Ruler-Free Patchwork – Improv Theater Mashup Results

There were about 30 people in attendance at the stunningly, beautiful Sew Modern in Los Angeles for my first ever Ruler-Free Patchwork – Improv Theater Mashup. Audience members provided “ugly” fabrics, threw out suggestions, and questions as I improvised a quilt on the spot according to their prompts. I spoke about improvisational process, while demonstrating some of the ruler-free techniques featured in the Improv Handbook. All within a one-hour time limit. It was kind of like rubbing my belly and patting my head at a same time… AND a good time was had by all!

Afterwards I signed books and Latifah Saafir showed up with the test quilt she made from the Score For Bias Strip Petals.

16891294963_249f64c3ad_kIt was a lovely evening and special thanks to Lauren and all of the Sew Modern staff for hosting the event. This was the kick-off and I’m looking forward to more Ruler-Free Patchwork performances as I cross the country this June on a brick & mortar book tour. Check out the just announced Improv Handbook X-Country Tour schedule. I will be in San Diego next Saturday, May 16, signing books at Rosie’s Calico Cupboard.

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Ruler-Free Patchwork Performance at Sew Modern LA

Tonight at Sew Modern in Los Angeles will be the debut performance of my Improvise! Ruler-Free Patchwork Performance AND the kick off of  The Improv Handbook X-Country Brick & Mortar Book Tour.

The performance will be a mashup of improv theater games with ruler-free patchwork as I demonstrate techniques featured in The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters, such as basic strip, bias strip, wedge, curve, stack, float, repetition, flow, bleeding, darting, natural fit, approximate measuring, trouble shooting, and composition tips, tricks and techniques. I will be demonstrating techniques and building a quilt top as I take suggestions and guidance on the spot from the audience.  It should be very interesting!

Here are the fabrics I will be starting with and attendees have been invited to bring a few zingers to add to the mix. I will post the results tomorrow…

In other book news, check out more wonderful posts reviewing The Improv Handbook by Amy Friend of During Quiet Time and by Blair Underwood at WiseCraft. In addition to their reviews they both share their unique experiences of the improvisational process as they worked through a score, or flexible pattern, from the book. Amy was one of the 250 people who test quilted one of the scores prior to publication, and Blair took the Patchwork Doodle workshop when I was teaching for the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild in February.

I also want to report on my recent teaching trips to Kansas City and spots in New England. So much happening and so many discoveries. I only wish I had a double who could help me out in sharing it all with you. Be patient… it will come.

Happy days!

Posted in The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Improv Handbook Blog Hop

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.39.19 AM

Each of the bloggers on the tour will be reviewing the book and offering a giveaway copy of The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters.

But that’s not all…

Over 250 people signed on to test quilt the ten scores, or flexible patterns, featured in The Improv Handbook – without visual references. There were 165 quilts completed and submitted for inclusion into the book, but we only had room to print 22. During the next month all 165 of these quilts will debut, score by score, on the blog hop. After each of the test quilt galleries are revealed I will be reposting them here: Test Quilts.

And there is more…

Some of the participants in the tour are test quilters whose quilts are published in the book. Each will share their story and process of working through the score they were assigned to test.

May you find the insightful reviews of the book, the test quilt galleries, and the test quilter’s individual stories encouraging, as you begin your own improvisational journey with the Improv Handbook.

There is NO ONE WAY to proceed, and the ONLY WAY to succeed is YOUR WAY. 

Continue to check in during the month as I update the links below to the specific posts for each stop on the tour, as well as share information about giveaway end dates.


