Talking Quilts with Eli Leon

As part of my research for my forthcoming book on improvisational patchwork I’ve been reviewing the many amazing show catalogues based on Eli Leon’s collection of over 1000 African-American improvisational quilts.

During a recent visit he generously gave me a stack of his catalogues and we spent an afternoon looking at them and talking about our favorite quilts. In particular I’ve been grooving on Accidentally on Purpose, a catalogue that includes two extensive essays by Eli, from the exhibition at the Figge Art Museum in 2006.

The essays written by Eli, incorporate over a 100 hours of interviews of African-American quilt makers. They speak about their process in their own words and Eli brilliantly pieces together their narratives into a comprehensive view of their approaches, tactics, and methods of improvisation. If you want to really learn about improvisational patchwork then study these quilts and read Eli’s essays.

The quilt-making successors of these early African-Americans often express a high regard for scraps. “Scraps,” Odessa Dolby told me, “make the best quilts.” “I’d rather have the scraps,” Frances Johnson agreed. “I like the different materials.” “When you use scraps,” Kate Brown reported, “you always get a surprise.” –excerpt from Accidentally On Purpose by Eli Leon

Announcing a fabulous EXCLUSIVE blog series!

We had so much fun talking quilts while looking at the catalogues, we decided to “talk quilts” on a regular basis.

Now each time I visit, Eli chooses a different quilt from his African-American collection that he particularly likes.  I’m always surprised. We hang it in his living room, sit back, bask in the quilt’s magnificent glory, and then discuss the aspects of its design that contribute to its shine.

Eli has a keen aesthetic sense and a wealth of information about African-American improvisational quilts and their makers. I am happy to say he has given me permission to share images of the quilts and notes from our conversations. Stay tuned — join the conversation — grab an archive button for your blog if you like.

Posted in Modern Improv, Reviews | Tagged , | 24 Comments

sorting scraps like the bionic woman… i wish

I always make a big mess when I’m piecing a quilt top. I mean a HUGE mess. It’s insanity. There’s fabric everywhere, underfoot and on every surface. If my studio was in a zero gravity zone scraps would be floating to the ceiling. Imagine that!

I can’t show you the quilts I’m making for my book on improvisational patchwork, but I CAN show you the aftermath!

Once I’ve finished piecing a quilt top, it feels great to get my studio in order again. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the bionic woman –able to condense eighty minutes of scrap sorting into one? Okay now it’s on to the next quilt.

How do you sort your scraps?

Posted in My Creative Process | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Summer Heirloom Tomato Pizza

Freddy Freckles at the Headlands by Victor Volta

I wanted to give a shout out to my friend and fellow blogger Victor Volta of  The Mountain Journals. He also writes about hiking local in the San Francisco Bay area for the Last week I took a much needed day off and hiked with Victor and my friend Bret’s dog, the fabulous Freddy Freckles (Freddy is so cute he has his own Instagram page) in the Marin Headlands  — check out Victor’s beautiful photos from our Headlands hike.

Now to the Summer Heirloom Tomato Pizza. Victor grew these delicious heirloom tomatoes and gave them to me. Aren’t they beautiful?

I sliced them up — so juicy and delicious!

I added some fresh basil, mozzarella, parmesan, and fontana cheese.

The pizza pie dough came from Whole Foods.



Thanks Victor, and happy end of summer to all of you. Savor these last days!


Posted in Blogging, Community, Food | 10 Comments

I Ching Modern Quilt

I Ching Modern Quilt, 2013, 59″ x 71″, linen, hand-stitched

The random pattern of this all linen quilt was created by chance through the process of throwing three coins six times as prescribed by the I Ching. For each six bar block I consulted the ancient oracle for guidance on questions pertaining to my creative life. The 20 blocks that make up this quilt reflect 20 questions, each of which I documented along with my interpretation of the oracle’s response in a journal.

This snapshot of randomness is tranquil and restorative. It ignites a completely different rhythm of attention in making and in viewing than my improvisational work – which is all about personal choice. This quilt is greater than me. It is a universal pattern that I merely channeled and received. I love it for this reason.

To find out more about the process or to make your own check out the I Ching Modern Quilt-along tutorials.

I echo-quilted the concentric womb/eye pattern by hand. I repeated the shape three times, once for each of the three coins that were thrown into the ocean of synchronicity as a method for receiving the oracle’s resonating response to my questions.

I enjoyed making this quilt. If you’ve been following the I Ching Modern Quilt-along you may remember the last post on QUILTING was back in January. I appreciate your patience, considering I started the quilt-along over a year ago!

It has definitely been a slow but also a rewarding journey. My plan is to make more of these — each with a different color palette and a different theme of questions.

It’s available for sale on Etsy!

Posted in 2013 Quilts, My Creative Process, Quilt Alongs | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Sneak Preview – I’m writing my first book!

Doodle Quilt previewMy big summer news: I’m writing and creating ten new quilts for my first book about improvisational process and patchwork for the modern quilter!

I will announce the publisher and more details about the book, once the contract is signed (which should be soon), but the project has been in the works since I officially accepted an offer to publish in late April.

Since then I’ve been preparing myself internally and externally for a time of major creative output. I’ve been working almost every free day in my studio. I have nine months to create the quilts, write the book, and take the process shots –thank goodness the publisher is hiring a professional photographer for the “beauty shots.”

I’ve completed the first quilt top and am well on my way to completing the second. So even though I haven’t been blogging as much as usual, I have been working harder than ever.


Since I can’t share to much of the content of the book on my blog, I’ve decided to keep you posted on the process of writing it –the backstory, so to speak.

So far…

  • I’m thrilled and thankful for the opportunity to be fully absorbed in my creative work.
  • I’ve been following the process that I will be asking the readers of my book to engage in. It’s working. I’m teaching myself new things! So that’s good. If I’m learning something from the process I’m presenting then I know it will be fresh for you.
  • I’m totally in love with, and surprised by the first two quilts.
  • so good!
  • to go…

I’m glad to have my secret out, and will reveal more details as they fall into place. Please help me spread the word. Join me on Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.




Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Patchwork Scrap Doodling

Scrap Doodling is a playful improvisational patchwork process utilizing fabric scraps without concern over the outcome. It’s like drawing but better!

I do it to cleanse my mind between projects or to lubricate my creative flow before working on a main project. It’s fantastic for relieving performance anxiety and the causes of procrastination.

I make my scrap doodles quickly, while sitting at the sewing machine, with a pile of scraps and a pair of scissors at hand. I focus on finding natural fits of shape, as if piecing a puzzle. There is very little design involved.

I have no agenda for the finished scrap doodles. They may generate ideas or not. I don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to match anything or each other. Someday after I have a pile of them, I may patch them all together for one big crazy scrap doodle quilt… or not.

Try it for yourself. It’s fun!

Posted in Mantras for Creativity, Modern Improv, My Creative Process, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Seeing Green ~ Geek Love Review

Geek Love

I joined a book club and last month we read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. It’s about a carny family of freaks. Among other things it involves a cult in which converts choose to cut off parts of their bodies one joint at a time  –starting with the digits of fingers and toes, moving to arms and legs until they are left helpless on their bellies with nothing but a torso and head.

Yes it’s gross but after all its a tale of envy, jealousy, shame, greed and the desire for normalcy. The author’s metaphor asks us to reflect on the ways we choose to become helpless when we deny the parts of ourselves and our lives that we don’t like or can’t accept. Some of the people in my book club didn’t like this late 80’s novel, but if you have an adventurous imagination you might enjoy the read.

The book is filled with descriptions of green. I was surprised that no one else in the book club noticed this. I’m more of a visual reader than I realized.

  • Her gums are knobby and a faintly iridescent green.

  • I get an instant glimpse of her long legs, sometimes flashing bare through the slits in her startling green kimono.

  • The rotten edge of the sky was moldering into arsenic green when the light of the tent went out.

  • I nod my head at her pale green face.

  • They came out of his eyes as a green liquid that dripped to the ground making puddles.

  • He had a room of his own and three sets of green pajamas.

Eli Leon’s Green Collections

Around the same time I was reading Geek Love I had another visit with Eli Leon. His entire house is bathed in green. He has green curtains in his living room window. He has collections of green rags, vacuums, and vintage trinkets, toys, and tools of all sorts arranged in beautiful, fantastic tableaus throughout his house.

I asked Eli if green was his favorite color and a smile lighted his face when he said yes. I told him that green was my favorite color too.

Green is the color of the heart chakra. It’s the color of growth as well as decay. I suppose there are as many meanings to green as there are shades of the heart.

How about you? What is the emotional range of your favorite colors? Or add your favorite GREEN photo. I just installed a new plugin that allows you to submit a photo with your comment!

Posted in Color Palettes, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 28 Comments

Sunny Edwards Memorial Quilt (1918-2011)

Sunny Edwards (1918-2011), 2013, 63″ x 64″ Made in collaboration with Rowan Edwards from his grandfather’s western shirts, hand and machine pieced, hand quilted.

Rowan Edwards visited my studio for weekly work sessions to create this improvised quilt in memory of his grandfather Sunny Edwards from Sunny’s western shirts. Together we devoted 57 collaborative hours (35 of my hours) towards completing this quilt.

