DIY ~ Inset Sewing Machine Table

inset sewing machine table

As an improvisor I really enjoy rigging up my sewing space and equipment to suit my particular needs.

Here is how I inset my Juki TL-98E home sewing machine into a table and lined it with old rotary cutting mats. Be sure to pay attention to the features of your machine and adapt these general guidelines accordingly.

Materials and Tools:

  • 6′ pressboard table
  • Drill
  • Handsaw or jigsaw
  • A scrap piece of sturdy board for the dropped bottom that your machine will rest on.
  • 4 large, strong screws and bolts long enough to drop through the table, the board and the length of the machine resting below the table surface.
  • Gorilla Glue or similar adhesive
  • Old cutting mats
  • Sharp utility scissors

underside-view-of-my-diy-sewing-machine-table-as-requested-makingdo-sewingtools-figuringitout_24364710919_oHow to:

  • Position your machine on top of a 6’foot pressboard folding table at a distance that is comfortable for you to work at but also allows room for the knee lift to clear the metal edge of the table underneath (if you have a Juki or a machine with a knee lift), and then use a sharpie to mark around the footprint of the machine. I placed my machine approximately 6″ from the edge.
  • Drill a hole inside the footprint large enough to slip in the tip of a handsaw or jigsaw, and then saw around the marked footprint.
  • Saw out a small curve on the back end of the sewing machine placement, to allow the cords to rise up through the table and plug into the machine. Since I could access the bobbin case without difficulty on my Juki, it wasn’t necessary to saw out any other locations around the footprint except for the cords.
  • Cut a board a few inches larger than the footprint of your machine and placed it over the hole you just cut. Drill four holes large enough for through the board and the table at each corner. large enough to fit the large bolts I bought to create a drop floor for the machine to rest on.
  • Dig around the drilled holes to drop the bolts flush on the table.
  • Cut up old self-healing cutting mats to fit around the machine, using sharp utility scissors or some other instrument to cut through the mats.
  • Carefully glue in place using Gorilla Glue (or similar) to bond the mats to the tabletop surface. Place books or other heavy objects on the surface for 24 hours until the glue sets.


I love having the cutting mat surrounding my machine, since I’m often cutting my patchwork as I sew. Having the glued down cutting mats removes the hassle of the mat sliding around as I go back and forth from cutting to patching.

However I do not use my Juki for machine quilting so I can not attest to the smoothness of the surface for machine quilting. You may prefer to have the inset machine table without the cutting mat lining.

Remember these are general DO-IT-YOURSELF guidelines, that could and should be adapted to fit your particular machine and needs!

Posted in Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

January 2016 Mandala ~ Simplicity Tools Basics

2016 Mandalas - Sherri Lynn WoodAt the beginning of the new year, I was invited to participate in a Facebook Group, 2016 New Year Mandalas, with the goal of creating 12 mandalas in 12 days, one for each of the upcoming months of 2016. I decided to take the challenge of setting a visual intention for the months of of the year ahead. I also hope to blog each month about my intentions, as a way of tracking the year ahead.

January Mandala - Simplicity Basics Tools

It’s actually February 1, and I am post-dating this blog entry for January 31! This meshes with my January intention of Simplicity Tools Basics – in that I’m in desperate need of a simpler less technology ridden life. Usually January is my quietest month but not this year. The month is already over and it was a blur of activity. Much of my time and efforts being c0nsumed by social media and promotional activities. Actually I yearn for the good old days of 2010 when the humble blog post was all that was required to share my thoughts with a broader community.

I haven’t figured out how to balance my email and social media responsibilities with my creative life, but limits have to be set. I’m struggling to keep up with it all. Although I enjoy being a part of the communities on Facebook and Instagram, I miss the format of writing more extensively about my life and creative process on my blog. So with January already gone is it ludicrous to proclaim that I want to get back to blogging?

To do more blogging I have to cut back on other social media activities. I removed the Facebook App from my phone. I’m also inviting members of the vibrant Improv Handbook Facebook Group to step into leadership rolls. I have to cut down my direct presence there but will be stopping in occasionally to read and comment.

BTW – the FB group is currently working through each of the scores in The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters in 2016. If you are interested in getting supportive feedback with your improv projects – be they scores from the book or your own explorations please jump in and join the very active conversation!

Along with these changes in my Facebook interactions, I’m only responding to email inquiries on Thursdays. I hope this structure will help but I’m not sure. Right now I’m terribly behind on my email correspondence.

I’m deeply dissatisfied about how technology eats into my real, present, and embodied life. Life is too short to be on the computer all the time. For this reason I sigh when I see these old fashioned hand stitching tools – a quilting and an embroidery hoop. Although I’ve taken some steps in January to allow more space for life off screen, I’m not sure if it’s enough.

But I will do my best! My January 2016 mandala reminds me to keep working for more simplicity, and basics in my life, relationships, living spaces, and in my creative work as well.

Posted in Blogging, Community, Mantras for Creativity, My Creative Process, Personal Heritage | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Remembering 2015

Screenshot 2015-10-18 22.07.08It was a big year…

Maybe my biggest ever regarding my professional life. The release of my first book, The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters, in April, and the subsequent embrace of it’s message in the community of quilt makers, surpassed my hopes for it’s success. Almost everyday I receive an email or a shout out on Instagram or Facebook from a reader about how much the book has resonated and inspired them.

It may seem like fan stuff from an outsider, but to me each note of appreciation from someone touches me deeply and gives me a sense of meaning and belonging. I feel like a geek admitting this, but sometimes when I’m feeling deeply alone these little messages from strangers light up the darkness and show me a way out of any pitiful false stories I may be dwelling in.

Many thanks to all who have embraced The Improv Handbook and it’s message. If you feel so inclined I encourage you to review The Improv Handbook on Amazon and/or on Goodreads. I hope the book will continue to go out into the world as more and more people are curious to explore improvisation and flexible pattern patchwork.

Meeting quilt makers on the road…

A big part of the book release was touring across the country, and meeting quilt makers everywhere! Thanks to all of the people who helped me organize the tour including Modern Quilt Guild leaders in San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland/Berkeley, Asheville, Denver, Lincoln/Omaha, Raleigh/Durham, Winston-Salem, Cincinnati, and St. George. Thanks to all of the organization and venues who hosted me – Stitch ModernSew ModernRosie’s Calico CupboardUnited Church of Chapel HillThimble PleasuresSewingly YoursMalaprops BookstoreSewn StudiosInternational Quilt Study Center and MuseumFancy Tiger, and Scrap Apple Quilts.

Teaching at Quiltcon…

Even though I’d been quilting for over 20 years when I started this blog in 2010, I was an outsider to the online Modern Quilt movement. I have to thank the national Modern Quilt Guild for continuing to invite me to be on their roster of teachers at QuiltCon. Being invited to teach as a virtual unknown in 2013, was a huge opportunity for me, to be invited back in 2015, 2016, and 2017 is an honor. It has allowed me to meet quilt makers from all over the country and abroad. This in turn has led to opportunities to teach at individual guilds and special conferences.

And guilds across the country…

I am so thankful to all the guilds and guild leaders who have believed in me and have hosted me so graciously in 2015. It is one of the most satisfying parts of my life, being the teacher! Being trusted by each student to lead and guide the creative unfolding of their workshop experience, and watching people grow and embrace their authentic expression feeds me on a deep level. I always feel so connected to my wonderful students and the progress they make in their work. Thank you to all the organizer and students at Chicago MQG, Camp Stitch-a-lot, Aunt Mary’s Quilt Shop, the Seattle MQG, the Fidalgo Island Quilters, Kansas City MQG, A Gathering of Stitches, New Hampshire MQG, SeaCoast MQG, LAMQG, San Diego MQG, Triangle MQG, FrontRange MQG, Quilting By The Lake, Bay Area MQG, Pittsburgh MQG, Quilt Guild of the Villages, Mt. Tam Quilt Guild, and the Quilt Guild of Contra Costra County!

Find out where I’m teaching and speaking in 2016! I still have openings in the fall of 2016, and 2017 – if your guild or organization is interested check out my workshop offerings!

Interviews, magazines, blogs and podcasts…

improv handbook in SF ChronicleAnother favorite part of the book release was being interviewed for so many amazing podcasts, blogs, and magazines. Each interviewer had a unique approach to asking questions, and I so enjoyed getting to know each of the interviewers, and the opportunity to share my perspective.

