Cultural Fusion Quilts Winner ~ Ruler Roundup

It was fantastic to hear from so many quilters about your widely varying relationships to rulers. Your comments to the Cultural Fusion Quilts Giveaway post were eye opening.


Many expressed a love/hate relationship with rulers. Some of you LOVE your rulers and can’t imagine working without them. Some are interested in exploring the possibility of going ruler-free. In that case Sujata’s book is definitely a great starting point. Some LOVE and prefer the freedom and expressiveness of ruler-free patchwork.

However the thing that struck me the most is how versatile you are when it comes to using or not using your rulers. I’m encouraged to find that so many quilters have both a love for precision piecing  as well as improv patchwork, and are able to move easily between working with rulers or going ruler-free according to what the quilt requires.

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So the winner is….

No rulers. What a concept. Just thinking about it is liberating. I realize my quilting is locked in some rigid mental place about the “shoulds” of straight lines and meeting corners. Gotta read this book! –Hillary



Yes you do Hillary! I hope you and every one else who reads Sujata’s book will find the ruler-free techniques in Cultural Fusion Quilts liberating. Congratulations! And thanks everyone for sharing your experiences, thoughts and relationships to rulers.

by Sujata Shaw from Cultural Fusion Quilts

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on The Top-Ten Reasons for Going Ruler-Free!

If you haven’t already please join the discussion on the pros and cons, ins and outs of improvisational patchwork at the Improv Handbook Group on Facebook. Precision piecers and improvisors welcome!

Posted in Current Giveaways, Reviews, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Cultural Fusion Quilts by Sujata Shah

It is a great honor to be asked by Sujata Shah, a fellow patchwork improvisor, to review her new book Cultural Fusion Quilts, from C&T Publishing. Sujata and I discovered each other first on Flickr. I soon realized that Sujata was part of the improv tribe and have been and continue to be delighted to follow her work at The Root Connection.

One of the things I love about improvisation is that even the very way people improvise is unique. There are no hard and fast rules about the process. There are multiple, infinite paths to improvisation. The signature style of an improvised quilt actually reflects the signature process of the maker. And Sujata shares her unique process with inspiration, clarity and grace through her book.

What I love most about the book is her insistence on the expressive quality of line.

I wanted more than just straight lines in my quilts. –Sujata Shah

One of the things that continues to surprise me when I teach improv quilting is how dependent people can be on their rulers, and how fearful and reluctant they are to cut and sew without them. As quilt makers we love to express our vision through the choice of favorite shapes and patterns, and through favorite colors and prints. Yet we overlook the expressive potential of line by always choosing to use rulers or templates. Precision can be beautiful but limiting when perfection is the only option for expression.

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The great contribution Sujata’s book makes to the evolving conversation of improvisational patchwork is that it gently opens up an exciting path for first-time and beginning level improvisors to explore the expressive qualities of the freely cut line. Her project instructions, and technique illustrations are direct, efficient and fullproof. Sujata’s book is a great introduction to improv for traditional quilters who have never gone without their rulers. Her beautiful quilts reassure with an invitation to jump right in and enjoy — the water is fine and the swimming easy!

Another thing I really appreciate about Cultural Fusion Quilts, is Sujata’s emphasis on the variations of patterns. To pass along the variations of a pattern, all the ways it can be done differently, is an essential characteristic of improvisational patchwork. Sujata provides possible pattern variations at the end of each project chapter, kindly inviting us into deeper water to explore new territory.

The emphasis on pattern variation is also reinforced by the beautiful inspiration photos included in the book of native textile traditions from all over the world. So often we search for pattern inspiration by pinning other quilts. Sujata reminds us to turn towards the patterns of culture and life that surround us for our source material.

Cultural Fusion Quilts is an awesome book and I predict it will be a delightful game changer for many of the traditional and modern traditional quilt makers among us.


Well I suppose you may want to get your hands on this gem so here is your opportunity to win a copy of Cultural Fusion Quilts! Leave a comment letting me your thoughts pro or con about rulers. Do you love them, hate them, use them or not in your patchwork? How are they a help or a hindrance?

The giveaway will remain open through midnight, December 16. In the meantime follow along and enjoy the rest of the Cultural Fusion Quilts blog tour:

Posted in Current Giveaways, Reviews, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 135 Comments

20th Century Comfort Room


window view


door view


ceiling view

My first super-8 film ever, documenting the found afghans used in the installation. Edited in camera, I was clueless and that’s why the film came out so interesting!


Installed at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA, 1998. 14′ x 12′ x 10′, found afghans, crochet, yarn, chair, clock.

When I arrived at the Headlands for my first ever artist residency in 1998 I was expecting a bigger space. My intention was to make large quilts out of found materials. Similar to these Modern Scrap Quilts. When I was assigned this small room as my studio for the first half of my three month residency I decided to “quilt” the room instead.

It’s an interior space that speaks about the confinement of imagination. It activates and focuses  attention in a way that can be maddeningly insane, nostalgically cozy, or both simultaneously.

The 20th Century Comfort Room was featured on the cover of KnitKnit, Issue 5, a zine by Sabrina Gschwandtner, which appeared in a book coauthored by Faith Levine in 2008, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design. Which I discovered while visiting the exhibition Alien She (see post) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.


Posted in Art and Social Practice, My Creative Process, Personal Heritage | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments