20th Century Comfort Room


window view


door view


ceiling view

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


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

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

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

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


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

Camp Stitch-Alot and Chicago MQG Here I Come!

I’m packing my bags and about to leave for Camp Stitch-Alot! WHOOHOO! It’s going to be cold, so I’ve got my long johns, heavy boots, turtlenecks, winter coat, hat and gloves! And of course lots of wonderful SCRAPS for making quilts in our cozy cabin retreat all weekend long.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.50.12 AM

I’ve never done one of these cabin quilting retreats before and I’m so excited to getaway and be with other quilt lovers. I’m very much looking forward to meeting Carolyn Friedlander, the other “camp counselor” this weekend, and to hang out with organizers Brenda Ratliff of Pink Castle Fabrics, and Rossie of Fresh Modern Quilts, who also happens to be one of the quilt contributors featured in the Improv Handbook.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.49.56 AM


After Camp Stitch-Alot, I am catching the train to Chicago to speak and teach at the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild. One of my favorite blog friends, Trish Royal of Bits & Bobbins, is picking me up at Union Station. I’m so looking forward to connecting with her and all the quilters at Chicago MQG and to see what quilt mischief they’ve been making!

So how lucky am I :-))))  ??? !!!

I will be reporting the weekend’s escapades via:

AND!!!! If you are having workshop envy right now…

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be teaching a special, intimate (only 10 participants) TWO-DAY intensive Get Your Curve On Workshop at A Gathering of Stitches in Portland, Oregon, April 30 – May 1, 2015. Sign up now!

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops | Tagged | 5 Comments

Alien She at YBCA

Allyson Mitchell

Ladies Sasquatch by Allyson Mitchell really rocked. YES! I am WOMAN! I am BEAST!

I had a great time at the opening of Alien She at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts last week.

Alien She is the first exhibition to examine the lasting impact of Riot Grrrl, a pioneering punk feminist movement that emerged in the early 1990s in reaction to pervasive and violent sexism, racism, and homophobia in the punk music scene and in the culture at large. Emphasizing female and youth empowerment, collaborative organization, creative resistance, and DIY ethics, Riot Grrrl helped a new generation to become active feminists and create their own culture and communities that reflect their values and experiences, in contrast to mainstream conventions and expectations.” YBCA

Here are more of my favorites from the show:


We Couldn’t Get In. We Couldn’t Get Out by L.J. Roberts


The Counterfeit Crochet Project by Stephanie Syjuco

Strolling along through the section showcasing the work of Faith Levine I was SURPRISED to discover that I was represented – albeit three degrees of separation – in the book she coauthored in 2008, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design. The book documents the marriage between historical technique, punk culture, and the D.I.Y. ethos by profiling 24 artists working in that arena, including artist Sabrina Gschwandtner.


When I turned to the section featuring Sabrina’s work it included several covers of her zine KnitKnit one of which featured my 1998 installation at the Headlands Center for the Arts, The 20th Century Comfort Room. So there you go! It’s exciting to find my work situated in a historical, cultural movement and community, even if it is on the fringe.


Alien She continues at YBCA in San Francisco through January 25, 2015. More on the 20th Century Comfort Room in my next post!

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Reviews | Tagged , | 6 Comments

The Quilt as a Contemporary Tradition


A Stitch in Time:
The Quilt as a Contemporary Tradition   
Opening:  Saturday, October 25 (5 to 8 pm)  Open through November 23, 2014
Louise Kreifels   Sherri Lynn Wood   Alice McCain  
Our exhibit features three contemporary textile artists.  Each has a distinctive approach to quilt making, but each also has roots in the folk art tradition of the patch-work comfort zone, and the quilting bee.  Colorful, creative, environmentally friendly, functional, warm and cuddly, quilts are a transcendent art form, timeless and timely.


The show is an eye-pleasing homage to the tradition of quilt making, a joyful celebration of an evolving art form, and perhaps a hint of future possibilities and directions.


Open 4 to 7 pm Wednesday through Sunday, or appointment
Folk and Fine Art    1861-A Solano Avenue   Berkeley    94707    510 900-2591
If you are in the Bay Area join me at the opening this Saturday from 5-8PM for the opening reception! New Quilts from The Improv Handbook the will be on show.
Posted in Events and Workshops, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 10 Comments

Improv Round Robin ~ Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association

SCVQA, Improv Round Robin

I recently facilitated an Improv Round Robin workshop and spoke at the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association. When I asked the 300 or so members present at the guild meeting, if they had improvised a quilt, more than two-thirds raised their hands! Improv patchwork is catching like wildfire, even in the long established guilds.