May 2: Sew Mama Sew – Score for Floating Squares Gallery

May 4 STC Craft – Score for Rhythmic Grid Gallery

May 4: Plaid Portico – Score for Strings Gallery

May 6: During Quiet Time – Test Quilter Amy Friend – GIVEAWAY through May 10

May 8: Wise Craft Handmade – Score for Get Your Curve On Gallery

May 11: Studio Notes – Test Quilter Penny Gold – GIVEAWAY through May 15

May 13: Quiltville – Score for Modern Block Improv Gallery and GIVEAWAY

May 15: Peppermint Pinwheels – Test Quilter Stacey Sharman – GIVEAWAY to May 22

May 18: Quirky Quilts – Test Quilter Kim McPeake – GIVEAWAY to May 25

May 20: PoppyPrintCreates – Score for Patchwork Doodle GalleryGIVEAWAY to May 23

May 22: The Last Piece – Test Quilter Sara Fielke

May 25: Cauchy Complete – Score for Layered Curves GalleryGIVEAWAY to May 29

May 26Diary of a Quilter – Score for Bias Strip Petals Gallery

May 27: Film In The Fridge – Test Quilter Ashley Newcomb – GIVEAWAY to May 29

May 28: Getting Stitched on the Farm –Score for Improv Round Robin Gallery

May 29: Spoonflower – Score for Showing Up Gallery

May 30Fresh Modern Quilts – Test Quilter Rossie Hutchinson



Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 7 Comments

Improv Handbook Available April 28!

The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters coverFYI – The release date has been moved up to April 28! The wait is almost over.

Pre-Order your copy BEFORE April 28, and enter the Pre-Order Giveaway HERE!

Read more about the contents, features and early reviews of The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters and where to join the Improv Handbook community online.

Posted in Current Giveaways, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 4 Comments

Improv Handbook X-Country Book Tour!

Dear Quilt Making Sisters and Brothers,

The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters is soon to be released on May 5. To celebrate I will be hitting the road June 1-10, to sign books and spread the joy of improv patchwork from Durham, NC to Oakland, CA. I’m in the initial stages of planning the Improv Handbook X-Country Book Tour and I need your help deciding locations.

I am looking for quilt shops, textile/craft museums, or book sellers who are willing to host book signing receptions en route. I will be offering either a short presentation or improv demo performance about improvisational process and patchwork in exchange.

Detail from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters

Improvise! Creating, Quilting, & Living Courageously, 1hr presentation

Improvisation is at the heart of living creatively. Music, dance, theater, drawing, cooking, conversation, play, child rearing, and even science benefit from the flexibility of mind that improvisational process engenders. We all improvise every day. Attendees will leave with mind tools, tips and a fresh perspective on how to apply improv skills learned in life to their patchwork – and vice versa!


Improvise! Ruler-Free Patchwork Performance, 1hr demo

Basic strip, bias strip, wedge, curve, stack, float, repetition, flow, bleeding, darting, natural fit, approximate measuring, trouble shooting, and composition tips, tricks and techniques for ruler-free patchwork will be demonstrated and performed on the spot according to suggestions received from the audience. It’s an Improv Patchwork Theater Mashup! Attendees are invited (optional) to bring up to a 1/4 yd of fabric scraps for use in the patchwork performance. Venue provides sewing machine, ironing station, and work table.

I haven’t settled on a route yet, but would appreciate host suggestions for these possible locations:

  • Asheville, NC
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Montgomery, AL
  • Nashville, TN
  • Memphis, TN
  • Little Rock, AK
  • Wichita, KS
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Springfield, MO
  • Jackson, MS
  • Shreveport, LA
  • Louisville, KY
  • Paduca, KY
  • Cincinnati OH
  • Chicago, IL
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Omaha, NE
  • Lincoln, NE
  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • Denver, CO
  • Boulder, CO
  • Boise, ID
  • Eugene, OR
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Flagstaff, AZ
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Palm Springs, CA
  • San Lois Obispo, CA
  • Others???

Please comment below with the name of the city and venue recommendations, with contact info if possible — or email me privately. Also comment on the strength of the quilting community in that location, along with contact info of local quilt guilds – traditional or modern – whose members might be interested in attending such an event. Or please forward a link to this post to anyone who you think may be interested and able in hosting an event on the tour.