I love this picture of Rowan in front of the completed quilt followed by the picture of Sunny. Because Rowan’s hands chose Sunny’s clothes, cut them apart, pieced them back together and participated in the slow process of hand-quilting, the result is not only a memorial to Sunny, but also embodies the living relationship between them that resides in Rowan’s heart.

For more details on the making of this quilt and the bereavement/improvisation process visit the project archive or

Posted in 2013 Quilts, Passage Quilting | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

Sunny Edwards Memorial Quilt ~ Hand Quilting

Finally it’s time to hand quilt the pieced top from Sunny’s clothes, the cotton batting and the backing together into one. Rowan had the idea of using a topography inspired quilting pattern. This is his sketch.

The trick for improving your hand quilting, especially if you are a first timer like Rowan, is to aim for straight and even stitches, and not worry about size. The stitch length will naturally get smaller with practice.

Here is one of our three-hour hand quilting sessions condensed into 1.5 minutes. I set it to a banjo jingle, because our hands quilting look like we’re a-strummin’ and a-pickin’.

Below is the same quilting session from a different perspective, condensed into 1 minute. This time the background music was chosen in memory of Sunny, who was a rodeo cowboy and a champion roper. 

Hand quilting is a great time for chatting and sharing stories. I’ve really enjoyed working with and getting to know Rowan and his grandfather through this process. I love my job!

All that is left now is the binding!




Posted in Community, Passage Quilting | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Summer Schedule

It’s the first day of summer and I’m on a new schedule. In preparation for the change of seasons I actually paid a professional to clean my entire apartment/studio. My sparkling workspace is ready to be utilized to its capacity. 

Today I’m continuing my readiness theme by pre-washing lots of new solids and vintage prints. I’m washing them in batches from dark to light. This rainbow of fabric reminds me of the lengthening and shortening of days.

Guess what? I’m planning on making a whole bunch of new quilts this summer. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are my creative workdays. My plan is to rise and be ready to quilt from 7:30 AM-7:30 PM during the long summer hours.

Yes I have big plans. You may have noticed that I have slowed down my blogging schedule to once a week or so in order to get in more hands-on studio time. There is a reason for all of this, but I’m holding off on my official announcement until the paper work is signed, sealed, and delivered. More details soon!

What’s on your summer agenda?

May we all have a wonderful Summer Solstice and a season full of fun, community, and creativity.


Posted in Blogging, Color Palettes, My Creative Process | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Sunny Edwards Memorial Quilt ~ Improvisational Patchwork

The improvisational patchwork top was made by Rowan Edwards and myself from his grandfather’s, Sunny Edward’s western shirts. We met weekly for three-hour collaborative sessions in my studio until the top and back were complete.

Click on the gallery to scroll through the full images.

At the beginning of the Passage Quilting process Rowan and I discussed holding the simplicity of his grandfather’s life, along with the paintings of Clyfford Still –one of Rowan’s favorite visual artists– as inspiration for the quilt.

 Clyfford Still

The raw materials we had to work with were Sunny’s western shirts, which had lots of points in the collars, cuffs, pockets and backs –reminiscent of Still’s jagged canvases.

Improvisational patchwork memorial quilt

Once the top was complete, we had plenty of material left over so we pieced the back of the quilt from the back of Sunny’s shirts. The backside of the quilt is reminiscent of the wide open ranch land in Texas where Sunny lived most of his days.

The improvisational patchwork process mirrors the re-orientation of bereavement. Piecing the quilt top without a predetermined pattern provides an opportunity to examine life patterns and discover new ways of relating to the living and the deceased. It’s a process of trusting that transformation unfolds in its own time and way, and the outcome of loss is the blessing of new life.

Posted in Craft Therapy, Personal Heritage | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Honey Bee Dreams…


… and the blessings of summer!

Posted in Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 1 Comment

For Whom The Bell Tolls ~ Remembering Kathreen Ricketson

I heard the news two days ago about the death of Kathreen Ricketson and Rob Shrugg, her husband, and their two orphaned children Otilija and Orlando, ages 13 and 10.

Like so many others I’ve been touched by Kathreen‘s success and generosity. Before I started blogging Kathreen found my work online and invited me to participate in her book WhipUp Mini Quilts. When I began blogging in May 2010 I let Kathreen know and she immediately announced my blog on and just like that I was on the craft blog map. Later she invited me to do a guest post on quilting and bereavement.

I’ve been following Kathreen’s journey on Instagram since January as she began documenting a year of traveling with her family across Austraila, while writing a book about it. I vicariously appreciated the life she was making with her family, and marveled at the beautiful, gentle, intimate way she shared it with all of us.

After hearing the terrible news of Kathreen & Rob’s deaths, I went for my routine jog. I couldn’t stop thinking about Kathreen, her husband, their children, the glory of their lives on the road, the happiness and joy ending so suddenly and so tragically.

Then I thought of the meditation bell that I set to ring at 15 minute intervals during my daily mindfulness practice –ringing, ringing, ringing, startling my lost self out of some thought or worry that has distracted me from my path of being present.

Kathreen’s sudden death in the midst of such promise is like the meditation bell ringing, tolling for me. Suddenly on my run all the flowers became vivid, the smells more pungent. “Wake up, wake up and participate in the making of this beautiful world!”

I think Kathreen’s work has always been about this. Through her blogs, her books, her daily living she translated the importance of  slowing down, waking up, rejoicing in the simple pleasures of craft and relationships, asking us to belong to and participate with our families, our friends, our communities, and our environment –and now even the bright and horrible circumstances of her death has burned this same message into my heart and presumably the hearts of so many she has touched online and off.

I didn’t know Kathreen personally but I felt connected to her and her family, and I feel deep sadness when I think of the loss of her voice and vision, and of the impact of this tragedy on her children and loved ones.

The folks at Mason Dixon Knitting have invited bloggers to remember Kathreen & Rob this week, and to invite our readers to donate to a fund for the care of their children. Please join me in donating if you are able –in celebration of Kathreen and Rob’s life and in appreciation of their life’s work.  Every little bit helps.


Meditation #17 By John Donne From Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623), XVII:

Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris (Now this bell, tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.)

Perchance, he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.

The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Posted in Blogging, Community | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sunny Edwards Memorial Quilt ~ The Gift of Clothing

For the past couple of months I have been collaborating with Rowan Edwards to make a quilt from the clothing of his grandfather, Sunny Edwards. Sunny was a rodeo cowboy from Texas. In these photos from 1950 Sunny is 30 years old.

Sunny’s fabulous western shirts, mostly Wrangler chambray, but also a few Pendleton wools and dress whites and stripes are his collaborative gift to Rowan, and the score for our improvisation.

For Rowan these starched, snap front shirts are the epitome of Sunny’s personality. He was an independent thinker who was well-respected amongst his peers.

Rowan is a designer and a shoe maker and he had the idea to make this quilt before we met. He was guided my Passage Quilts through one of his friends from art school who had heard of the bereavement work I do through improvisational process and quilt making.

Rowan wanted to take an active role in making the quilt. Rowan and I (and Sunny) meet weekly for three-hour collaborative sessions. After all it’s Sunny’s style –his fabulous western wear– that has set the course for the project. He is a partner in our collaboration.

After the initial consultation Rowan and I met to cut Sunny’s shirts apart. Acknowledging that these clothes will never be worn again by cutting them apart is often the most significant step in the bereavement quilt making processes. Did you know that the word bereavement means to tear apart?

Just as Rowan’s relationship with his grandfather has been transformed and functions differently through death, so too are Sunny’s clothes being transformed. They will no longer function as clothing but as a quilt. In Rowan’s words:

The experience of assessing, cutting, preparing pieces for a quilt that is supposed to represent a life well lived proved more complex than anticipated. How do you fully represent, honor people from your life story that offered so much in the way of legacy, integrity, quality of life, quiet sophistication and humor? Documentation is only a start. Having something concrete helps me remember and tell the tales that only hint at the value Sunny brought to those who knew him. So much more can be done. But this is a good start.

More to come…

Posted in Passage Quilting | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Extravagant Generosity

I work part time as the Parish Administrator at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, in San Francisco. I’m not a member, but I do feel like I belong in a way to this unique faith community. This month St. Gregory’s is featuring stories about extravagant generosity and since I had a story along those lines I decided to share.

Manna (1996), 130″ x 120″, was inspired by a sermon preached at my church at that time, United Church of Chapel Hill. Both the sermon and the quilt explore the story in Exodus 16:1-36 about God providing daily bread for the people of Israel while they were wandering in the desert after their escape from slavery in Egypt. The story goes that God rained bread from heaven, in the form of “manna” translated as “what is it?” every night and that the people were to gather just enough each morning to last the day. Since the people had little faith, they hoarded the manna, but to no avail. Except on the Sabbath, the manna became foul and wormy after a day.

My idea was to focus on the extravagant generosity of God’s providence, but I struggled for almost two years with this quilt. It didn’t start to flow until I finally gave into telling the story, which was my story, of how human fear and lack of faith in the providence of the Universe made me cling to the laws of scarcity and poverty. The golden piles of the hoarded manna became figures filled with avarice, laziness, fear, and the soured ideas of scarcity and control. The figures are golden but wormy, laced with barbed wire, and oozing blood.