The Improv Round Robin was super fun. I was so impressed by the cohesiveness of the group. You can see by the outcome of their quilts that they listened and responded with skill and courage! Click on the thumbnails to get a closer look.

If you participated in this or one of my other Improv Round Robins, or have organized one on your own with friends, I want to hear about your surprises, discoveries, satisfactions and dissatisfactions! Please share!

If your guild or shop is interested in having me lead an Improv Patchwork workshop for your community I still have room in my 2015 schedule. Contact Me!



Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, Modern Improv | Tagged , | 2 Comments

La supposition où je suis ?


Oui, oui je suis à Paris France!


La ville la plus romantique dans le monde. Paris est beau! Plus venir…


The most romantic city in the world. Paris is beautiful! More to come…

Posted in Personal Heritage, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 12 Comments

QuiltCon Choices – Which class to take?


QuiltCon registration is opening soon. Wondering which workshop to take? I’m debuting three improvisational workshops and a lecture based on projects featured in my forthcoming book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, which will hopefully be available at QuiltCon – finger’s crossed! I just saw the first galleys of the book design and it’s so exciting…

Anyway back to QuiltCon choices.


Thursday February 19: 2 – 2:45 PM Improvisational Process and Patchwork

Improvisation is a process of mind at the heart of every great creative endeavor. Music, dance, theater, painting, drawing, design, cooking, conversation, relationships, play, life, and even science benefit, survive, grow, transform, and innovate through the flexibility of mind that improvisational process engenders. We all improvise every day, so why not bring it into our quilt making! This multi-media presentation includes images of classic African-American quilts in the improvisational style, new work featured in The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters (available early 2015), student work, and time-lapse video of my process.


Friday, February 20: 030 Bias Strip Curves

BiasStripCurve-Daisy-72dpi-cropMaster the innovative improvisational technique of strip piecing on the curve with troubleshooting tips on how to flatten internal distortions as they arise. Explore construction methods for incorporating bias strip curve piecing in both traditional and improvisational compositions. This technique will challenge your skill set and awaken your beginner’s mind.

So this isn’t an easy class, but that’s the whole point. The challenge presented by tricky piecing situations is a gateway for improvisation and innovation. Not only will you learn how to strip piece on the curve without the use of a ruler or templates, you will be encouraged to discover, master, and innovate your own unique set of patchwork techniques based on the skills you already have. Take this workshop if mastering challenging techniques and/or working with curves lights your fire!

Saturday, February 21: 512 Improvisational Patchwork Doodling

Patchwork Doodle

Doodling is the model for this playful approach to improvisational patchwork. A doodle is not planned or random, but responsive. You will be urged to let go of expectations and commit one-step-at-a-time as you build patterns with simple shapes and negative space into a surprising composition, utilizing basic ruler free sewing techniques. 

This is going to be a totally fun and playful workshop. You will learn how to create a quilt responsively –a middle path that falls between random scrappiness and planned blocks. All the ruler-free patchwork techniques are easy to master and you get to use scraps. Working with simple shapes outside the structure of the block, will give you a fresh take on patterning. Adding negative space to the simple shapes has the potential to rock the house! Take this workshop if you are inspired by scraps and have the desire to push beyond scrappy to make a quilt greater than its parts.

Sunday, February 22: 513 Improvising From A Score

Score for Floating Squares

A jazz score indicates the elements of a song without specifying how it’s played. Now imagine a score written for patchwork! You will improvise a quilt by altering the limits of a simple patchwork score for floating squares. You will learn basic ruler free sewing techniques and how to create original scores for future projects.

This workshop explores the central concept put forth in the Improv Handbook, working with and passing along flexible patterns, which I call scores. We are used to passing along fixed patterns with the goal of replicating them perfectly. When a flexible pattern is handed on from one quiltmaker to another it is the range of possible variations of a pattern that is transmitted instead. We will learn flexible patterning by making and altering the score for Floating Squares. Take this workshop if you want to learn how to create and share your own flexible patterns. This is Improv 2.0!


BTW – If you can’t make it to QuiltCon, I just signed up to teach two-day, and three-day improv workshops at Quilting By The Lake in July 2015… or invite me to teach at your local guild or quilt shop. I still have dates available in 2015!

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops | Tagged | 22 Comments

Teaching! Spoonflower, QuiltCon and more!

biaspetalquilt-daisyDaisy, ©2014 by Sherri Lynn Wood

I’m on the East Coast for the next two weeks and VERY excited to be teaching at Spoonflower for the Triangle Modern Quilt Guild, at Tabby Fabric and Studio in beautiful Beaufort, SC and for the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild.

Check out the event details on daintytime.net or on the new Facebook GROUP for the Improv Handbook. When you join click on “Notifications” in the top right corner under the cover photo and choose “All Posts.”

Also the workshops and lectures for QuiltCon have been announced. They have a very impressive lineup in 2015. There will be a lot of improv goin’ round!  I will post in more detail about the three brand new improv workshops I’m debuting at QuiltCon before registration opens on June 24.

PS> Yes, in case you’re wondering, I must have been unconsciously inspired by the Spoonflower logo when I was making Daisy. It wasn’t intentional it just happened? I don’t know where this stuff comes from ;)


Posted in Community, Events and Workshops | 2 Comments

38,564 words and twelve new quilts!

ImprovHandbook_quiltsWhoopee! Yep that’s how many words I wrote for The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. Wow was that a lot of work. I turned in the final manuscript with the help of the my amazing copy editor, Christine Doyle last week! Christine is also a quilt maker and member of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. She really got that my goal was to write a book on improvisational process with project guidelines that didn’t rely on step-by-step instructions or fixed patterns. She calls it Improv 2.0.


Also delivered last week were hundreds of images taken by the super talented photographer Sara Remington with her assistant Nicole Rejwan. I loved working with Sara and her whole team. They are pros and a lot of fun. During our last 9 hr photo shoot, while Sara was shooting images of my hand sewing tools and supplies –thimble, needles, scissors, yarn, thread, and batting, I felt humbled and so incredibly grateful that my creative live was being documented and soon to be shared in such a beautiful and intimate way. I can’t wait for you to see the pictures! I have no doubt that this book will have the most beautiful technique photos you’ve ever laid eyes on -let alone the real beauty shots! How many times did I say the word BEAUTIFUL in this paragraph?


Working with Melanie Falick, the managing editor, and her staff at STC Craft can only be described as a joy. They have taken such good care of me throughout this process. They’ve supported my vision 100%. I’ve now passed the torch on and the book designers are taking the lead. They are shaping the raw material of words and images into a book. I can’t wait to see what they put together. Apparently there will be four passes or design reviews and then it’s off to the printer. Our goal is to launch The Improv Handbook at QuiltCon in February 2015, where I will be giving a lecture (Thursday, Feb. 19 at 2PM) and teaching three workshops (Fri. Sat. Sun. 9AM-5PM) based on projects and techniques featured in the book.


This week I’ve been tying up loose ends. I couldn’t have handled all the details without the help of my smart, sweet and talented intern Lukaza Branfman-Verissmo. She’s an undergrad at the California College of Art and definitely a young up and coming artist to watch. Lukaza helped me with the test/contributor quilting aspect of the book project, by communicating with over 230 fellow quilters directly, and by setting up the online forum and submissions process for the test quilts. Lukaza has finished her work with me and is off on a scholarship trip in July to connect with print making communities in Japan.


Okay well I did it! I’m just happy that I did it! I’m amazed that I did it! I did it with the help of so many, including so many of you. Writing this book challenged me to grow a hundred fold in all directions. I’ve become a better collaborator. I’ve gained in my ability to let go of control and let others help me shape and complete my vision. I practiced what I preached as I wrote and I’m a better improvisor and quilt maker because of it. Even though I’m about as exhausted as I’ve ever been, my mind is full of possibilities for new work and next steps. I can hardly wait!


It’s as if I’ve been on a boat for the last year and a half and I’ve just been dropped off on a new shore in my life. Everything is YES!

PS> I’m moving on Facebook – Move with me.

Join the new Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters Facebook GROUP, and let’s talk improv and patchwork. If you are a fan of my Daintytime facebook page please switch over and join the Daintytime Improv Handbook Group. When you join be sure to click on     “Notifications” in the top right corner under the cover photo and choose “All Posts”and you will be notified of posts by all the members.

FB has cut organic reach for Pages which means you will not be getting Daintytime FB posts in your story feed anymore unless I pay $5 every time I post. So I’ve started a FB Group and will eventually close my FB Page. Actually it’s better this way. Groups allow for more direct exchange between members. I will be moving all events associated with the Improv Handbook and my teaching/lecturing schedule to the Daintytime Improv Handbook FB Group. Membership is open to everyone! Let’s talk improv and patchwork!

BTW:  Also join me on Instagram: @daintytime and Twitter: @daintytime

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Community, My Creative Process, Personal Heritage | Tagged | 29 Comments

What blocks and/or supports your improvisational flow?

Thank You Improv Handbook Test Quilters

First I want to thank the 230 plus people who participated in testing out the project scores for the Improv Handbook. As a group you submitted 164 quilts to be reviewed for the book. Each one of them was amazing in it’s own way. My editor was very pleased and we both felt like this was a good sign that the time is ripe for a book that provides an in depth exploration of improvisational process for quilters.

