think it will shape the Modern Quilt movement as a whole in any way? And if so so how?

The Gee’s Bend women reminded me that quilt making comes from the heart, and that it’s a gift of grace. It was profound to experience quilting as a spiritual matter through their songs, prayers, stories and blessing of permission to “just start sewing” – that we can make things our own way – and it is good.

And in timely fashion here’s a recent article in the NY Times about the quilters and quilts of Gee’s Bend.

Patchwork Doodling Workshop


You can see by these images that this group of students made my job easy today. They just went to town and did their things! The output and diversity was quite impressive. Again, this was the first time I’ve ever taught this workshop and I discovered that everyone does indeed doodle differently.


We began class by doodling for a few minutes and then discussed the process of drawing responsively. The way people doodled varied vastly and it was and in a way wasn’t surprising at all when these differences came out in their patchwork doodles. People doodle with patchwork much in the same way they doodle with pen and paper.


It was also interesting to see when and how the process kicked in for people, how far they could take things until they got stuck, what kind of things got them stuck and what kinds of things they could do to become unstuck. I loved watching the Patchwork Doodling process unfold in my students as much as I enjoyed watching their patchwork doodles take shape.

Improv Handbooks Are Back IN STOCK

Yay! One more day of signing books at QuiltCon. Pick your copy up today. Text your best friend who’s at QuiltCon and ask them to stop by the Stitch Lab Booth #216, and bring you back a signed copy!


Posted in Community, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 13 Comments

QuiltCon Day 2 ~ Hot Shots

Bias Strip Piecing on the Curve Workshop

Today I taught the Bias Strip Curve Workshop for the first time and it was a delight to watch it unfold.  Sewing bias strips on the curve is tricky piecework and difficult to master. But no matter… my hot shot students went to town, merrily making mistakes right and left. Whoopee!

You may think that this was a problem but actually provided an opportunity to figure things out and the mistakes made became the centerpieces of some surprising compositions. I was impressed by the willingness and courage of my students and all that they accomplished.

Improv Handbook SOLD OUT on Second Day of QuiltCon

Can you believe it! So exciting. The Stitch Lab folks told me that they’ve never moved so many books in one day for a single author. EVER. I had a chance to sign the two last books in the first five minutes of my signing session, with Tricia Royal –a test quilter for the Improv Handbook, and Chicago MQG president, Sarah Shulman.


But no worries! My amazing publisher STC Craft is shipping more books overnight. The signings should commence again tomorrow at Stitch Lab, Booth #216, from 12:15-1:15 PM.

Finally – I did a count of Improv Handbook test quilts exhibited at QuiltCon this year. Not counting my three from the book there are FIFTEEN Improv Handbook test quilts represented! Tricia’s test quilt placed 3rd in the Improv category.

More to come…



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QuiltCon Day 1 ~ Riding High

Sherri Lynn Wood at Stitchlab Quitcon 2015

Maybe a picture can speak a thousand words!  Cause I certainly was riding high on the mechanical sewing machine in the sky today at QuiltCon.

Meeting the Gee’s Bend Quilters

It began with meeting the Gee’s Bend Quilters, Mary Ann and China Pettway, Gloria Hoppens, and Lucy Lee Whitherspoon in the teacher’s lounge about an hour before their class started. They sat around the table with me and actually looked through a copy of my book! I was like uhhhh is this really happening. We were having a conversation.

Then in class they started off with some gospel singing and a prayer and a blessing. It was lovely. The whole room of 25 students became quiet, centered and intensely present. Being present is the main, number one priority for improv and they just brought us there. The entire class at once. So hey – I vowed to sing for all three of my QuiltCon classes this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes ;-)

But then… after the singing they said, “What did you all bring to make your quilts out of?” and then after that they said,  “Good start sewing. Make anything you like.”  I almost laughed out loud, because I could never get away with this in one of my classes. Immediately one of the students said out loud in a gasp, “WHAT?” –in this kind of lost incredulous way. It was fantastic.

And then the four teachers proceeded to spread out through the room and gently encouraged each person, one at a time, to start making whatever they pleased. As simple as all that!  I don’t think many of the students had ever improvised before with patchwork so I can only imagine what they were thinking. There were no techniques given, no instructions conveyed, simply permission, affirmation, encouragement and space offered, so that we could find our own ways. What more do we need?

So that was lovely!

Lecturing on Improv Process and Patchwork

Next I was off to give my lecture. I was delighted and somewhat surprised that there were probably 200+ people in the hall for my talk. I saw lots of people nodding their heads, always a good sign that the audience is resonating. I was touched that so many people had come from so many places with their curiosity and love of improv and quilting – including folks from all over the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Denmark? and even Russia!

Signing Improv Handbooks

Then off to the Stitch Lab booth, book signings and of course the Mechanical Sewing Machine. First person in line at the signing – well she was sitting in my seat just finishing up her signings – Denyse Schmidt. I’m like oh this is the first time I’ve ever signed a copy of my book for someone and it’s Denyse, and then I misspelled her name with the Sharpie! But she was very sweet and it was such a pleasure for me because we both started quilting around the same time about 25 years ago and it’s something important that we share – a dedication, and a passion, and a parallel history of sorts. And then a steady stream of quilt makers, some known to me, others new, buying my book, asking me to sign and telling me about their love of improv.

In the Midst of Community Making

quiltcon pin swap

And all of this contained by this incredible energy of the community. A swarm of quilters from all corners who know each other by our button names and online tags… daintytime   – sewaggie – venus de hilo – the craft divas –  a quilter’s table – retromama61 – rockin’g quilts – just a bit frayed -marci girl – dragonfly 5 – heart s – cat & vee – aunty brenda – meadow mist – sew yummy – the colorful om – school of sewing … and our real names… heather jones – elizabeth hartman – jenna – melissa averinds – miss emily taylor – krista hennebury… and our guild names… boulder mqg – phxmqg –  australia mqg … and our professional names… mass drop – waffle kisses – pink castle fabrics – urban spools – esch house quilts – school of sewing…  Each of us with a story and a passion for quilting, meeting face to face, reconnecting, and making new connections. It’s been quite a buzz of glowing energy.

Such a blessing!

Okay one last thing. I am so PROUD of my Improv Handbook TEST QUILTERS. You all are rocking the exhibit hall with your quilts. I think there must be at least a dozen in the show – even some ribbon winners! I’m going around with my camera tomorrow to document.

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