Thanks for your timely help! I will be announcing the itinerary for the Improv Handbook X-Country Book Tour soon. I hope to meet you there!

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 38 Comments

Mastering & Innovating Patchwork Techniques

One day I saw the paper collage above on flickr, by artist Virginia Echeverria Whipple (I  love her work!) and wondered how I could create the effect of concentric rings in patchwork. Perhaps with bias cut strips? I had never seen anyone strip piece on the curve before. Could it be done?

Rainbow Cloud Quilt by Sherri Lynn Wood - DetailWithout any tutorials to refer to and with only my skills at hand, I jumped in and figured out a way to do it. There were lots of pitfalls requiring innovative solutions, but eventually I invented and mastered a new patchwork technique – Bias Strip Piecing on the Curve.

Bias Strip Piecing on the Curve by Sherri Lynn WoodPushing your sewing skills beyond your limits of mastery is one way to see with the eyes of a beginner again, and this is the best frame of mind to be in as an improviser. Innovation is something that happens when there is no solution, or instruction manual, readily available.

Bias Strip Piecing on the Curve a technique by Sherri Lynn WoodThat being said, if you want to jump in and learn how to strip piece on the curve with ruler-free bias cut strips then definitely pick up a copy of The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters. Not only is each step of the technique beautifully photographed (below), there are lots of tips on how to flow with your “mistakes” and make something wonderful out of them!

A technique from the Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters photographed by Sara Remington

A technique from the Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters photographed by Sara Remington

Now how will you push your repertoire of patchwork skills beyond your limits? What tricky piecing situations do you have a hanker to explore? Hexies? Y-seams? Ruler-free curves? Go for it!

Score For Bias Strip Petals by Sherri Lynn Wood from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters photographed by Sara Remington

Score For Bias Strip Petals by Sherri Lynn Wood from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters photographed by Sara Remington

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.


Guest Blogger on Okan Arts and Giveaway

The post above was first published on the Okan Arts blog last week. They are following up my guest post with four giveaways of  The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters in April.

Visit this link at to enter THEIR giveaway by April 30!

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

Improv Handbook Test Quilters

When I first began writing The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters I knew immediately that it had to include quilts made by other people. The whole point of improvisation is to follow and discover our unique patterns. I wanted to dispel the notion that there was only one way to interpret the ten project score included in the book. If people tried to recreate the quilts I made for the book I knew they would become frustrated. Improvisational patchwork is like a performance that documents a moment in time. Neither the moment nor the quilt can be recreated. I can’t even recreate my own quilts! Thus it was important to include the unique interpretation of the scores by others.

“Flying Geese” made by Reanna Alder based on the Score For Modern Block Improv: Flying Geese  from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters

So one of the first things I did was put a call out on my blog for volunteers to test quilt the project scores. Over 250 people signed up to make a quilt based on an assigned score without any visual references. About 165 quilts were completed and submitted for inclusion in the book. The range of diversity was fabulous. There were so many unique and stunning interpretations. It was an extremely difficult task choosing with my editor, Melanie Falick at STC Craft, only twenty-two for publication.

“Nene” by Kristin La Flamme based on the Score For Modern Block Improv: Flying Geese  from The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters

The test quilters played an invaluable role in shaping the content of the book. They provided feedback on how the scores made sense or not. Based on this I gradually clarified the scores. I got a clearer picture of what kinds of information and encouragement beginners, as well as quilters more experienced with improv, needed to find their flow, overcome obstacles, and do their best work.

As the blog tour for the Improv Handbook unfolds in early May all the test quilts will eventually be revealed online. In the meantime check out these posts by some of the Improv Handbook test quilters. They share their improvisational process as well as their one-of-a-kind quilts.

Posted in Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

18 Quilts Inspired by The Improv Handbook at QuiltCon

A total of EIGHTEEN quilts inspired by scores from the Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters were exhibited at QuiltCon 2015! Fifteen were made by people who blind tested the scores when I first began the process of writing the book, plus three of my quilts made for the book. It was a thrill to see most of these test quilts for the first time in real life and how diverse they were. Each person performed the score assigned to them in their own way. That’s what improv is all about! I am a proud grandma!