In 1998 I was doing my first Artist Residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Part of the residency includes an open house where visitors can come and meet the artists and view the work being made in the studios. The open house began with a slide review of past work by resident artists and at this review there happened to be a group of board members visiting from Villa Montalvo, a budding arts center in Saratoga.

After the slide review one of these board members came to my studio and asked me questions about Manna which she had seen in the review. She wanted to know what size it was, the story behind it, where it was currently hanging, how much it cost. I answered her questions and told her the price was $10,000. Without batting an eye she whipped out her check book and wrote a check on the spot. She asked if I could have the quilt shipped from North Carolina to her home in Carmel. Needless to say there was plenty of jaw dropping happening as word about the sale spread.

About a week later I received a letter from my patron saying that she had decided not to take the quilt after all because it was going to be too big for her home in Carmel. She instructed me to keep the $10,000 as a gift in support of my ongoing creative work – imagine even more jaw dropping going on as the letter got passed around! My fellow residents and the staff could hardly believe this act of extravagant generosity.

After being exhibited at several arts centers and museums the large barbed wire quilt found a temporary home at my church in Chapel Hill. In 2002 when I decided to return to school for my MFA, the church offered me a $6000 scholarship to attend the graduate art program at Bard College, in exchange for permanent loan of Manna.

Manna has an extraordinary provenance. To this day I wonder about the wealthy woman who wanted to own a quilt that told the story of our human greed and lack of faith, with only a hint of the Universe’s extravagant generosity in the background.

I wonder about my patron’s extravagant generosity as I remember her call months later telling me how happy she was to support artists out of her gratitude for all of the wealth and good fortune in her life. I remember telling her about my pending divorce and how her gift was providing much-needed financial stability during a devastating and unexpected shift in my life.

I wonder about the extravagant generosity of my home church that freed me from the debt of student loans, again due to this quilt which was a testament to my fear and disbelief in the providence of God, the Universe, the Source, my Higher Power, my Inner Wisdom, of Chance, etc to take care of my basic needs.

I wonder about the way Inner Wisdom has come to me and others through this quilt, and about the power, the extravagant generosity of art to move people and rain bread from heaven.

I wonder about how this one quilt, that came early in my journey as an artist, continues to serve as a living testament to the extravagant generosity of a Higher Power, assuring me that I will be provided for on a daily basis, especially in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of wandering in the wilderness, in the midst of rational knowledge and a climate of skepticism that advises against such a possibility, in the midst of wondering at the edge of the unknown, which is after all, the artist’s way.

Posted in Community, Mantras for Creativity, My Creative Process, Personal Heritage | Tagged , | 24 Comments

On Being Judged

RGB Modern returned from QuiltCon a couple of months ago, but a couple of weeks ago while I was spring cleaning I noticed a piece of paper in the bottom of the sack that my quilt was shipped in. It was the judge sheet with the juror’s notes.

I’ve entered my work into juried exhibitions before, where it is either accepted or rejected but I’ve never submitted my quilts for juror’s comments as is the tradition for quilt shows. In fact I typically advise my students against submitting their improvised quilts for jury by an outside authority. Why? Because finding and trusting one’s own authority is essential to developing authenticity in improvisational process.

So finding the unexpected juror’s notes on RGB Modern was a jaw dropping experience. I’m so satisfied with everything about this quilt, and consider it to be one of my recent bests. However the jurors thought differently. Comments included, “ineffective use of color, does not fit the modern quilt aesthetic, pattern to busy, piecework imprecise and too ambitious.” MY MY I had no idea! After the initial shock I began to laugh. (btw- this is not a criticism, or put-down of the QuiltCon jurors or organizers, they were doing their duty according to the system normalized by the community.)

In life too, I’ve had to learn to laugh at people’s judgements. Recently after a date, the person I was out with sent me a follow-up email saying I was splendid in every way but I needed kissing lessons. I retorted, “I’m a fine kisser, thank-you-very-much, however I’m not as accomplished as you are in turning on the instant passion.” The point being, I never take anyone else’s judgement of me or my work just personally. There may or may not be some seed of truth in it, but mostly other peoples judgements are about their personal preferences or insecurities, and I don’t find it useful.

I  don’t find my inner judge to be very useful either. I don’t know who controls that bitchy voice or where it comes from exactly but I’m not going to listen to her any more than the jurors at QuiltCon! My inner judge will knit pick my best quilt to pieces and leave me despondent if I let her. Instead I ask myself the following questions as a way to evaluate my work rather than judge it.

  • What surprised me while I was making this quilt?
  • What did I learn or discover during the process?
  • What did I find satisfying about the process or the outcome?
  • What am I dissatisfied with?
  • If I have a dissatisfaction, then what can I do differently next time to increase my satisfaction?

Even though QuiltCon is long over, it’s not forgotten. Cruising the blogs recently I noticed a couple of other people who shared their experiences of having their quilts judged, Cinzia at duex petites souris (whose quilt above was one of my favorites at QuiltCon), and Jodi at fiberhaus. If you’ve run across any others, or have posted one yourself please share the link or your story in the comments.

I think the notion of being judged is one of the “big life” issues built into traditional women’s craft. It provides us as quilt makers (modern or traditional) with a golden opportunity for exploring and re-visioning  our relationships to authority,  perfection, criticism, and judgement.

With all of that, I leave you with a few more personal favorites from QuiltCon.

Posted in Mantras for Creativity, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , | 42 Comments

New Workshops for 2014

I’ve added two new improvisational patchwork classes to my workshop offerings and be sure to check out my newly posted teaching philosophy.

Modern quilting is about expanding the boundaries of the tradition without forgetting them. Improvisational patchwork is one of the cornerstones of the modern quilt movement because it drives the evolution of the movement. Improvisation is not design but the creative process behind design, cultivating and pushing it towards the fresh and authentic.

If you would like to take these workshops in your neck of the woods, PLEASE let your guild leaders and shop owners know –I’m now scheduling for 2014! Contact me.


Modern Memory Lane T-Shirt Quilt

Break out of the traditional t-shirt logo grid and take a stroll with me down memory lane! We will be mixing our favorite t-shirts with contrasting fabric to create a series of “memory lane” sections. This method creatively fragments the logos, adding visual interest while holding them together in readable paths of color. You will learn various techniques for stabilizing and sewing knits, hand sewing techniques for preserving necklines, and improvisational patchwork techniques for layering, cutting, and piecing without rulers or a pre-determined pattern. All skill levels.


A Score For Floating Squares

With jazz music, a score, or lead sheet, is used for indicating the basic melody, chord changes, and arrangement of a song without specifying exactly how the song should be performed. Now imagine a score written to perform a quilt! Students will create an improvisational quilt by working from a simple score rather than a pattern. You will learn basic improvisational sewing techniques and leave with the confidence to create your own patchwork scores for future improvisational projects. All Skill Levels.


Posted in Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 15 Comments

A Visit With Eli Leon And His Quilts ~ Part 2

Eli Leon's other collection

Eli Leon collects more than just quilts. His living room is a delightful tableau of color and nostalgia. His living room is also the quilt viewing room.  After bringing seven quilts –all he’s ever made from– from the basement, we hung them one-by-one along one end of the room from a row of heavy-duty clips using an antique step-ladder, then we sat back to enjoy the view.

Improvisational quilt by Eli LeonThis is Eli’s his first quilt! As you can see he was greatly influenced by improvisational style of the African-American quilts he collects. Don’t you love the glitter and the pop and the awesome modern color scheme?!

Improv quilt by Eli Leon - detail

Eli made most of the quilts below during a one week period in 1989 while he was waiting  to hear if he had received a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue the scholarship he started with the exhibition and catalog, Who’d a Thought It: Improvisation in African-American Quiltmaking. I’ve interspersed Eli’s own quilts with excerpts from his catalogs about the improvisational process of the African-American quilt makers whose work he collected and exhibited.

improv quilt by Eli Leon

A classic quote from Eli’s first catalog –on making mistakes:

“Mistakes” may be acceptable, or not seen as mistakes at all but welcomed as an integral component of craftsmanship.  Wanda Jones says that when she was learning to quilt and would make a mistake, her mother would say, “It’s nothin’ about makin’ it a little different.  It’s still the same pattern.  You just added somethin’ of your own to it.” (Who’d a Thought It: Improvisation in African-American Quiltmaking)

improv quilt by Eli Leon

On creating what I call the “rhythm of attention:”

West and Central African textile design often juxtaposes unlike motifs or interrupts orderly repetition by shifts in texture, direction, pattern or scale.  Improvisational African-American quiltmakers make particular use of borders to effect such improvisational juxtapositions and interruptions.  Willia Ette Graham, for example, added an odd border to a quilt in order to “make a little change.”  “I decided,” she said, “as I had this left over from another quilt, I’d put them together to pick your eye back up again.  If it’s just one thing, your sight is just flat, but if you put somethin’ in there to break that, well it’s kinda like flashing a light in your face in the dark.  And that’s the way I go with most of my quilts, tryin’ to match the pieces to where it don’t just keep your sight beared down on one thing.  You move on the see the next step.  You searchin’ for somethin’ else to see.” (Something Else to See: Improvisational Bordering Styles in African-American Quilts)