Because of budget restraints we were only able to choose 22 quilts for print publication. HOWEVER there will be an online forum that will include all 164 of the test quilts submitted so far. Together they are quite wonderful to behold! I can’t wait for you to see them. The online forum will be posted when the book is released in the spring of 2015.

If you signed on but were unable to finish your test quilt for the book deadline, no worries – you have the rest of the year to finish and submit your quilt for the online forum.  Just follow this link: Improv Handbook Test Quilt Submission Form. This is for new submissions only. The 164 quilts already submitted for the book, will automatically be included in the online forum.

What blocks and supports your improvisational flow?

That being said I want to pose a question to ALL the test quilters, AND more widely to EVERYONE who improvises through patchwork or through other creative disciplines.

What are the forces that drive and support your improvisational process and the forces that restrain and block your flow? Many of the people who submitted quilts for the book wrote about feeling stuck, or getting lost, or almost giving up before they were able to move forward with a composition that surprised them and that they ended up loving.

Please elaborate if this is your experience. I would like to hear about what blocked you – both internally and externally. Were you blocked by not having a sense of control? Overwhelmed with choices? Not enough choices? Not having a design wall?… whatever it may be.

Also I would like to hear about the driving forces, internally and externally, that support your improvisational work. Does curiosity or the desire to explore something new drive your exploration?  Does a submission deadline for a show or a book motivate you? Does working in community support your success or does the solitude of your studio help you most? What else?

If there were forces restraining your improvisational flow how did you move past, overcome, or undo those forces to move forward?

Please comment below on your experiences with driving and restraining forces that either support or block your improvisational process. I’m writing about this in the book and would very much appreciate your input. Thanks!


Posted in Craft Therapy, Mantras for Creativity, Modern Improv | Tagged , , , | 45 Comments

50! ?

It’s my birthday today and I’m FIFTY years old! How did that happen?


Well no matter. Here I am, still hanging in there, learning something new everyday. I have so much to be thankful for, including family and friends, a strong and healthy body, a wonderful studio and work environment, enough money to meet my needs, a great day job, an amazing supportive community of fellow artists and quilt makers, an opportunity to share my craft with you through my blog and this crazy book I’ve been working on for the last year. Wow!


Anyway I just wanted to say thank you. I promise to get back to blogging more once I’ve turned my manuscript to the publishers in mid-May.

Spring blessings all around!


“Getting older is one of the best things that can happen to a person……see how lucky you’re becoming?” ~ from my friend Dan

Posted in Blogging, Community, Personal Heritage | Tagged , | 48 Comments

Open Call For Mod Mood (Get Your Curve On) Quilts

Mod-Mood Quilt curvesThis is an open call for quilts based on the Mod-Mood Quilt-along, or my workshop, Get Your Curve On. We are looking for one or two interpretations of the Mod-Mood (Get Your Curve On) Quilt to publish along with my most recent interpretation in the Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters, to be published by STC Craft/Abrams in Spring 2015.


If you are an alum of  the Get Your Curve On workshop or you have made a Mod Mood Quilt based on my tutorial then PLEASE SUBMIT your quilt for review and possible publication. If you started one and it is currently in your unfinished projects bin then now is the time to pull it out and complete it. The submission process is free and will remain open through March 25, 11:59 PST.

I know there are a lot of wonderful mod-mood, wedge strip-pieced curve quilts out there and I want to see them! Please pass this open call to people you know who have made or are in the process of making one.

If you have the time to make a stripped-pieced wedge curve quilt based on the methods in the Mod-Mood (Get Your Curve On) Quilt tutorial by March 25 then please go for it!

Important Dates

  • March 1- submissions open
  • March 25- (11:59 PM PST) submission closed
  • April 1- quilts chosen for publication (notificated date)
  • April 18- quilts due in Oakland, CA for photography
  • June 30- quilts returned to maker
  • Spring 2015- Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters released, ALL submitted quilts posted in online forum
  • If your quilt is chosen for publication, you will be notified by April 1 and will be sent all the information you need to ship your quilt to Oakland CA by April 18 for photography. The publisher will pay shipping costs up to $50. The quilts will be insured while on site at the photographer’s studio.  You will receive full acknowledgement, and a complimentary copy of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.
  • If your quilt is not chosen for print publication it will still be included in an online forum. You will also be entered into a drawing for copies of the book, and some special hand-made thank you gifts from me. There may also be other publication/exhibition opportunities still to be determined.