PS-Click on any one of the quilts to view the gallery images large.

Posted in Community, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Improv Handbook March & April Events ~ May 5 Release

Improv Handbook ~ Release Delayed Until May 5

For all of you who have been waiting patiently for your pre-ordered copy of The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters to arrive this week, you may have been notified that the release date has been pushed from March 17 to May 5.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.55.58 AMApparently there were some irregularities with the binding on some of the books. Many were fine but others were not up to the publisher’s standards. Because the quality of the first printing was spotty, the folks at STC Craft decided to reprint. Thus the delay.

I am happy that my publisher cares so much about the quality of their product to insist on a reprint. It’s a thoughtfully designed book, with amazing quilts, ground breaking content, and stunning photography. They expect every aspect of the book to meet a high standard of beauty and function.Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.38.33 AMI hope for all of you who have pre-ordered, it will be worth the wait. And just so you know you are not alone, I’m waiting for my copies too! If you haven’t done so already, enter the pre-order giveaway here. I’ve extended the entry date until May 5.

BTW – these are all preview images from The Improv Handbook. If you want to see more, check out the newly posted LOOK INSIDE preview on Amazon.

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.

Copies Available at March & April Signing Events

If you really want to get your hands on a copy before May 5, STC Craft/Abrams is hand-picking the perfect books from the original printing and making them available at all of my speaking, teaching and signing events between now and the new release date.  There will be quality books available at the following events, and I will be signing copies!

March 27, Stitch Modern 2015 Exhibition Opening, Oakland, CA. I will be signing copies at the opening from 6-9PM.

April 16-18, Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild. I will be signing copies at their guild meeting on Thursday, April 16 from 7-9PM, and teaching two one-day workshops on the 17th & 18th.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 10.04.54 AMApril 30 & May 1, A Gathering Of Stitches, Portland ME.

On Thursday, April 30 from 6-8PM, I will be presenting a talk on Improvisational Process and Patchwork and signing books.

On Friday, May 1 from 9AM-4PM I will be facilitating a very special one-day workshop on Improvisational Quilting From A Score, which was a huge hit at QuiltCon (workshop recap). This workshop will be limited to TEN participants. Typically I’m working with 25 students at a time, so this is a rare opportunity to explore and improvise in an intimate setting with more focus given to each person.

For those who want to make it a weekend affair and continue to explore on their own, the workshop will be followed by two days of open sewing at the AGOS studio space,  I highly recommend this event for those of you who would relish a mini sewing retreat in the midst of the scenic and bustling port town of Portland Maine. Sign up with a couple of friends today!

Posted in Community, Current Giveaways, Events and Workshops | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

QuiltCon Day 4 ~ Group Flow

This was my first time teaching Quilting From A Score. I wondered how the workshop would go over since there are no flashy advanced curve techniques or opportunities to explore a multitude of different patterns as in the curve and doodle workshops that I teach.

My primary goal as an improv teacher is to help people find their optimal flow for improvising, and usually most of my students achieve this to a greater or lesser degree in all of my workshops.

Improvising From A Score with Sherri Lynn Wood

However in this instance the class as a whole experienced a prolong “Zen” moment. At one point I was mesmerized by the syncopated quiet movements of my students, sewing, ironing, and repeating their internal sequences, all engrossed in creating and working harmoniously throughout the day. It was a group performance!

Improvising From A Score with Sherri Lynn Wood

I was also amazed at the range of expression achieved within the limits of this simple, algorithmic Score for Floating Squares.

Participants gained a clearer understanding about how to create their own scores, or flexible patterns, by setting limits. The prolonged experience of creative flow on our last day at QuiltCon left everyone feeling pretty satisfied. Now that’s FRESH quilting – or at least quilting that leaves you feeling FRESH!

It was peaceful to be around this group flow, and in this light, it was my favorite workshop of the three. A fulfilling way to wrap up my QuiltCon 2015 experience.

Thanks to all my amazing students and to all the people who I met during my book signings and lecture. May you continue to follow your own patterns, go with the flow and be satisfied!


Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

QuiltCon Day 3 ~ Quilting From the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patchwork Doodling Workshop


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


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


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

Improv Handbooks Are Back IN STOCK

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


Posted in Community, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 18 Comments

QuiltCon Day 2 ~ Hot Shots

Bias Strip Piecing on the Curve Workshop

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

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

Improv Handbook SOLD OUT on Second Day of QuiltCon

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


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

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

More to come…



Posted in Community, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

QuiltCon Day 1 ~ Riding High

Sherri Lynn Wood at Stitchlab Quitcon 2015

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

Meeting the Gee’s Bend Quilters

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

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

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

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

So that was lovely!

Lecturing on Improv Process and Patchwork

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

Signing Improv Handbooks

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

In the Midst of Community Making

quiltcon pin swap

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

Such a blessing!

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

Posted in Community | Tagged | 6 Comments


Got Pins, Got Cards, Got Book, Got Fabric, Got QUILTCON!


Here’s where you can find me at QuiltCon this week:

Thursday February 19

  • 9AM-Noon – Gee’s Bend Workshop
  • 2PM – Lecturing in main hall: Improvisational Process and Patchwork
  • 3:15-4:15PM – Improv Handbook signing at Stitch Lab booth #216
  • 4:15-6PM – Wandering the Exhibition Hall looking at quilts, visiting the Aurifil booth.
  • 8PM – Moda Party

Friday February 20

  • 9AM-Noon – Teaching: Bias Strip Curves
  • 12:15-1:15 – Improv Handbook signing at Stitch Lab booth #216
  • 2-5PM – Teaching: Bias Strip Curves
  • Evening hours??? Maybe by the infinity pool at the Radisson or in the hotel lounge?

Saturday February 21

  • 9AM-Noon – Teaching: Patchwork Doodling
  • 12:15-1:15 – Improv Handbook signing at Stitch Lab booth #216
  • 2-5PM – Teaching: Patchwork Doodling
  • 5:30-7PM – Keynote: The Quilters of Gees Bend
  • Evening hours??? Out for drinks with Chicago MQG

Sunday February 22

  • 9AM-Noon – Teaching: Improvising from a Score
  • 12:15-1:15 – Book signing at Stitch Lab booth #216
  • 2-5PM – Teaching: Improvising from a Score
  • Evening hours??? Kickin’ back somewhere ’cause I’ll be exhausted!

If you buy a copy of the Improv Handbook from the Stitch Lab Booth #216 be sure to enter the Pre-Order Giveaway. I will also have pins and beautiful postcards at the Stitch Lab booth available for you to pick up in packets of 10 to take and hand out to your community back home or to your friends at QuiltCon. Just ask me or someone running the Stitch Lab booth for some Improv Handbook postcards.

Time to catch my plane! Safe Travels everyone. And for those of you doing other marvelous things this week stay tuned for vicarious updates. We will miss you.

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops | Tagged | 8 Comments


I’m excited, anticipating the release of my first book by STC Craft. The new official release date of The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters is APRIL 28. 


Pre-Order Giveaway – Open Till MAY 4

To celebrate The Improv Handbook’s imminent release on April 28, I am sponsoring a Pre-Order Giveaway through midnight of  April 28, 2015.

Two fabulous prizes and two chances to win: 1) An original color score mini-quilt made by me and featured in the Improv Handbook – winner’s choice from the options below, and 2) a custom thread collection from Aurifil inspired by my use of color in the book.