On making exceptions to the rules –something I try to teach in my Modern Block Improv workshops:

Practices such as measuring approximately, using scraps as found, incorporating accidents into the finished work and making frequent exceptions to whatever rules may have been established, are all aspects of a vision in which incidental contingencies, accepted as spontaneous offerings, are skillfully managed to contribute to the beauty and individuality of an artist’s work.  Accordingly, quiltmaker Laverne Brackens–an eloquent spokeswoman for improvisation–talks of “off-centering the centerpiece,” displaying odd selvages, turning printed stripes in different directions, stripping lengthwise and widthwise in the same quilt, enlarging blocks that are too small for the current need with long strips of fabric, and working out the pattern as she goes along, all to effect a “different look,” “change it up,” or “give that quilt a offset look.” (No Two Alike: African-American Improvisations on a Traditional Patchwork Pattern)

And possibly my favorite quote from one of Eli’s catalogs –on being fearless with design:

Nor are these improvisation-minded quiltmakers unaware of the power of their heterodox, scrap-bag productions.  “I’m going to be up to something real dangerous when I get through with this,” Arbie Williams joked to me.  This quilt done killed two people.” (Let It Shine: improvisation in African-American Star Quilts)

improv quilt by Eli Leon

Eli gleaned the materials for the quilts above from flea markets and thrift stores, but the memorial quilt below was made from Eli’s father’s clothes two years after his death.

memorial quilt made by Eli Leon

So sweet! I had a fantastic visit with Eli. He is such a unique person and a visionary curator and artist –completely devoted to the quilts he’s loved and collected for almost a half-century and to the quilt makers who made them. His work has altered the path of my life and I’m sure of many others. Thanks Eli!

Eli with his father's memorial quilt

Oh in case you are wondering –he won that Guggenheim!

Posted in Community, Modern Improv | Tagged , , , , , | 32 Comments

A Visit With Eli Leon And His Quilts ~ Part 1

Rosie Lee Tompkins Quilt

Do you know who Eli Leon is? In the 80’s he met Rosie Lee Tompkins at a flea market in Marin, and she invited Eli to her home in Richmond, CA to see her few quilts. He was already a quilt lover and collector before he met Rosie Lee, and had amassed about 100 Anglo-American quilts, but he had never seen quilts like hers before.

He now has over 1000 African-American quilts in the improvisational style from makers all over the country. The image below is only a tiny sliver of one of four packed-to-the-rafters storage spaces in his quaint home in Oakland, where he keeps his collection. Imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by all of these folded and hidden treasures! I was practically drooling!

Eli Leon's African American Quilt Collection in storage

In the late 80’s Eli took the best of his collection and pulled together one of the first exhibition of African-American improvisational quilts that toured the country and called it Who’d a Thought It: Improvisation in African-American Quiltmaking. I saw it in 1991 at the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill, and it changed my life –I decided to become an artist. Over the years I have referred to the catalog so many times that the pages are falling out!

Who'd A Thought It catalogue, Improvisation In African American Quilt Making

Imagine my delight when I met Eli for the first time at the talk I gave at Stitch Modern, hosted by The East Bay Modern Quilt Guild in February. He had seen my quilts online and wanted to come to my talk, so his friend Stacy Sharman at Peppermint Pinwheels brought him. I had no idea he would be in the audience, but my presentation opened with properly credited images (thank goodness!) from Eli’s catalog.

Eli Leon surrounded by his African American improvisation quilt collection

After my presentation Eli invited me to visit him at his home to see some of his quilts. We started with a couple by Rosie Lee and then we went to his warehouse storage and he pulled seven quilts that HE had made.

More to come…

Posted in Personal Heritage, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Death Valley Resilience

Last year I journeyed to Death Valley in defiance. I was surviving. This year I rejoiced in my resilience and realized that HEY! I’m thriving! Oh what a difference a year makes.

I could expound in great detail about my solo week of inner and outer adventures in the desert, instead I will pull a couple of excerpts from my journal to give you a taste.

Some people like always to go to new places– perhaps because they yearn for new experiences. I like to return to places, especially extraordinary places like Death Valley, to gage how new experience roots from the inside out.

I’m sitting here now, reading and writing, in the wash maybe a few hundred yards from Emigrants Camp, the same place I pitched my tent a year ago.

It is vast and silent, except for the occasional distant sonic boom from the top-secret government facilities that surround the park. This place is burned into my memory and I am so happy to be back.

I notice that I’ve healed, I’m stronger, I’ve grown. I’m kinder, less selfish, perhaps more aware. Being here connects me to the raw tenderness of my heart a year ago. I simultaneously feel compassion and gratitude for who I was then and who I am now. ~~


I hiked to Wildrose Peak today. Strenuous 7000 ft or 9000 ft? But it was high. Sometimes I imagined that I was hiking inside myself. That the outside was the inside.

If this outside was my interior –let’s say that it was, is– because it felt that way, I noticed how expansive, how good it felt to be solitary.

Perhaps I have mastered being alone with myself, that I have mastered knowing myself as a solitary person. I am at ease with myself. It’s peaceful. I’ve mastered surviving. I’ve mastered independence. I’ve mastered resilience. I can do this.

So what’s next?

Maybe it’s time to begin populating my expansive inner landscape with the company of others. ~~


The Pinyon smelled so good when I crushed it. I imagined that this is the smell of the heart –of love being released. Sometimes the heart needs to be broken for love’s scent to fill the air.

Sometimes all it takes is the warmth of the sun and the breeze…

flowing gently through a community of trees…

 for joy to unfold! ~~

Posted in Mending, Personal Heritage | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Death Valley Bound… Again!

Yes I’m going to Death Valley again. I leave tomorrow at 5 AM, on my second annual solo trip to the desert. Some of you might remember what a mess my heart was in last year. It was a profound time of healing. Experiencing the full force of heartbreak alone in the desert is something I can hardly describe.

Last week at a fun party after a fabulous city hike in San Francisco, I found myself joining a conversation, with a group of women I barely knew, about what a difficult year it had been emotionally. “My heart was broken TWICE in barely over a year. What a fool,” I declared shamefully. One of the women responded “At least you were able to fall in love, and you grew from it. I had a tough year and I can’t say that I gained a thing.”

I don’t know why I’m going to the Death Valley again. Maybe because it is so damn beautiful. The space and the silence of that place is embedded so deep within, that I can imagine it’s vastness expanding inside me, pushing at the boundaries of my heart. When I arrive in the dessert it will be as if I’m living, walking, hiking, eating, reading, praying, singing, moving inside of myself. There will be no distinction between inside and outside when I return to Death Valley. There will be no past or future, only the singular space of the present.

Posted in Mantras for Creativity, Personal Heritage | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

a lucky BLUE bottle face day

I was kinda feeling BLUE today

Looking out my window

East Oakland graffiti

So I went downtown

graffiti on a bottle - blue face

And spied a graffiti Easter egg

Hanging in a tree

graffiti painted bottle, Alameda, CA

A down and out BLUE bottle face

Waiting there for me

I snatched him up and brought him home

A fit companion for my company!


psst… I wasn’t actually feeling so BLUE yesterday, maybe a little, but I certainly was all about BLUE and finding this guy did kind of top off my BLUE day. The old BLUE wedge on my second wall has finally moved front and center and I’m trying a few things out before I commit.

I love all your BLUE comments so far. Thanks!

Posted in Color Palettes, My Creative Process | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

QUILTCON ~ Day 3: Improv Round Robin

I ran out of blogging steam after my third day of teaching improv workshops at QuiltCon, but I’m finally back in Oakland, settled into my routine, and ready to report.

With each workshop, I approach the improvisational process from a different discipline. For the Improv Round Robin, which is essentially communal, we followed the cardinal rule of improv theater  –no matter what fellow performers say or do always affirm and build on their actions to keep the skit going.

It turns out that this is also a great way to succeed at conversation. The best conversations unfold when participants work together to affirm and build or say “Yes And…” In the next conversation you have notice how quickly a “Yes But…” will kill the exchange.

During the Improv Round Robin, students are encouraged to think about improvisation as a conversation. They are asked to listen for the conversation laid out in the patterns made by the people who worked on the quilt before them, and then respond in turn by affirming, joining and adding to that conversation, before passing the quilt to their neighbor for the next round.

If you look at the results above closely, you will see that some conversations are more coherent than others. At the end of the workshop many of the students noted that as in life, some quilt conversations are easier to join and participate in than others.

All of my QuiltCon classes and students were awesome! They (you) worked hard and I think it shows. Can you believe that all 26 of these beautiful round robin quilt tops were made in just six hours?!

Posted in Events and Workshops, Modern Improv | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

QuiltCon ~ Day 2: Get Your Curve On

Another full and fabulous day at QuiltCon. I just got home from the 80’s dance. I don’t have pics but I definitely got my grove on. Nothing like Duran Duran’s Hungry Like a Wolf, followed by Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean, and Cindy Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun for getting a large posse of quilt makers out on the dance floor for some serious tail shaking!

Today I taught an improv curve piecing workshop to another awesome group of quilt makers.  This isn’t an easy process but they shined through in spite of the time constraints and large class size. The first half of the class consists of making the wedge curves, which is quite enjoyable, and meditative. Click the slide show to move through the images manually.