Posted in Community, Current Giveaways, Mod Mood Quilt | Tagged | 2 Comments

Stitch Modern ~ Improv Round Robin Workshop

I’m pleased to announce that I will be facilitating an Improv Round Robin as part of the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild‘s 3rd annual Stitch Modern on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at the Piedmont Center for the Arts.

This is a fantastic workshop for first time quilt improvisors and for people who have never made a quilt before, as long as you can operate a sewing machine. If you are interested in attending please register here.


This workshop will be photographed for Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters which will include a marvelous chapter on the Improv Round Robin with instructions on how to organize and facilitate one with your friends or for your guild.

If you live in the Bay Area be sure to check out the Sew Modern exhibition and schedule of lectures and workshops! It’s all happening in February.

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Improv Handbook Test Quilters

Vintage 70's Fabric


The Improv Handbook scores are finally out to all of my test quilters! You guys are awesome. I had over 160 responses and I enjoyed reviewing your skills and preferences, reading every one of your comments, and visiting your media sites.  Thanks for all of the kind words and support.

I was so impressed with the talent and the enthusiasm – to see a range of masterful quilt makers and improvisors, along with the excitement and willingness of beginners ready to jump right in! I was happy to discover the work of some of you for the first time and to have the support of many longtime blog friends!

I can hardly wait to see what you all come up with and again I can’t thank you enough. Your questions and feedback on the scores and process are invaluable to the success of the book.

It’s not to late to participate ~ closed

If you want to be a test quilter visit the call for contributor quilts for more information and fill out the questionnaire.  I will hold the door open for test quilters until February 1st. Late comers will still have a month and a half to finish their quilts by March 25. Definitely sign up if you think you can swing that deadline.

Posted in Blogging, Community, Modern Improv, Quilt Alongs | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Happy Holy-Days!

With deadlines looming and working hard on my first publishing adventure, I wasn’t able to take the extra time to join my family in North Carolina this Christmas but they came to me in September. Any special time set aside to be really present with family or friends is a treasured holiday or “holy-day” in my book. Here’s a sweet video celebrating my family’s recent visit.

I hope your recent days have been filled with simple moments of existence and presence with friends and family.

Posted in Personal Heritage | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Announcing The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters

An Official Announcement

I’m pleased to officially announce the upcoming publication of my first book!


THE IMPROV HANDBOOK FOR MODERN QUILTERS: A Practical Guide for Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously by Sherri Lynn Wood is a comprehensive guide on the process of improvisational patchwork quilting, which includes 10 project scores, innovative sewing techniques, tips for accessing intuitive color, and mind tools for creating with fearless spontaneity. Scheduled to be published by Abrams Books under the imprint of STC Craft / A Melanie Falick Book in Spring 2015.

How The Improv Handbook Came About

I began working with a literary agent in November 2013 on a detailed book proposal.

In March 2013 we submitted the 50 page proposal to a handful of publishers. I was thrilled to have phone interviews with a majority of the editors representing the publishing houses and received several offers. The most exciting part of this process was hearing how each editor would emphasize different aspects of my proposal to fit the publisher’s mission of reaching it’s particular audience.

Once the offers came in it was really a tough decision to choose one, but ultimately I decided to work with Melanie Falick at STC Craft. She designs some of the most beautiful craft and lifestyle books on the market today. Melanie edited my friend Sabrina Gschwandtner’s book KnitKnit, and Denyse Schmidt’s latest book Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration. In the next couple of years I know that STC Craft will be publishing books with Spoonflower, Kristine Vejar at A Verb For Keeping Warm, and Heather Jones. STC Craft creates books that highlight the unique visions of their authors.

The Improv Handbook Concept

Improvisation is a fundamental process at the heart of every great creative endeavor. Music, dance, theater, painting, drawing, design, cooking, conversation, relationships, play, life and even the discipline of science benefits, survives, grows, transforms and innovates through the flexibility of mind that improvisational process engenders.

The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters provides a comprehensive framework for fostering improvisational skills through the discipline of patchwork quilting.

The 10 patchwork projects featured in the book are organized as “scores” or “games” rather than as patterns. A score or lead sheet, common to improvised musical traditions such as jazz, is a set of notations or parameters within which the improvisation is free to take shape. In the discipline of improv theater a game defines the set of limits in which an improvised and unscripted scene unfolds.

Each quilt score is designed holistically to illustrate a) approaches and methods from different improvisational disciplines, b) innovative sewing techniques particular to improvisational patchwork, c) design considerations and exercises, and d) mind tools for fostering fearlessness, presence and curiosity.