Two steps to enter: 1) Pre-order a copy of The Improv Handbook through any online vendor (including Abrams or Amazon) prior to April 28. OR pick up a copy at QuiltCon or at one of the locations I’m teaching at prior to the book’s official release date. 2) Comment on this post as to why you like the process of improv patchwork, or why you are curious to try it for the first time, OR tell me which color score you will choose if you win. In good faith, I will ask the two lucky winners of the giveaway to assure me that they pre-ordered or purchased a copy of the Improv Handbook prior to March 16, in order to claim their prizes.

Pre-order now!

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously

Not only does the Improv Handbook present a flexible approach to quilt making that breaks free of old rules and expectations in a fun, accessible way. It’s a comprehensive guide to improvisational patchwork featuring:

  • over 15 innovative ruler-free sewing techniques
  • tips for accessing intuitive color
  • mind tools that cultivate presence, spontaneity, and risk taking
  • experiential design exercises on scale, line, borders and more
  • 10 “scores” for visual improvisation that free quilters to create quilts unlike anyone else’s
  • my quilts and a contributor quilt gallery of 22 amazing test quilts based on the scores

For the book, I illustrated various aspects of color through a series of strip pieced “color scores.” I am turning these samples into 21″ square mini-quilts to giveaway throughout the year. The 1st winner of the Improv Handbook Pre-Order Giveaway gets to choose either…

Hue & Neutrals Color Score from the Improv Handbook

“Color Score: Hue & Neutrals” or

Value Color Score from the Improv Handbook

“Color Score: Value.” Which will you choose if you are the winner???

Improv Handbook Aurifil thread colors

To a second lucky winner, Aurifil has generously offered a thread collection based on the prominent colors used in the quilts I created for the Improv Handbook. Isn’t it lovely!

aurifil thread collection for DaintytimeDSC_0164W[2]

So if you’ve pre-ordered a copy or will be picking one up at QuiltCon – be sure to enter the giveaway by commenting on this post.

Read more about the contents, features and early reviews of The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters and where to join the Improv Handbook community online.

Posted in Current Giveaways, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 109 Comments

How do you fold your quilts?

I folded and packed up my quilts for QuiltCon today. Would you agree that there is something almost sacred about unfolding and folding a quilt? Especially when I am sharing a quilt with someone for the first time but even when I’m alone, the act of opening and closing a quilt whispers some sacred truth about the revelation of life’s moments and the hiding away of memory.


Practically speaking, I don’t know of any sure fire way to avoid creasing all together but to avoid worn creases in the center of my quilts I never fold them in half. Instead I start by folding the corners of my quilt into the center on the diagonal.

15698693244_4765be16d8_oFrom there I fold the quilt in thirds

16135260047_a98d36edfb_oThen in thirds again.

16295186956_a14438d07a_oEach time I refold I try to change the diagonal slightly so that the creases never get a chance to settle in.

All of this folding reminded me of Bay Area performance/video artist, Surabhi Saraf and her FOLDed performances. Check this out!

How do you fold your quilts? Your thoughts, experiences or insights on the act of folding?

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Craft Therapy, Tools, Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

2015 Focus ~ Listening

A few months ago I was on a date with someone who I quite liked. One of the first things he said to me was that nobody listened much anymore. I took that to heart and it stuck with me even though the relationship didn’t!

My intention for 2015 is to listen. Sounds simple but it’s not that easy, at least for me.

I am beginning first by listening to myself while I am listening to others. I notice that instead of actually listening to the person speaking I am often…

  • judging myself
  • judging the speaker
  • thinking how I should respond
  • trying to make a good impression
  • fixating on a particular outcome
  • feeling defensive
  • making the speaker wrong
  • looking for evidence on how I’m right
  • busy trying to protect myself
  • feeling self-conscious
  • trying to control the conversation so that it will go a certain way
  • trying to fix a perceived problem
  • thinking of advise
  • daydreaming and thinking about myself

I am by habit preoccupied with one or more of these things INSTEAD of simply listening to the speaker with out any other agenda. This is mind blowing!