Sewing all the curve pieces together into a composition is the challenge. People get stuck when they are unable to control the outcome. As soon as they push past the need to control, the composition begins to flow from the quilt itself. It’s a difficult phenomenon to describe, but it happens over and over again. It is best understood through experience. This is the magic that makes improv so exciting. Unfortunately I don’t have images of the second half of the class. My auto-focus was turned off. SO dear students if you took a picture of your final composition at the end of class PLEASE send me a copy.

I continued to meet a variety of interesting people from all over the country, as well as fellow bloggers. It’s so fun to put faces and bodies with blogs. Tomorrow is my last workshop of the conference, the Improv Round Robin, and it’s going to be fun!

Posted in Community, Mod Mood Quilt, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

QuiltCon ~ Day 1: Modern Block Improv

I can’t tell you what a fantastic day it’s been. It’s almost midnight and I’m finally back to my beautiful hotel room, after an incredibly full and satisfying day. I really love being a part of a community. It’s amazing to meet people from all over the country that I’ve met through blogging, and Austin is fantastic.

Let’s start with my class. It was awesome. The students did fantastic work. Someone asked me if I learn a lot from my students. My answer is yes but not in the way people might expect. The most valuable thing I learn from students, is how they meet and overcome the internal challenges arising from the improvisational process.

I am always impressed at how much people understand that this process goes deeper than the bright colors and pretty patterns of the materials they are working with. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge. It is very satisfying.

Lots of beautiful quilts in the show. I will post lots of photos of the show quilts that inspire me when I get back to Oakland. My Log Cabin Modern Improv took the prize in the large Hand Quilting category! That’s $500 bucks!!! I was so pleased. Not many people hand quilt these days, and it is such a pleasure to be recognized for such a fundamental and basic skill.

1st place Hand Quilting - Large Quilt - QuiltCon 2013 - Sherri Lynn Wood

There is so much more to say. After hours have been filled with questions about what is modern quilting? Is it becoming codified? Does this exclude people and in what ways? As quilting and the realm of “women’s work” is becoming an “industry” –because there IS money to be made– how do we as makers, teachers, writers and business owners walk the line between honoring the tradition of sharing and support within the community but also recognize that ideas and individual contributions are monetarily valuable and have to be respected.

So many interesting conversations! I’ve been giving and receiving lots of cards from people and when I get back to Oakland I hope to feature a little something from every person who has shared their info with me.

Okay my head is spinning. Off to bed!

Posted in Blogging, Community, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Arriving at QuiltCon

Waiting to board the plane from Oakland to Austin I met five people on their way to QuiltCon. There were even more quilters at the luggage pickup and more at the Super Shuttle. We are multiplying. I’ve been meeting people right and left and everyone is so happy and excited to be here. Including me!

The organizers have pre-sold over 1500 passes. I am so impressed by these organizers and at how organized they are!

Look at all the goodies that came in my QuiltCon goody bag! This thing weighs a ton! It’s filled with freebies like thread, zippers, tailor’s chalk, seam riper, ceramic hot cup, magazines, fabric and more. Wow!

I had a fantastic meal of stuffed trout and a bottle of wine with my friend Bunnie. At the restaurant we met several more QuiltCon quilters.

Now I’m back at my hotel room. It is so so nice. As soon as this posts I will be snuggling into my king size fluffy bed for a good night’s sleep.

I’m teaching my first class bright and early at 9am.

I’m very happy.

Posted in Community, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 9 Comments

QuiltCon Bound


I’m packed and ready to go to Austin!

I’ve never been to Austin and this is the first time I’ve ever attended a national quilt expo –in the 20 years I’ve been making quilts.

I have no idea what to expect, but I imagine it will be insane, and a lot of fun.

There’s an 80’s dance. I was in high school and college during the 80’s so I should be able to remember how people dressed, but I don’t really.

I threw a couple of things together. Not sure it’s vey 80’s or not. However it seems lucky that I found this huge long chain lying on the sidewalk when I was walking to work in San Francisco yesterday. How perfect is that? I added a few safety pins and it was meant to be.

During the conference look for me at the Modern Quilt Guild booth when I’m not teaching. I will have handouts there about my workshops at the booth and I will be there on Sunday for sure. I will post specific times on twitter. My tweets always appear on my sidebar to the right. I hope to meet as many of you there as possible.

Safe travels and a fun weekend… Austin bound or not.


Posted in Blogging, Community, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 2 Comments

My Blue Bike Ride

Riding along the bay in East Oakland on a sunny Sunday afternoon in winter…

restores my rhythm of attention.

Posted in Mantras for Creativity, My Creative Process | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

howdy! let’s meet at quiltcon!

The Modern Quilt Guild invited all bloggers attending QuiltCon to join the QuiltCon Link Party and list five unknown personal facts about ourselves for a virtual meet & greet.  So here it goes.


KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA1) I shaved my head for two Summers in 2006 & 2007. Ever since I saw the Sinéad O’Conner CD cover back in the 80’s I wanted to see what it would be like to sport a bald look.


twirler2) I was a majorette as a pre-teen. I picked up my love of baton twirling again in my 40’s when I joined the Scene Of The Crime Rovers, a very cool alternative marching band, in Durham, NC, made up of a lot of middle-agers like me re-envisioning their high school band days.


3) I live with three very lovable stuffed animals that care for me dearly ;) Jelly Bean the rabbit (JB for short), CoCo Crisp the green corduroy elephant with yellow toe nails, and Curtis the curly-haired dog. Aren’t they adorable!


emptytomb4) I was a divinity school drop out from Emory University in my 20’s. I wanted to be a minister. After I dropped out I started making quilts. Eight years later I submitted a series of quilts based on sacred texts and theological ideas for my thesis, and received a Masters of Theological Studies. The quilt above is called The Empty Tomb and it’s huge.


SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA5) One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike. When I moved to San Francisco I built Frankie (short for Frankenstein) – made entirely from scratch with used and discarded bicycle parts — at the Bike Kitchen.


How to find me at QuiltCon

Follow me on Twitter, send me a message and I will follow you back. I will be tweeting my whereabouts during the conference. Or follow me on Facebook. If you aren’t on either — my Twitter feed shows up on my sidebar, and you don’t need to be a member of Facebook to view my FB page.

When I’m not teaching classes and be-bopping around, you may find me at the Modern Quilt Guild booth. This will be my home base since I’m not affiliated with any commercial entity. Even if I’m not there leave me a note or pick up a card with my contact info. Or take a flyer about my workshop offerings to bring back to your guild.


Workshop FAQ

FAQ’s I’ve received from students about the supply lists for my QuiltCon workshops:

Do I need to bring my sewing machine?

No, QuiltCon is providing sewing machines for all workshop participants.

How much fabric should I bring for the workshop?

Improv Round Robin: A tote bag of scraps will do, plus one yard of a single signature fabric. Include whatever fabrics you want YOUR quilt to be made with. From the materials you provide, others in the class will choose what and how they want to add to your quilt. Also each person will add one fabric of their own to your quilt (that’s what you will use your 1 yd of signature fabric for – to add a little bit to all the other quilts you work on). A range of values is more important than a range of colors.

Modern Block Improv & Get Your Curve On: For each of these workshops, consider how fast you sew and how much you can sew in 6 hours. You can make your quilt a mini or you can work large it’s up to you.  Then bring the amount that seems suitable. Just be sure to have enough range to be creative with. There are no set amounts. Consider what is right for you. If your materials are more restrictive that’s okay – it only means that you may have to push yourself to be more inventive.


If you’re attending QuiltCon, I would love to hear from you in the comments so I can keep an eye out for you. If you can’t make it, I will be blogging about it when I get home – along with plenty of other folks I’m sure, for your virtual fix.

See you soon!

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

valentine 2013 ~ just because…

…i’m spectacular on my own

…it takes two to tango and i’m a fabulous lead

…everyone’s invited to my dance party


Hey Hey I started my Valentine’s Day celebration early. Guess who brought me this double bouquet of amazing peachy orange and creamy apricot roses. It wasn’t some rich faker, controlling coward son of a bitch, that’s for sure. Pardon my French!

I’m laughing when I think back to Valentine’s 2012, and how heart-broken I was over a shallow man (bless his heart – I don’t think he could help himself) who dropped me without a hint of warning. It was such a painful time on so many levels, but all of the wise and comforting comments left by many of you, in the wake of my suffering, were so right. I was lucky to be rid of that guy sooner than later.

Do you remember the French folktale of Bluebeard? The wealthy lord that gave his bride access to all his treasures but forbid her entry to one room in his castle… yeah the bloody room with all of his dismembered former wives! This guy who gave me roses, bought me gifts, called me every single day, swept me away on luxury weekends at Tahoe and the Sierras, and made cheesy power point slide shows with images from our trips together –all shine on the surface– was a bluebeard if I ever knew one. I was lucky to escape with minimal damage. However…

Like some psychic homeopathic remedy, this particular heart-break put me on the path of kindness and compassion, and made me reconsider the evidence of love as something that manifests from the inside out. I’ve never loved myself more, nor have I felt kinder towards others. After experiencing the brutality of being in a controlling relationship, I’m more aware of my own controlling tendencies, and am far less compelled to control outcomes for myself and others.