For instance one project asks the reader to think about doodling as a method for improvisation, by introducing the techniques for building a quilt with simple shapes, while also encouraging a mindset of acceptance. Another project will get you thinking about the design element of rhythm by posing a puzzle to be solved, while teaching skills for ruler free measurement.

My goal for the Improv Handbook is to teach improvisational patchwork in a way that encourages authentic expression. To this end, along with my interpretation of each score, the book will feature one or two quilts by other people to illustrate the infinite range of possible outcomes that improvising from a score allows.

As an example the Mod Mood Quilt is written as a score to interpret, rather than being presented as a pattern to follow, and you can see a range of interpretations of the Mod Mood Quilt score here.

Participate! A Call for Test Quilters

Here’s how to participate

  • January 1 – Register to participate as a test-quilter.
  • February 1 – Open registration to participate closes. Scores sent out to test-quilters.
  • March 1 – Information about contributor quilt submission process will be sent to test-quilters.
  • March 25 – Images of finished quilts based on the scores provided are due and will be considered for publication in the book. Submitted quilts will be reviewed and chosen for publication by me and the editorial staff based on how well they illustrate an alternative yet recognizable interpretations of the quilt score provided.
  • April 1 – Makers of the chosen entries for the book will be notified.
  • April 15 – Chosen quilts will need to be quilted, bound, shipped to and received in Oakland by this date, for photography.  The publisher will pay for round-trip shipping by USPS Priority Mail to Oakland, CA.
  • Makers of the chosen entries will be completely acknowledged in print, and will receive a complementary copy of the book.
  • The makers of non-chosen quilts will be entered in a drawing for complementary copies of the book and other thank-you prizes hand-made by me.
  • There will be an online forum showcasing ALL of the test quilts with the release of the book in Spring 2015.
  • There may be exhibition opportunities for the test quilts, but there is nothing on the calendar at this time.


Posted in Community, Modern Improv, The Modern Quilt | Tagged | 64 Comments

Talking Quilts with Eli Leon ~ Sarah Turnage

This quilt was pieced by Sarah Turnage of San Francisco and quilted by Mary Thompson and Aurelia Forester.

Quarter Log Cabin by Sarah Turnage

There is so much motion in this quilt that it borders on optical illusion!

The first thing Eli brings to my attention are the two bright reds in the center of the quilt that create a medallion of sorts. They hold the center of the quilt and are flanked by subtle borders.

Notice how the thick brown strip that runs across four blocks the top plays off the skinnier brown strip in the bottom right that runs across two blocks. These constitute a top and bottom frame, or inner border around the reds in the center.

The left border is delineated by a subtle shift of color and scale or rhythm of the blocks. The outer right border is made with strips of solids on the edge that lead to an outer bordered edge of pink on the bottom right.

Notice how there isn’t any white in the blocks bordering the quilt. All the white is contained in the center blocks. This also delineates a sense of the borders.

Eli notes the variable strip widths. Most of the strips and squares are cut evenly but there are a few that are cut wider on one end than the other, these slight irregularities add to the quilt.

The block pattern is a quarter log cabin. Eli believes that the quarter log cabin is unique to the African-American tradition of quilting. He could find no record of this block pattern originating from the Euro-American tradition. It is NOT made by making a log cabin block and cutting it into quarters. Each quarter log cabin block in this quilt was made individually — no two alike.

Not only is each block unique the way the center squares of the blocks come together is always different. Sometimes two squares meet at a seam, sometimes three, sometimes the square runs into strips.

Notice how Sarah uses solids and patterns in this quilt. In the bottom row of the quilt there is a complete mix of fabrics. Eli thinks its undefined. That part of the quilt fades compared to the rest of it. We agree that this is perhaps the weakest section of the quilt, was she trying to do something special or did she just run out of solids? What do you think?

Otherwise the interspersing of solids with prints, especially plaids and stripes add to the boldness and optical nature of the quilt. The flower prints seem like filler to Eli, but I think the pink and green and orange flower print is unexpected and works wonderfully. We both love how the plaids and stripes go in different directions.

Sarah uses all kinds of fabrics, including polyester. These textures add to the quilt. I love how all the lime green is congregated up at the top. The fact that it is not scattered everywhere is a strong design choice.

I also love the quilt’s naturally finished shape. Sarah didn’t just take a ruler and whack off the edges of the quilt to make a straight edge.

Eli insists the name of this quilt is Turkey Breast, because that is how it is listed in some of his notes and in his book, Models of the Mind. However on the tag attached to the quilt Eli listed the name as Turkey Boast.  We disputed the name of the quilt for quite a bit. I think Turkey Boast makes sense because the pattern reminds me of a turkey strutting around. Eli insists that his records record the name as Turkey Breast even though he agrees that it doesn’t make a bit of sense. We both have a good laugh about the pattern name, but whatever the name it’s a spectacular doozy of a quilt. It is unique of its kind.