Sew LeWitt…

Sherri Lynn Wood - Sew LeWitt - Adobe Books San Francisco

Just check it out!

Watching you all grow, and doing it YOUR way!

Finally a shout out to all of the amazing improvisors out there -the first timers and the more experienced. I’ve been so impressed watching so many quilt makers jump in and doing their own thing. Beginning with The Improv Handbook Test Quilters – I’m reading reviews of my book saying that many folks like the test quilts in the book better than mine! I think that’s awesome. I was blown away that their were 18 Improv Handbook test quilts represented at QuiltCon 2015!

And I’ve been blown away by the level of discussion and participation, and of course the amazing quilts being posted daily in The Improv Handbook Facebook Group by the 1400+ members. You’ve got to check this out! If you are up for some improv in 2016 members of the FB Group will be working through the book’s scores one month at a time beginning in January.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 3.14.50 PM

Also sew along with Rachel Hauser at Stitched in Color as she continues to work through the scores in The Improv Handbook. Her insights on the process and her outcomes are surprising and inspiring.


What an amazing year of meeting quilt makers where they live. My friendships and colleagues have multiplied! I’ve been blessed beyond belief and I’m looking forward to exploring 2016 with you! THANK YOU!

Sherri Lynn Wood

Posted in Community, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 1 Comment

Jerrod Allen Nickelson (1977-2013)

These three quilts were made from the clothing of Jerrod Allen Nickelson, one for each of his three children. With the help of their mother, each child chose specific items that best carried their memory of and relationship to him. What satisfied me most about the process and the outcome is how each quilt evolved uniquely by simply responding to the clothes they picked. The quilts are machine pieced, and hand quilted.

Since 2002 I have been working with people through collaboration, consultation and commission to make improvised quilts from the clothing and materials of everyday life. This practice developed into an active, hands-on, therapeutic process for working through life transitions and bereavement, that I call Passage Quilting. For more information see the Passage Quilting Blog Archive, and Passage Quilting tutorial.

Posted in Passage Quilting | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Patchwork Sketchbook ~ Shipping Pallets

shipping pallets

Actually I’m having a dispute with the shipping pallet lot across from my building because they are blocking most of the street with an overflow of pallets. Even so, the stacked pallets themselves are quite fascinating as a patchwork pattern possibility.

imagination pallets

All it takes is a little imagination to translate these stacked shipping pallets into a score, a flexible pattern, using ruler free strip piecing techniques.  It’s on my to do list!


I invite you to share your Patchwork Sketches for variable patterns with the Improv Handbook Facebook Group. What’s inspiring your quilts these days?

Posted in Sketchbook | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Sew LeWitt at Adobe Books Backroom Gallery

Adobe Books San FranciscoI had a great time facilitating the first of a series of patchwork performance installations — Score For Floating Squares (à la Sew LeWitt) — at Adobe Books, September 6-27, 2015.

Score For Floating Squares (a la Sew Lewitt)Sew Lewitt by Sherri Lynn WoodSurprised and delighted at how much people who had never sewn before enjoyed making patchwork. Discovered how much fun it was to hang out with the good folks at Adobe Books and sew with whoever showed up. Satisfied with the outcome!  In case you are wondering I will be filling in the blank negative spaces with white fabric to make one giant quilt. Next steps… fingers crossed for the next in the series, Score For Strings (à la Sew LeWitt). Thanks to all of the folks at Adobe Books and to all the people who showed up to be a part of it! It was even highlighted on ArtSlant as one of North America’s Must-See Exhibitions this Fall!

Follow me on Instagram!

Sew LeWitt Project Sponsors


Special thanks to Robert Kaufman Fabrics for providing over 60 yards of vibrant Kona Cottons in 80 different colors and to Fairfield World for providing a roll of their luscious Nature-fil wool batting to line the gallery walls.

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Community, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Quilt Local by Heather Jones

quilt local by heather jones
I like the premise behind Heather Jone’s latest book, Quilt Local.  I believe wholeheartedly in observing and abstracting patterns from your environment. Pattern abstraction is fundamental to quilt making and is rooted in the American frontier. All of the classic patchwork blocks arose from abstraction of the everyday — Log Cabin, Turkey Tracks, Rail Fence, Drunkard’s Path…

Quilt Local features fixed patterns and emphasizes Heather’s considered design process, color theory, and implementation. I love the introductions to each of her projects, where you see an image of the object and her sketch together.


Quilt Local is a lovely book for people prone to designing and planning and who are interested in modernizing or inventing new fixed patterns, but it’s premise also speaks to improvisors, who like to explore flexible patterns.

I always encourage students of improv to look at their environment for inspiration, not other people’s quilts. For this reason I think Quilt Local is a great cross over book that  speaks to both fixed and flexible pattern traditions in quilt making.

When I first started my blog I had a series of weekly posts on Inspiration Sundays, under the category of Sketchbook. Each post featured an image of an object in my environment and an abstracted pattern sketch of that object.  This sketchbook post inspired by zinias, led to developing the wedge-curve technique…

and this sketchbook post inspired by onions, led to the bias-strip piecing on the curve technique, both of which are featured in The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by the same wonderful publisher of Heather’s book, STC Craft / Abrams.

Abstracting patterns from your environment is an extremely important practice to undertake and Heather’s book leads by example, along with practical tips on how to do it. Here are a few of the other objects and places that surround Heather and inspired the over 40 projects featured in Quilt Local. Aren’t you curious to see the quilts they inspired???


Another thing I appreciate about quilts in Quilt Local is Heather’s simple and bold use of scale. I notice that a majority of my students tend to piece medium to small. I often wonder why that is. Is it a comfort thing? Is it a gender thing? Is it something about not wanting to take up space? Is it a form of scarcity and a fear of wasting fabric? Is it a form of agoraphobia and a fear of large spaces? I’m curious about what you think…

from Quilt Local by Heather Jones

But I can tell you that Heather Jones isn’t afraid of working big and being surrounded by large spaces! Her work breathes space and simplicity. Her quilts unclutter the mind and restore the soul and so does her book! Bravo Heather!

Quilt Local has inspired me to resurrect my Sketchbook posts! Stay tuned….

And check out the rest of the Quilt Local Blog Tour:

10/6: STC Craft Blog

10/8: Robert Kaufman

10/9: Melanie Falick

10/10: Sew Mama Sew

10/11: Creative Bug

10/12: Plaid Portico

10/14: Modern Sewciety

10/16: Pellon

10/19: The Tattooed Quilter

10/21: Amy’s Creative Side

10/23: Diary of a Quilter

10/26: Film in the Fridge

10/28: Tall Grass Prairie Studio

10/29: Okan Arts

10/30: Kara Sews

11/2: Crimson Tate

11/4: Dainty Time

11/6: Nap Time Quilter

11/9: Spoonflower

11/11: Aurifil

11/13: A Gathering of Stitches

Posted in Reviews, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Women In Espionage Trading Cards

I’ve previously shared the artwork of my very talented and dear friend Mary Yordy. She is an artist that inspires me, and she’s hit another home run with her Women In Espionage Trading Cards.

Women in Espionage Trading Cards by Mary Yordy

Mary has carefully researched and brilliantly brought to light and life a topic and cast of characters who have long been under the radar in popular culture, female spies. She has compiled images from the internet to create intriguing visual montages of each of her subjects. On the back of the trading cards she smartly summarizes the facts and hearsay on each of her notorious heroines or traitors as the case may be.

The intriguing lives and undercover work of  Valerie Plame, Julia Child, Emelia Earhart, and many more across time and nationality are included in this first limited artist edition set of sixteen. Women In Espionage Trading Cards – Brown Set  are available on Etsy. These unique trading cards would make an an empowering, and curiously entertaining holiday gift for all your feminist and left or right wing conspiracy theorist friends and relatives, as well as any preteen or teenage girls in your life.  Or you may want a set of your own! I’m always telling my improv patchwork comrades to go out there and make something dangerous. The courage of these risk taking women will inspire you.