Just because… my work, my world, and my relationships are blossoming… I gave myself a double bouquet of orange and apricot roses for Valentines Day.

They smell even better than they look!


Posted in Mending, Personal Heritage | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

RGB Modern, 2012

RGB Modern, 2012, 72″ x 57″  –hand dyed and commercial solids, hand and machine pieced, hand quilted.

I considered the space between warp and weft when piecing these curves with bias cut strips. RGB Modern explores the additive color space of the screen. Improvisational process.

I began this quilt while I was teaching at Penland School of Craft in July 2011. It took quite a while to percolate. I completed it in August 2012, over a year later.

The seed of my composition came from this sketched pattern of the concentric rings within an onion.  I used a bias strip curve piecing technique to sew the curved strips. The thing that kicked the composition to completion was a bit of scrap patchwork play that evolved into the diamond background. I was inspired, by many of you who were blogging about your scrapping process, to dig out my bag of hand-dyed scraps. Check out the composition process animation for RGB Modern.

It’s for sale! Contact me.

This quilt will also be showing at QuiltCon. Look for it there or if your local to the San Francisco Bay Area come and see it during my talk at Stitch Modern tomorrow night.

Posted in 2012 Quilts, Modern Improv, My Creative Process | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

a lecture on modern improv quilting at Stitch Modern

I am pleased to announce that I will be giving a talk on improvisational process and quilting at the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild‘s 2nd annual quilt exhibit, Stitch Modern.

Lecture: Modern Improv Quilting and Process by Sherri Lynn Wood
Feb. 5, 7-8:30
Piedmont Center for the Arts
$5 entry fee

Besides sharing a few of my recent modern improv quilts, I will also review the history and tradition of African American improvisational quilting, introduce key concepts of improvisation through the disciplines of comedy-theater, music, and drumming, and share ways for developing inner resources that will move your improvisational work beyond the design process to communicate a powerful sense of presence and discovery. Most importantly I will present a new framework for improvisational quilting –working from a “score”– that breaks free from the design/pattern/copy paradigm of traditional quilting.

If you are local to the San Francisco Bay Area, I really hope you can make it out. If you’re not, pass my workshop and lecture info along to your guild organizers. I’d love to come to your town for a visit!

Stitch Modern will be held at the Piedmont Center for the Arts from February 1st until February 24th.  Quilts will be on view to the public during regular gallery hours  on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12 – 3pm, as well as during Stitch Modern Special Events. Besides my talk the fabulous East Bay Modern Quilters have coordinated several other textile-related events in conjunction with the show.  If you can’t make it because you live far far away – take a sneak peak of the quilt exhibition: see the Stitch Modern Quilt Show on Flickr.




Posted in Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, My Creative Process, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 5 Comments

shooting corners

A corner is the place where two lines of different or similar dimensions meet at an angle, or the intersection of two edges. A corner can also be defined as a point for which there are two dominant and different edge directions in a local neighborhood of the point. –Wikipedia

Today I’ve been shooting corners. I started thinking about the corner pictured below, the corner of 47th Ave & 12th St in East Oakland, the site of multiple shootings that have wounded innocent by-standers and killed others.

I won’t go into describing the craziness that occurred once again outside my window Friday night as I was getting ready to meet friends, ironically, at the Film Noir Festival in San Francisco. This time a cop was shot –at the same corner where I witnessed the aftermath of another multiple shooting and killing at the end of October  –on the same street I heard the gunfire that murdered a man in July 2011. Three shootings in a year and a half?

I’m going to survey regulars who live and work here: What creative thing could be done to change the patterns of neglect and violence on our particular corner?

For example imagine a temporary, improvisational, mural covering the concrete building pictured above. It could start as a simple geometric pattern that allowed for tagging to happen.  Members of the community could then transform and incorporate tags as they occurred without obliterating them, into an ever-changing pattern and visual conversation.

Right now the “collaboration” between property owners on my street and taggers seems to be all or nothing. It’s a dysfunctional, non-communicative cycle of paint over / graffiti / over paint / graffiti –of business giving the street a blank slate.

Why not hold a visual conversation between the community and the taggers on the walls of the cement building at the corner of 47th Ave & 12th? What institutions would need to be on board – or not? Would it be dangerous? How would it be funded? Who owns the building? Who is the community? Who are the taggers? Would it work?

I’m not sure this is the answer. Maybe 10 foot strips of wild California poppies outlining the corner would do the trick, but certainly some kind of restorative visual intervention could be tried to alter the rhythm of attention on this corner –to shift the current pattern of desolation that seems to invite violence, and death.

This chain of thought led me to shoot some of my own corners…

interior corners…

and exterior corners of my environment.



Posted in Art and Social Practice, Community, Mending | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

dreary on the outside ~ cozy on the inside

East Oakland

This is the view outside my studio window –of the container truck lot, on a dreary day in East Oakland. That’s okay ’cause it’s nice and cozy on the inside…

…thanks to the glowing warmth of this Modern Improv Wool Log Cabin quilt. I’ve been photographing it today with my new camera.

If you are a quilt maker you probably know that the red or orange square in the center of a traditional log cabin block represents the hearth or heart of the home.

The intense red, fuschia, and orange of re-purposed wool clothing of this improvised log cabin certainly does the trick. In combination with my nifty gas heater who needs a fireplace! Where ever you are, I hope you are staying cozy today… one way or another.

See this quilt in person at the QuiltCon quilt show in Austin, February 21-24.

Posted in Modern Improv | Tagged , | 16 Comments

I Ching Modern Quilt-along: Step 16 ~ Quilting


It’s taken me awhile to get back to my I Ching Modern Quilt, for a few reasons. All of a sudden I had a bunch of decisions to make!

  1. I decided to remove a row from the quilt, because the rectangular shaped made from five rows instead of the square made from six seemed more balanced.
  2. I bought a green linen back for the quilt but decided I didn’t like the coloring so I went returned to the store and bought a purple/blue linen for the back.
  3. I basted all my layers together: quilt top / two layers of batting, one cotton and one poly low-loft / backing, but decided I needed to pre-wash the fabric so I removed all of the basting!
  4. I quilted a pattern on half the quilt and decided I didn’t like, so I removed all of the stitching.
  5. I quilted the wrong color thread and decided I didn’t like it, so I removed all the stitching again!

Okay – watch the video above for proof that I’m finally quilting away!


stitching mudra - understanding drawing by Sherri Lynn Wood

Quilting: Hand quilting takes time but I love it because it’s meditative –more so when you don’t have a back-beat going on, and I aesthetically like seeing the mark of the hand. When hand-quilting I’m in the posture of prayer. My heart is bowed between head and hands. My fingers form the mudra for understanding.

Batting: I used two layers of batting, one low-loft poly on top, the other a very thin needle-punched cotton on the bottom. The poly gives it fluff and the cotton adds weight.

Basting: I baste from top to bottom, side to side, then a large X from corner to corner, and finally around all four edges.

Marking: I mark the quilting pattern free-hand with chalk. Sometimes I mark only the first two or three lines and then I echo out from there without marking.

This time I tried something new. I made color photo copies of my quilt top and used a sharpie to mark in different quilt patterns. HOWEVER, it didn’t work for me very well since I ended up removing all of the stitches when I tried quilting in the pattern you see on top of the pile. AND the pattern I finally decided on wasn’t one of the ones I drew out. BUT maybe this will work for you. It will at least get your ideas flowing.

possible quilting patterns

Needles & Thread: I like to quilt with size 006 embroidery needles, and #8 pearl cotton. I am lucky to be a 20 minute drive from one of the best needlework shops in the country Lacise, in Berkeley.

embroidery needle and thread


Choose your backing wisely.

Baste your layers together: backing / batting / top.

Mark free hand with chalk.

Quilt by hand for the meditative and aesthetic benefits or…

Machine quilt if you prefer!

Previously, long, long ago, I talked about REVIEWING my quilt and the lessons I learned from the process. In the next and final installment check out my finished I Ching Modern Quilt!

It’s never too late to join an online quilt-along! I’ll be posting new segments of the quilt-along on Mondays. Access the archive and subscribe to the RSS feed here: I Ching Modern Quilt-along. I’ve set up an I Ching Modern Flickr Group if you want to share images of your sketches, process, and final results.

Posted in Quilt Alongs | Tagged , | 10 Comments

new year ~ new camera

I have a new camera! YAY! I love it. Here are a few stills from my studio today, taken with my new Nikon D5100 and a 35mm macro lens. It’s a huge improvement over my old Konica-Minolta, which I have to say, served me very well for at least the last 8 years.

meditation table with candle and marigolds  ~ studio stills

Isn’t the color and clarity amazing? I didn’t have to make any adjustments. These were published as-is right out of the camera!

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goodbye 2012 hello 2013

goodbye 2012 hello 2013

i’m in the studio alone tonight

not really working.

listening to jazz on the radio

drinking champagne

evaluating 2012 and counting my blessings.

cheers to all of you ~ HAPPY NEW YEAR

throwing the i ching

being philosophical.

enjoying my time

kissing myself with gladness

reveling in my imagination.

staying up late

dancing with contentment

knowing that life is good and full of promise.

welcoming 2013 with an o o o o open heart!


Posted in Personal Heritage | Tagged | 7 Comments


I been working hard in my studio and it’s beginning to pay off.

Huge News ~ Grant

Remember a few months ago when I wrote about submitting my grant application to the Joan Mitchell Foundation?

Well… a representative from the Joan Mitchell Foundation called on Tuesday to tell me that I was chosen to receive the Painters and Sculptors Grant! That’s $25K! But it’s so much more than the money. It’s a grant given to

artists at any stage in their career, who are currently under-recognized for their creative achievements, and whose practice would significantly benefit from the grant.

I was not expecting it. Needless to say I’ve been on a happy high ever since. I’ve only just begun thinking about how this will influence my creative goals in the coming year.

I posted my application and artist statement on flickr if you want to check it out.

More News ~ Book

I submitted a rough draft of a book proposal to my agent on Sunday. Yes I have an agent, and I would not have the discipline to stay on task without her. The proposal was 50 pages long! Of course the first draft was a big mess, but I feel very competent for delivering it on time, with minimal procrastination.

The book I want to write is about the process of improvisational quilt making of course!

Necessary News ~ FB Page

Part of selling a book is about audience outreach, so I had to break down and reinstate a Facebook page for Daintytime. Please, if you would like to see my book in print and want to keep up with my workshop and event schedule, LIKE my page and share it with your friends. Visit Daintytime on Facebook

  • For access to my blog posts through FB
  • For workshop announcements and a calendar of upcoming events
  • For photos of work-in-progress and finished quilts
  • For workshop and conference photos
  • Post your questions directly to the the FB page
  • For answers to your quilting, workshop or mending questions

Daintytime on Facebook will be a supplement to my blog so please stop by. It will be the central location for information on Daintytime workshops, events, and exhibitions.

Even if you are not on Facebook you will be able to read all the content on my FB page and can send me questions by email.

Holiday News ~ Joy


I’m spending Christmas with friends in Portland. May you all have a warm and meaningful holiday season with family, friends, loved ones, and neighbors.

In 2013 I will be finishing up the I Ching Quilt-along, posting some quilts from my past on Flashback Fridays… and more.

I will see you in the new year! It promises to be interesting….


Posted in Blogging, Events and Workshops, Personal Heritage | 25 Comments

faq ~ mending & binding

I got a parking ticket yesterday while doing some errands in downtown Oakland. Normally this would upset me, but all I could think is “at least I didn’t have a young child who was shot and killed at school today.” The school shootings in Connecticut are deeply upsetting. This senseless loss of precious young life reminds me to cherish the life I have, and all the good people who are a part of it, not to waste precious time with anger over small things like parking tickets, and to let go of fears that hold me back from fully embracing the blessings and opportunities that are in my life today.

In a moment like this it feels right to pray for the people of Newtown, and to be of service to my community in all the small and large ways that I’m able. So it seems appropriate to respond to a few mending and quilting questions from readers.  The first one is a mending question from Ken who sent me this image:

I was searching to find out about mending to restore some of my favorite clothes. I have some Levi’s jeans that need mending and a really cool vintage denim Levi’s western shirt I have had since late 1980’s that is really frayed at the collar. I wanted to learn to repair clothes but first was wondering if it is possible to repair a shirt’s collar? Does one need a sewing machine? Your advice would be greatly appreciated. If you want I can send pictures.

No you do not need a sewing machine. Hand sewing will work just as well, but it takes more time. In my opinion, the work of the hand signifies devotion, and there is a certain amount of devotion inherent in wanting to mend a favorite shirt.

There are a several options.  Try slipping the gingham fabric behind the frayed fabric and then use running stitches to hold the piece in place and a blanket stitch to secure the frayed edges as I did with the gold and orange fabrics in the image above.

OR do the same thing but without the gingham fabric, just secure the fragile areas with decorative stitching as I did on with the waistband of these jeans.

Or make a couple of long patches from the gingham, turn the edges under and pin them in place. Then appliqué the patches on top of the frayed sections. Use decorative embroidery stitches when sewing the patch in place, to make something beautifully unique out of the worn out places.


Debbie and Michelle both had questions about the binding on  Negative Space:

I’ve been trying to figure out your finishing technique. I don’t like to put bindings on my work. How do you finish yours? Could you suggest a tutorial?

I use an invisible or reverse binding on many of my quilts, especially wall hangings. I’m happy to say that I have written and posted an invisible or reverse binding tutorial right here on

ps. If you have any mending or binding suggestions, please do share your tips in the comments.

Posted in Mending, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

choose happiness

Here’s the news. I’m focusing on being happy, and I think it’s working!

For some time one of my main goals has been to find a life partner, but to no avail. Regardless of the amount of energy I put into making a relationship work, I had absolutely no control over the other person’s emotional availability or capacity for intimacy.

So I have simply shifted my main goal to being happy –something I can control and succeed at. Duh!

As you might have heard, researchers believe that we can actually CHOOSE HAPPINESS. By implementing certain behaviors and habits, we can raise our happiness baseline (our genetic disposition for happiness) by 40%.

My shift towards happiness began at Thanksgiving while I was working on Negative Space. Experiencing FLOW, being fully engaged in creativity, work or play, is one of the habits that increases happiness.

Since then I’ve also developed a new enthusiasm for exercise. Exercise actually gives me a happiness high, so I’m not procrastinating about going to the gym anymore. In fact I haven’t been procrastinating much at all these days.

I’m meditating every day and being mindful in my life as much as possible. Whenever I notice my thoughts obsessing about the past or future, I choose to stop and I bring myself back to my body and my breath.

I’m changing my routines, driving different routes, exploring my neighborhood more, going to a cafe to write instead of staying isolated in my studio.

I’m balancing my creative work, time on the computer, and time alone with going out, socializing with friends, and meeting new people.

I don’t feel the need to please people as much as I used to, because my first priority is pleasing myself!

I’m dating for fun, and keeping things simple. I’m not focusing on any one person, or striving to make relationships happen, but am enjoying whatever the other person is able to bring to the table. I’m interacting with a new sense of integrity and it feels great.

Finally I’m practicing gratitude and recognizing that I am a blessing to the people in my life, as much as I am blessed.

Here are two happiness mantras for the holidays. Play them both simultaneously for a mesmerizing double dose of well being.

Posted in Craft Therapy, My Creative Process | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Rainbow Cloud Quilt

Rainbow Cloud Quilt, 2012, 52″ x 68″  Made with hand-dyed and commercial solids, machine pieced, hand appliqué, hand quilted.


I imagined this piece as large, sensual drops of black rain or tears during a time of sadness and loss. As I was making this quilt I realized that there is a lot of rainbow around the dark spaces in life. I guess we can choose which parts to see, the positive or the negative. I like keeping both in view. All rainbow would be grandiose, and all dark, morose.


I developed a bias strip curve patchwork technique for this modern improv quilt.  I machine pieced free-cut continuous bias strips to create the curved lines, and then hand-appliquéd the large curved patchwork segments to the strip-pieced background. I created Negative Space one step at a time through an improvisational process without templates, sketches or rulers.

It’s for sale! Contact me.


Posted in 2012 Quilts, My Creative Process | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

christmas knitting

It’s a dreary Thursday in Oakland, but I’m cozy in my studio with a morning cup of coffee and my Christmas knitting projects.

Mostly I’m making my favorite fingerless mitt pattern, Fallberry by Ann Hanson, published free on knitty. I love this pattern.

It knits up fast and beautiful on #2 double points, in the round with no seams.

Hand-knit with devotion, my friends are always delighted when they receive a pair of these from me.

Posted in Knitting | Tagged | 1 Comment

negative space ~ how the hole affects the whole

Whenever I remove a section of a quilt-in-progress from my work wall and add to it,  I ALWAYS study the space left in its place. I notice how the negative space changes the piece still on the wall –how the hole affects the whole. Doing this can sometimes take the quilt in a surprising new direction.

For the last month I’ve been working on this without a clue about where it was headed:

I pulled down the top section to sew something to it and was left with this:

AND this:

Wowza! In a split second my split sections were on their way to becoming TWO modern quilts instead of one.

To be continued…

Posted in My Creative Process, The Modern Quilt, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

a simple thanksgiving

My thanksgiving has been simple and revolutionary. I’ve had a week off from work and no one to share my glorious free time with.

So I’ve spent a lot of it in silence, meditating and working on a new quilt. I’ve also visited with friends and am looking forward to a lovely Thanksgiving meal with a group of twelve warm-hearted souls in San Francisco later today. I haven’t been a complete hermit.

During this quiet, slow week I’ve recognized, and am letting go of negative thinking.

Interesting enough while working on a new quilt for the Quiltcon show in the category of negative space, I realized that there is so much rainbow around the dark spaces of life. I guess we can choose which parts to see. I like keeping both in view. I think of this view as the grounded or broadly positive. All rainbow would be grandiose, floaty, and boring.

I can’t fully explain my internal tilt from the negative to the broadly positive, except that it started with a deep listening of my thought patterns, followed by letting go of judgement, finding a little compassion for myself, and finally turning over a choice, “If I’m going to let thoughts influence my actions in any way they might as well be grounded in the positive (but not unrealistic).” So simple?