I am noticing my preoccupations and my urges to interrupt, and I’m stopping myself. Suddenly people are opening up and revealing things to me. More importantly we connect on a deeper levelThey feel good, and I feel good. It’s really amazing. I’m able to understand situations and relationships with more clarity. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out.

Often I find myself not knowing what to say to someone and I feel awkward. Now I realize it’s because I wasn’t really listening. I’ve noticed that when I really listen there is no awkwardness or anxiety about what to say. The conversation unfolds easily, honestly, simply. People like being heard.

So my focus for 2015 is to listen, hopefully more than I talk. Not only will I be listening to others but I hope to employ the skill of listening in my creative practice. As the patchwork unfolds I will listen without agendas of planning, perfecting, judging, or pleasing. Instead I will allow the patchwork to show me what it wants to become.

I’m very excited about this revelation because it’s a New Year’s intention that I may actually be able to keep for a lifetime. Listening is fun!

Posted in Craft Therapy, My Creative Process, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 41 Comments

2014 Review ~ Acceptance

2014 was my year of acceptance. It began with this classic book by Tara Brach Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha.

Turning fifty in March was an act of acceptance that couldn’t be denied. I celebrated with a pizza party at Adobe Books in San Francisco. Surrounded by friends from all over the Bay Area I felt for the first time that I belonged here.

Finishing twelve quilts for The Improv Handbook photo shoot in April required acceptance. Sometimes I wanted to do them over because I felt they could be better, but instead I had no choice but to accept all outcomes and move forward.

In July my book went to the printer to be born. Mostly I loved it but even after four revisions, the perfectionist in me still yearned to make improvements. Instead I came to terms with any “mistakes” and celebrated it’s completion.

My trip to France in August was nothing like I expected. As my original plans began to fall apart my vacation became dire until an elegant french woman befriended me on the beach in Brittany, took me to all the local sites, and invited me for lunches of fresh mussels, and lamb cutlets. The last minute solo trip through Paris yielded an unexpected innocent romance that sprouted in the Jardin du Luxembourg and flowered for three nights under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower!

[slickr-flickr  type=”slideshow” tag=”frb” size=”m640″ direction=”ascending” captions=”off” sort=”title” align=”center” delay=”3″]

Relationships in my quilts and in life often didn’t turn out the way I imagined or hoped. A couple of romantic relationships this year, turned out to be disasters of sorts, but in the end it was all okay. I have no regrets.

Three days after my return from Europe and an hour after one of these romantic relationships ended, I found out my brother-in-law killed himself. It was so hard and painful to accept this, but his death –this loss to my sister, nieces and nephews and to our whole family– was inescapable. At first I was angry at him and subsequently down on my own life quite a bit. BUT as I thought more about how much he suffered something shifted internally. His death became a sacrifice compelling me, even demanding me to accept everything in my life as it is now, otherwise I might as well end it all. What is the point if we can’t accept the blessing of all that life is, including the good as well as the bad, the triumphs and the failures. (And let me add – I did have plenty of amazing triumphs this year. I’m especially thrilled by all the opportunities I’ve had to teach, speak and share my knowledge and process with other quilt makers across the country.)

silverliningHis death liberated me from the burden of self-pity, regret and non-acceptance. For that I am eternally grateful – for the gift of his precious life and his death. This doesn’t erase my deep sorrow, only that with tragic loss there comes a blessing… the silver lining of vulnerability — of compassion, tenderness, patience, kindness, and love.

All in all it was a great year for me. Filled with accomplishments and maturity. I’m excited to see where this new found embrace of everything in my life will take me – and how it will manifest in my patchwork!

Posted in Personal Heritage, Reviews | Tagged | 25 Comments

Cultural Fusion Quilts Winner ~ Ruler Roundup

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


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

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

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 2.42.21 PM

So the winner is….

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



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

by Sujata Shaw from Cultural Fusion Quilts

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

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

Posted in Current Giveaways, Reviews, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Cultural Fusion Quilts by Sujata Shah

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.39.51 PM

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

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

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

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


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

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

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