I’m not the only one recommending them. See this review – “beautiful and compelling portraits” on BoingBoing. Get your WIP Brown Set today before they are all gone. Mary’s WIP Green Set, which will include Coco Chanel will be released in 2016. Did you know that Coco Chanel was a spy? Who do you think she worked for…?

Posted in Reviews | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Pope’s Message of Mercy

When the Iraq war began in 2003 I was angry and in grief. I thought of the word REPENT, with an urgency to turn away from war and towards peace. And I began the Prayer Banner project inspired in part by the famous 1843 Kentucky Coffin Quilt or Graveyard Quilt by Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell. With the help and community of others I began stitching the names of dead soldiers and Iraqi civilians onto coffins to spell the word REPENT.

But after the Abu Ghraib torture photos were released in 2004 I fell to my knees in shame and thought of the word MERCY, and how only God’s love and forgiveness could redeem us now.

MERCY is a powerful word, and I’m heartened to hear that Pope Francis’ message to the world is about patience, and merciful forgiveness. MERCY resonates in my heart as I own the harshness with which I judge myself and others in countless minute ways every day. May I answer this internal judgement with compassion and acceptance instead!

In the past few days I have been reading a book by a Cardinal … Cardinal Kasper said that feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient. … Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God’s love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful.

— Pope Francis, Angelus on March 17, 2013

Prayer Banner: Mercy by Sherri Lynn Wood - detail

When Pope Francis links MERCY with God’s infinite patience with our many “mistakes and sins” I think of the unforgiving regiment of perfection and achievement that our culture as a whole aspires to in order to mask our vulnerability, and how I’m still caught up in it. I think of the slowness of stitching and how years of handwork have only begun instilling within me an understanding of patience and devotion, and I feel tender.

God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to Him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. … It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of His heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, “My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as He is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits.” This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in His patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of His love.

— Pope Francis, Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2013

Prayer Banner: Mercy by Sherri Lynn Wood - social practice

Lots of folks these days give Christianity and all organized religion a bad wrap and I can understand why. I agree with religions’ haters, that there is a large fraction of orthodox, fundamentalist and mainstream practitioners who have shown little MERCY, understanding, patience or acceptance to outsiders or insiders. Violent righteousness and sanctioned hypocrisy is a major problem with religion.

I’m heartened that Pope Francis is speaking out about the Christian message of MERCY known to us through the humble witness of Jesus’ life and actions, which radically envisioned a new notion of human justice. A justice that calls for MERCY and compassion, not an eye for an eye. It’s appropriate that the redemption of religious belief, begin from the inside out. And it’s long overdue.

I can’t say exactly why I felt the need to share this right now and be thankful, except that the Pope’s message of MERCY seems extraordinary, refreshing, restorative and true.

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Personal Heritage, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Freddy Freckles Meets The Spoonflower Handbook

Freddy Freckles meets Spoonflower

Meet Mr. Freddy Freckles. Isn’t he adorable? Don’t let his calm demeanor in this image fool you!  He’s a Dalmatian/Cattle Dog mix.

I’m his part time companion. I keep him one or two days a week. When he’s away I miss my sweet bundle of energetic joy. What’s a gal to do when she’s got the dog gone blues????


Refer to The Spoonflower Handbook of course!  It’s full of lots of fun projects – thirty of them. Here’s a sneak peak of what’s inside. The project that caught my eye was the Doppelgänger Dog Pillow. Aha! Just what I needed to keep me company when Freddy is busy causing trouble elsewhere.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 7.06.37 PM

The Spoonflower Handbook included illustrated photoshop instructions on how to prepare my image of Freddy for printing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 7.05.10 PM

After I selected Freddy’s outline and refined the edge, I lifted him out of the background and plopped him down on the white space of a new file. I then applied a poster filter because I liked the simplified look.

Freddy Freckles meets Spoonflower
I filled in the background of the file with gray and green, and then uploaded the image onto Spoonflower’s website – easy as pie with The Spoonflower Handbook as a guide.
I was thrilled when the package from Spoonflower arrived. There was Freddy’s doppelgänger printed on linen canvas along with a fabric for the back of the pillow chosen from an abundance of designs created by Spoonflower’s talented user community.
21425917735_1be9bc0260_zI trimmed excess fabric to half an inch from the edge of Freddy’s image and placed it right side facing the backing, pinned it in place, trimmed the backing to match, sewed it together…

turned it inside out, stuffed it, and then hand stitched the opening where the stuffing went in…  and voilá!