Listen to our conversation

So what do you see? Please join the conversation! Check out the archive Talking Quilts with Eli Leon for more exclusive insights on improvisational quilts from Eli’s extensive African-American collection.

Posted in Modern Improv, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Upcoming Events & Workshops

People have been asking me about my teaching schedule. I’m happy to announce an exhibition and upcoming improvisational patchwork classes scattered across the country. I may be teaching in your neighborhood soon!


October 10 – December 28, 2013Right now you can view Rainbow Cloud Quilt in the exhibition, Roots of Modern Quilting, at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA.


February 7-9, 2014. I will be teaching the Improv Round Robin at the Modern Quilt Guild’s SewDown: Portland. Registration is open!

North Carolina (East Coast)

July 2014 (specific dates to be determined). Spoonflower in Durham, NC. I will be speaking about Improvisational Patchwork and Process and teaching a full day improvisational quilting workshop. More details to come!

I would like to piggy back two or three more east coast gigs over a two-week period in July. If you are interested in having me teach in your east coast city at your local quilt shop, guild or art school during this time contact me and we will try to make it happen!  I’m willing to travel as far as NY and all the way down to Atlanta.


August 25-26, 2014Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association, Santa Clara, CA. I will be speaking about Improvisational Patchwork and Process and teaching a workshop.

Hello California quilters! I’m local which means minimal transportation costs. Also Bay Area quilters, I may be teaching a series of test-kitchen improvisational workshops for my book this winter or early spring. Please stay tuned!


November 14-15, 2014Camp Stitchalot, Pleasant Lake, MI. So pleased to announce that I will be one of the “camp counselors” for this cozy event! Registration is open.

Again I am hoping to piggyback an additional presentation or workshop immediately before or after Camp Stitchalot.  If you know of a guild, quilt shop, or art school in the Detroit or Lansing area who might be interested please contact me!


March 1-2, 2015, Fidalgo Island Quilters, Anacortes, WA. I will be doing two presentations for the guild and teaching a workshop.

I am available to present or teach immediately before or after my visit with FIQ.  If you know of a guild, quilt shop, or art school in the Seattle area who might be interested please contact me!

Photos are from Get Your Curve On, a workshop held at the Pajoro Valley Quilt Association, Santa Cruz, CA on September 9, 2013. A good time was had by all! If you attended this class PLEASE leave a review in the comments.

Posted in Community, Events and Workshops, Mod Mood Quilt, Modern Improv | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Talking Quilts with Eli Leon ~ Rosie Lee Tompkins

Eli Leon surprised me with this amazing quilt by Rosie Lee Tompkins. He has over a hundred quilts by Rosie Lee and considers this to be one of her best – AND it has never been published. This is an exclusive so please pass the word around to your quilting buds!

The first thing I notice and love about this bed sized quilt is the rich intensity of the velvet and the way it deeply absorbs color and reflects light. This dark quilt sparkles!

We both comment on the way light shines and pops out of the darkness. The light blue velvet combined with the pillow ticking in the top right corner is so unexpected –almost like a patch of sky peaking through the rust/purple/green triadic colors of an autum canopy.

Rosie Lee is confident in the way she patches together large expanses of dark values with only slight shifts of intensity. Personally I shy away from doing such a thing, afraid that my patterns will get lost. Yet the rich field of darkness she creates becomes a ground for her bold bright patches to stand fearlessly.

Eli points to the “huge number of changes in stuff that is very similar.” For instance, some of the triangular “half squares” as Eli calls them, vary in size tremendously. Sometimes the scale shifts from section to section, and in the light blue section, for example, there are scale shifts within the section.

Rosie Lee has created floating sections within floating sections. There is a sense that the microcosm gets bigger as the pattern of sections within sections repeats –almost spiraling. It’s simply beautiful. It’s fractal.

Rosie Lee Tomkins Quilt from Eli Leon's African-American collection - improviational patchwork

Personally I have a difficult time sewing with triangles, because they are so pointy, I don’t feel very free with them and they usually come off stiff and precise. In Rosie Lee’s hands they are fluid. Lots of times the points of her triangles are cut off by seams. They fragment like the reflected light of a jewel.

We notice that there is a single “border” at the top.  It’s clear that the quilt is made in sections but it is difficult to determine the actual construction sequence. This is due to the way Rosie Lee bleeds colors from one section to the next.