Usually many subtle influences sublime and mundane must come together to deliver an enlightened revolution of mind towards surrender, tenderness and peace. My handy friendly oracle the I Ching reminded me that this is a time for integrity and that integrity fosters self-sufficiency, which leads to gradual progress. I’m reminded and encouraged by the I Ching’s wisdom to slow down and recognize  that lasting bonds between people develop gradually and organically. I also read this Kaiser article about positive thinking and stress around the holidays.

I’m thankful for having the time, space, relationships –the inner and outer resources– for continued growth, understanding, and grace. I’m thankful for this feeling of hopeful resilience based on accepting the way things are unfolding in my life today. I feel a lot of grounded joy!

May you also revolve in the joy and resilience of gratitude this day.


Posted in Craft Therapy | 6 Comments

FYI – Spoonflower Quiltcon Sweepstakes

I was checking my blog stats and discovered this Spoonflower Sweepstakes. The grand prize is a trip to QuiltCon, including  airfare for two from any major US airport, accommodations & meals, admission and registration for four days of amazing lectures and selected workshops.

As part of this all-expenses paid trip, we’re including enrollment for you and your buddy to three of our very favorite workshops.  If you’re our winner, you’ll get to attend “Modern Block Improv” by Sherri Lynn Wood on Thursday.  Sherri is an improv master and just an all-around lovely person. (I met her once at a yard sale!) Prepare to be blown away when you check out her improvisationally pieced series of “Color Study Quilts.”

This was news to me, but how delightful! So dear readers, whoever wins this prize will be attending my workshop with a friend at QuiltCon.  (btw ~ In the Modern Block Improv workshop I introduce the concept of repetition as a path to improvisation and discovery.)

If you haven’t entered yet, the Spoonflower sweepstakes ends in two days on November 14, 2012 @ 08:00 pm (EST).  Enter with Facebook or with this alternate entry link.

Posted in Blogging, Current Giveaways, The Modern Quilt | 9 Comments

from me to myself

I bought myself roses today. I am SO worth it. I’m an amazing, beautiful, powerful, brave, compassionate, sweet soul.

So are you ~

Posted in Personal Heritage | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Día de los Muertos ~ and why I’m voting for Obama

Dia de los Muertos procession, photo by –Mark–.

Día de los Muertos, held every year on November 2nd in the Mission district, is my favorite city parade in San Francisco. It’s not exactly a parade but a procession that

honors both death and the cycle of life… It’s a moment to contemplate our existence and mortality and for remembering deceased friends and family. — Marigold Project, the organizers of the event.

I’ve participated every year since I moved to the Bay Area in 2008. I feel joyful, tender, and calm walking in the midst of the festive crowd usually with a friend or two carrying a candle in memory of my mother and grandmother. It’s a chaotic mix of celebrating and mourning, participating and observing life and death simultaneously.

Day of the Dead shrine to my mother ~ Linda Susan Wood (1943-2003)

Recently I finished reading Status Anxiety a book by Alain de Botton. He examines the causes of status anxiety, including the rise of meritocracy in modern times and the shifting worldview on the roles of the wealthy and the poor from a time when financial and social hierarchies were fixed. He elaborates on Three Useful Old Stories about Failure:

1) The Poor Are Not Responsible for Their Condition and Are the Most Useful in Society
2) Low Status Has No Moral Connotation
3) The Rich Are Sinful and Corrupt and Owe Their Wealth to Their Robbery of the Poor

And continues with Three Anxiety-Inducing New Stories about Success:

The rise of these stories have been accompanied by momentous material improvements across society, but at a psychological level, their contribution was to make low status all the harder to endure.

1) The Rich Are the Useful Ones, Not the Poor
2) Status Does Have Moral Connotations
3) The Poor Are Sinful and Corrupt and Owe Their Poverty to Their Own Stupidity

In my mind these two sets of stories roughly define the difference between Obama’s worldview and Romney’s. Obama’s understanding that the middle class is the backbone of a healthy, and prosperous society versus Romney’s 47% statement perfectly illustrates this difference. My thinking is more inline with Obama. In my opinion…

We’re All In This Shit Together ~ The Mantra Trailer, 2007

These are hard times, but the important thing to remember is that we are in, whatever we are in, TOGETHER. Certain essential things, involving the life and death of the community are beyond profit margins and are best regulated or supported by government for the broad prosperity of the middle class… like natural disaster relief for instance.

I don’t think the path of privatization at the cost of the community is the forward thinking direction for our country at a time of limited global resources and exponential population growth.  Forces bigger than the actions of any leader are reorienting our economy towards sustainability. A new era of status tallied by the quality and strength of our relationships and NOT financial power is dawning. We will have to fight for it. It’s a difficult transition and Obama gets this. Romney doesn’t or doesn’t care.

Community shrine at Día de los Muertos, San Francisco.

Alain de Bottom’s solutions to status anxiety include philosophy, art, politics, religion, and bohemia. According to de Bottom, experiencing a piece of great art or the power of nature, recognizing our mortality, participating in religious rituals and the political process are all levelers of status defined by financial wealth.

Day of the Dead memorial, Garfield Park, San Francisco

Which brings me back to Día de los Muertos, a public procession of the living dead –made of flesh and bones, rejoicing in the blessings of life and remembering collectively, our dead loved ones whom we are soon to join. Celebrating the Day of the Dead reminds me that human worth based on monetary wealth is a fiction that I don’t have to buy into or vote for. We are all equal in death.  We all have one life to live and one vote to give.

Many thanks to –Mark–  at flickr for generously sharing –via the Creative Commons— these amazing portraits of this year’s Día de los Muertos celebration.

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Community | Tagged , | 10 Comments

curve improv quilting and the uncertainty principle

Here are some photos from the Get Your Curve On workshop organized by Alison of the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild, held at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church on Saturday. I was so impressed by the level of work of the participants. These folks jumped in without looking back. This is not an easy workshop for several reasons.

Curve piecing without a predetermined pattern requires skill and a lot of practice. The techniques require improvisation to master.  Sure I can give an outline of how I do it but each person has to master the material through exploration. There are plenty of ways to piece a curve.

Mastering and improvising the technique is challenging, but the deeper challenge is improvising a curvy composition. No matter how well I compose and sew my curves, as soon as I sew one section into place, I alter the composition. There is absolutely no way to set the design in stone before I piece it together. It’s kind of like the Heisenburg uncertainty principle:

In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position x and momentum p, can be known simultaneously.

It is impossible to know the precise position and momentum simultaneously of a composition when piecing curves!  And this is what came clear to me on Saturday: The only way to succeed is to commit one step at a time without any expectation of a final outcome. With each commitment the landscape shifts. BTW – this is the way trusting and enduring relationships between people unfold as well. It’s as hard to do in quilting as in life!

Always changing Blue Wedge at Saturday’s workshop. See an earlier variation.

It’s easy to fudge and bypass a true experience of improvisation with wonky log cabins or pulling random strips of fabric out of a bag, but Modern improv curve piecing forces one to work on the edge of the unknown. THIS is improvisation. It’s inescapable and it’s a big pill to swallow. Some of the students said they kind of hit the wall with it but I assured them that the big pill is a time release capsule. The lessons of improvisation will sink in with practice.

I invite anyone who has studied improv curve piecing with me this Saturday or this summer at the OCMQG workshop to comment below on the one thing big thing they took away from their experience of the workshop.

Posted in Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, My Creative Process, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

improvising technique ~ curve piecing workshop

This week in the studio I’ve prepared to teach a workshop for the East Bay Modern Quilters on Saturday. Woo hoo! We are doing eight-hours of Get Your Curve On! There are 17 on board. I hope it will be a topsy-turvy ride for everyone.

This is a workshop focused on technique and not design but it’s still all about improv. I don’t think a lot of  quilt makers realize this fact: Improvisation of design has its limits. Real innovation begins with the improvisation of technique and tools. My unsuspecting students think I’m going to tell them exactly how to sew a perfect curve! Tehehe… Are they in for a surprise!

I’ll take lots of pictures and report on the outcome next week.

Posted in Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged | 4 Comments

retreating into community

My road rarely seems smooth. Since the killing on my street a couple of weeks ago I’ve felt a little antsy spending my days in the urban mire, so I went on a weekend solo retreat to St. Dorothy’s Rest, an Episcopalian retreat center and camp near Occidental, CA, near the coastal redwoods.

It was beautiful. The staff was very welcoming. I had a sweet little house with a deck and a fireplace all to myself. However going alone wasn’t such a good thing. After the first restful day I began feeling anxious and lonely.

My anxiety eased after meeting a large group of knitters also on retreat at Dorothy’s Rest. They took me in immediately. I brought a bunch of knitting to do alone, including a sweater that needed finishing. One of the instructors helped me master my seaming technique. BTW – the trick to smooth seams is patience and persistence.

I think groups of knitters are fantastic, funny, and genuinely appreciative of the effort everyone and anyone makes to knit at whatever skill level. The love of yarn and craft is an instant bond.

I’m so independent that being a part of a group is challenging, but I have enough time to myself. I’m ready to explore something new. The takeaway has been that when the seaming gets rough I can patiently retreat into community.

ps… how do you like my green sweater? :) specs on ravelry


Posted in Community, Craft Therapy, Knitting, Mending | Tagged , , | 10 Comments