21415020522_eb27e1de20_b Freddy Freckle’s doppelgänger was born!

21239061249_e92ed3c320_bNow I never have to be without my sweet pup again.  I actually carried Doppelgänger Freddy into the coffee shop today after stuffing him – don’t tell!


Are you as curious as Freddy Freckles about some of the other great projects in The Spoonflower Handbook?

21243033158_8bbb5e133e_zThe Spoonflower Handbook (STC Craft/Abrams) is a beautifully designed, comprehensive book for everyone who already utilizes Spoonflower’s unique services to create their own printed fabrics and paper and wants to broaden their knowledge of the possibilities, AND… For those of us who have thought about it, but haven’t taken the plunge, it takes the scary out of the techy.  Check out the blog tour celebrating it’s release:

Saturday, Sept.12th ~ Sammy K of Just Arting Around… ~ Recipe Tea Towel project

Tuesday, Sept. 15th ~ Sherri Lynn Wood of DaintyTime ~ Doppelgänger Dog Pillow

Thursday, Sept. 17th ~ Audrey Smit of This Little Street ~ Coloring Desk Wrap

Tuesday, Sept. 22nd ~ Kate B of See Kate Sew ~ Photo Panel Wall Art

Friday, Oct. 16th ~ Emma Jeffery of Hello Beautiful ~ Geometric Soiree Kitchen Chairs

Posted in Reviews, The Modern Quilt | 13 Comments

Curating Colors for Patchwork Installation

by Sara Remington

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

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

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

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


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

And thank you…Kaufman Fabrics

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

Improv Patchwork Road Tales ~ Honesty

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

IQSCM in Lincoln NE

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


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

IQSCM & Sherri Lynn Wood

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

Sherri Lynn Wood presenting at IQSCM

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


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

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

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

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Improv Patchwork Road Tales ~ Sweet Surrender

impov handbook for modern quilters road trip book tour

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

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

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

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

eating local in blue ridge

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

southern illinois

— enjoying the scenery as we sped by.

vintage thrift road finds

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


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


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

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

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


–sleeping local.

on the road

— stopping for views.


— hiking in Zion

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


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

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

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

Bird in the air at zion national park

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

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

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

Posted in Community, Personal Heritage, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

Improv Patchwork Road Tales ~ Flow

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

Finding Flow Setting Limits

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

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

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

Improvising From A Score workshop with Front Range MQG

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

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

Improvising From A Score workshop with LAMQG

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

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

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

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

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

Improv Handbook Test Quilter Blog Hop

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

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

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

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

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

Test Quilters’ Process July Blog Hop

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

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

July 3: Andrew Steinbrecher

July 6: Heather Kojan Quilts with giveaway!

July 8: Fiber Antics by Veronica

Date TBD: Latifah Saafir Studios

July 16: Marion’s Journal

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

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

Improv Patchwork Road Tales ~ Intro

It’s been two weeks since I landed back in Oakland after a two week journey that began in North Carolina (my home state) followed by ten days crossing the country in a rental truck, while promoting The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters.

Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters Road Tour - with roadie

One thing I learned early on as an artist — when I shared my story with others, they in turn shared theirs. The development of an idea is a collaborative process. Concepts expand through the shared, resonating experiences of a community – YES AND…!

Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters Road Tour at Fancy Tiger, Denver

Growing up churched, I was always fascinated with the idea that “communion” happened whenever two or more gathered and broke bread together. The sharing of stories is the breaking bread sustenance that keeps creativity and meaningful connection growing and expanding.

Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters - Fancy Tiger, Denver

Between driving over 4000 miles, performing eight times, teaching two workshops, and meeting hundreds of people and signing hundreds of books in a dozen different cities and towns in 14 days, there was little energy left for blogging. BUT there was plenty of bread broken and shared (even some banana pudding) as I took the concepts contained in The Improv Handbook to meet the curiosity and enthusiasm of quilt lovers and makers across the country.

Banana Pudding - Allen & Son's BBQ - Chapel Hill, NC

Many of you already have copies in hand of The Improv Handbook. At the time I did my best to pour all my knowledge of the topic onto its pages. Even as I wrote I was learning and developing my ideas further. Writing a book is great for expanding the horizon of one’s ideas.

Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters Road Tour - Book Signing

Even so, many of the concepts barely introduced in The Improv Handbook —such as flexible patterning, authenticity, setting limits, working without a plan, finding flow, and harnessing emotional energy have evolved further through the fruitful exchange with the quilting communities I had the good fortune to meet in New England, San Diego, Los Angeles, and on the road in Durham, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, Asheville, Cincinnati, Lincoln, Denver, St. George, and unexpected places in between.

Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters Road Tour - Thimble Pleasures, Chapel Hill

Over the next several weeks I will pass along some of the surprises, discoveries, satisfactions, tall tales, patchwork stories and life lessons learned through the people I met on the road with The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters.

Stay Tuned!

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Community, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Quilting By The Lake ~ July 27-31

I’m touring and I have a new book out. I’m teaching at guilds as I’m invited, and every where I go people ask me where else are you teaching? Where can I take one of your workshops? Are you going to be teaching here…or there… (insert your favorite quilting retreat or conference)?

So the short answer is I will be teaching improv for five days at Quilting By The Lake in Syracuse NY, July 27-31, 2015 — this summer!

Score to Get Your Curve On from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood

I’m teaching a two-day intensive workshop on quilting from a score. In this workshop you will explore the FUNDAMENTAL concept to flexible patterning and improvisational process: How to set limits that best support your creative flow. This is the KEY principle that will allow you to progress in creating and following your own patterns. Finding your flow not only feels super good, it actually replaces the need of having to work from a plan.

This two-day will be followed by a three-day intensive workshop on ruler-free curve patchwork. In this improv workshop you will learn advanced composition and ruler and template-free CURVE patchwork techniques. Improvising with curves challenges you to commit one-step-at-a-time, and to celebrate your mistakes because it ain’t easy! Yet it all works out in the end. Often our mistakes and the challenges we overcome, lead us into the most interesting territory, and result in the most dynamic quilts.

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

These two workshops build on each other. I recommend both, and there are still a few spots left in each. If you can swing a trip to Syracuse this July then by all means join me for this rare opportunity to do some intensive improv work. AND it’s a great deal cost wise. SIGN UP TODAY!  Or feel free to contact me with specific questions about the workshop content.

Unless your guild has invited me to teach, the next opportunity for a 6hr workshop will not be until QuiltCon West in February 2016.

Above are a few images from workshops I’ve taught this spring at Seacoast MQG & NHMQG. I hope to see you this July at Quilting By The Lake! It’s going to be AWESOME!

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

Improv Handbook Process Post ~ Kinda Quilty

One of the joys of writing The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters is watching other quilters blossom in their very unique ways.

Check out this Improv Handbook process post by Mina Kennison at Kinda Quilty. She made both of the quilts below based on scores featured in the book and they are  absolutely stunning!

Score For Modern Block Improv by Mina Kennison

Test Quilt by Mina Kennison featured in The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters Score For Get Your Curve On by Mina Kennison

Quilt by Mina Kennison Inspried by the Score for Get Your Curve On from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters


If you are interested in delving deeper into the scores featured in The Improv Handbook, your opportunity is now! I’m teaching a two-day intensive on Improvising From A Score and a three-day intensive on Get Your Curve On, at Quilting By The Lake, JULY 27-31, in Syracuse, NY.

This is a rare opportunity to take your improv patchwork practice deeper. SIGN UP for both sessions for a full immersion experience.  It is the ONLY place and time I’m teaching these workshops publicly until I teach them as one-day workshops at QuiltCon West 2016.

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Improv Handbook X-Country Tour

I’m thrilled to announce the complete schedule for the The Improv Handbook X-Country Brick & Mortar Road Tour. It officially began last week with my first ever Ruler-Free Improv Patchwork Performance at Sew Modern, and it continues tomorrow with a stop at Rosie’s Calico Cubboard in  San Diego. I will be flying to NC for two events in Chapel Hill next week. Then I will hit the road from June 1-10 with stops in Lewisville, Asheville, Cincinnati, Lincoln, Denver, St. George… all the home way to Oakland, CA.

At each location I will be teaching, presenting, performing or having a simple meet & greet conversation about improv –and of course I will be signing books. Come out and visit. Bring your friends. I guarantee we will learn something new!

Score For Improv Round Robin, by Sherri Lynn Wood, from The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, photo by Sara Remmington

Share the Link

Please help spread the word to your friends, relatives, guild members, quilt makers, creators, designers, and artists, who live within driving distance of these locations.

­­Friday, May 8, 6:30-8:30PM, Los Angeles, CADemo/Performance

Sew Modern, 10921 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064, 310-446-4397

 Saturday, May 16, 12 – 2 PM, San Diego, CA – Conversation

Rosie’s Calico Cupboard, 7151 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92115

Sunday May 17, 9 AM – 4 PM, San Diego, CA – Teaching

San Diego MQG, Quilt in a Day, 1955 Diamond St., San Marcos, CA 92078. Register in advance. 

Thursday, May 28, 7 – 9 PM, Chapel Hill, NC – Presentation

United Church, 1321 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, (919) 942-3540

Friday, May 29, 6 – 8 PM, Chapel Hill, NC – Demo/Performance

Thimble Pleasures, 225 South Elliott Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27516, (919) 968-6050

Sunday, May 31, 10 AM – 5 PM, Durham, NC – Teaching

Triangle MQG, Durham Catering, 3710 Shannon Rd. Suite #117, Durham, NC 27707. Register in advance. 

Monday June 1, 5 – 7 PM, Lewisville, NC –  Presentation

Sewingly Yours, 1329 Lewisville-Clemmons Rd, Lewisville, NC 27023, (704) 575-9234  

Tuesday, June 2, 4 – 6 PM, Asheville, NC – Conversation

Malaprops Bookstore, 55 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC, (828) 254-6734   

Wednesday, June 3, 6 – 8 PM, Cincinnati, OH – Demo/Performance

Sewn Studios,  3212 Madison Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45209, (513) 321-0600

Friday, June 5, 3 – 5 PM, Lincoln, NE – Presentation

International Quilt Study Center and Museum, 1523 N 33rd St, Lincoln, NE 68503, (402) 472-6850

Saturday, June 6, 5 – 7 PM, Denver, CO – Performance

Fancy Tiger, 59 Broadway St, Denver, CO 80203, (303) 733-3855

Sunday, June 7, 9 AM – 3:30 PM, Denver, CO – Teaching

Front Range MQG, Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Exhibit Hall 3, 15200 W 6th Ave Frontage Rd, Golden, CO 80401. Register in Advance.

Tuesday, June 9, 10 AM – 12 PM, St. George, UT – Demo/Performance

Scrap Apple Quilts, 144 W. Brigham Rd. #23, St. George, UT 84790, (435) 628-8226


Thanks for the Invites

I want to give a shout out to those who contacted me from Atlanta, Orlando, Boca Raton, Minneapolis, Omaha, Boise, Salt Lake City, Memphis, San Luis Obispo, Yuba City, Eugene, Portland, Chicago, NYC, and more. If only I could visit all of you on this tour.  Thank you for extending an invitation. Once I’m home and things have settled a bit I will be following up with a copy of  The Improv Handbook to give away through your local guild meeting or quilt shop.

May I see you on the road!

Score For Improv Round Robin, by Sherri Lynn Wood, from The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, photo by Sara Remmington


All images from The Improv Handbook are copyrighted (c) 2015 Sara Remington unless otherwise noted, and all text and illustrations (c) 2015 Sherri Lynn Wood, and can not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher Stewart, Tabori, & Chang.
Posted in The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Improv Handbook Blog Hop Continues ~ Penny Gold

Congrats Penny Gold!

Congrats Penny Gold!

Don’t miss Penny Gold’s insightful description of her process of making this engaging quilt from one of the scores from the Improv Handbook. Her test quilt is featured in the Improv Handbook and was one of 18 test quilts juried into Quiltcon 2015. She is also giving away a copy of the book. Comment on her post by March 15 for a chance to win.

Posted in Events and Workshops | Tagged , | 1 Comment