I love Eli’s enthusiasm for a beautiful quilt, “Something I just noticed for the first time…

Rosie Lee Tomkins Quilt from Eli Leon's African-American collection - improviational patchwork

I like almost a million things about the quilt. It’s that I just feel so great when I’m passing that (the dark-blue bleeds in the light blue section)– when I’m looking up there and see that, even if I don’t recognise that its both this or that, it just turns me on, and that’s been happening with a million things here.

We both agree that there are parts of this quilt that look three dimensional. Eli points out how Rosie Lee will add completely unexpected fabrics to the quilt like the leopard print at the bottom left center, or this very busy print in the top middle –one-of-a-kind elements in contrast to the mostly solid fabrics used through out, that never-the-less blend effortlessly with the whole. I declare that I would never feel free to that and Eli says, “Yes but it works beautifully!”

I ask Eli about Rosie Lee’s personality, “Was she confident?” He says she was more than confident. She never looked for help or approval with her quilts. However she was also a critic of her own work. She could pick out her best, the ones that were “perfect” and others that she thought could be better.

In the end the thing that makes this quilt so extraordinary is the sense I get that it seems chaotic yet feels completely ordered. Eli didn’t see anything chaotic about it but could see what I meant. He declares it “fabulously ordered.”

When asked about her process Rosie Lee said she could picture the outcome before she began. I’d say she was a master at communicating her rhythm of attention.

Rosie Lee Tomkins Quilt from Eli Leon's African-American collection - improviational patchwork

If you would like to hear our actual conversation here it is!


So what do you see? Please join the conversation! Check out the archive Talking Quilts with Eli Leon for more exclusive insights on improvisational quilts from Eli’s extensive African-American collection.

Posted in Modern Improv, Reviews, The Modern Quilt | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Piñata Anchor of Hope ~ Happy Birthday Mom

It’s my mom’s birthday today. She would have been 70, but she died of pancreatic cancer 10 years ago when she was only 60. I miss her. It’s a rainy day today in the Bay Area, but I feel cozy in my home with a candle lit in her memory, reviewing photographs taken of the two of us during different stages of our relationship. She is still with me.

In the photo above we are performing at a church Valentine’s talent show. She is the 70’s version of Patti Page singing “How Much is that Doggie in the Window.” I’m the doggie of course singing the “arf-arf” chorus. I’m vaguely sure our “singing” was in the form of lip-synching, but I do have a distinct memory of my mom teaching me to make the tissue paper flowers that decorated the stage in the basement-level, fellowship hall of Seventh Street Christian Church in Richmond, VA.

This memory of my mom spurred a temporary public art project that I produced, funded, created, and performed for the city of Durham, NC in 2005, a year after her death. The city of Durham was entering a first phase of rapid redevelopment and urban renewal at that time. Lots of things were beginning to change. Renewal of the city center was something everyone hoped for but there was also a sense of loss. On a personal level I was thinking a lot about the nature, and meaning of hope in the face of grief and death.

Piñata Anchor of Hope

The Piñata Anchor of Hope combined two cultural symbols of hope, the “anchor”–the hope for stability during rough seas, the “piñata” –the hope for the prize, with a third natural metaphor for hope –the “seed.”

I had to get permission from city hall and local business owners to site the project on the long abandoned empty lot in the town center where the old Woolworth’s building used to stand.  I worked with children from several downtown after school programs and magnet schools to create the piñata. Friends provided sweat equity, gardening expertise, and their creative talents. Horse & Buggy Press designed and donated beautiful letter pressed posters. I had fundraisers. Poets read and drummers drummed at the public ceremony. The community was involved in the watering and maintenance of the garden. It was written up in all three of the local papers. So many creative Durhamites pitched in to make our community unique and this project happen.

Unbeknownst to everyone but my sister, who traveled to Durham to help me pitch the anchor off of the three-story building, a handful of my mother’s ashes were mixed with the wildflower seeds. I remember thinking that the anchor falling through the sky was like the body of my dead mother.

I recently heard from one of my Durham friends that construction of a 26-story apartment complex on the old Woolworth’s lot is in the process of being approved by city hall. I am pleased that he recalled the blessing of that de facto public space, the abandoned lot in the center of the city of Durham, eight years earlier.

Sister, Father, Family

Ten years ago today my dad, sister, brother and the rest of the family were celebrating my mom’s 60th knowing it would be her last birthday. This is a picture of Dad, Sis, me and my dad’s second wife, Ruth, on Alameda Beach just two days ago. They were visiting from North Carolina all last week. We had a wonderful time together. We thought of mom and missed her.

Oh how life mysteriously generates and goes on!

Posted in Art and Social Practice, Community, Craft Therapy, My Creative Process, Personal Heritage | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments