Friday, September 18, 2020

Linear Blocks Virtual Workshop, and Such

This busy week is nearly at an end with my Saturday afternoon (1 pm Eastern Time) No Tails Binding program to South Florida MQG, and Sunday's ruler work quilting book review finishing this weekend.

Days leading up to now have been full of good things, including positive health reports from my oncologist and cardio-vascular doctors, the former with whom I got to meet virtually.

I managed to finish piecing the Charming Postage Stamp quilt top before taking last weekend's virtual workshop. This is a heavy quilt top - those are 64-patch blocks - measuring about 64" X 72". It's on a hanger in the guest room closet, awaiting quilting 

Of course, the most fun I had was last Saturday and Sunday afternoon spent with Maria Shell @talesofastitcher in her "Linear Blocks: Line into Shape" workshop,

The workshop content was fantastic! Maria is a skilled instructor who does an excellent job of explaining her design concepts, and elements she uses to create them. Much of the workshop was based on information in her Improv Patchwork book (I ordered the book from her and it hasn't yet arrived), and she also gave us a total of six hand-outs with information not included in her book. 

Only the virtual format was a little challenging. Both days ran over the three-hour time allotment in large part due to 34 students being able to ask questions as Maria taught.

And in small part to this being Maria's first virtual teaching experience.  Still, the break-out groups of 7-8 students, with a chance to get acquainted (I met two other Floridians) was very nice, as was the after-class tour of Maria's studio.

She allowed us to take screen shots of her quilts, for personal use, but asked us not to publicly share those pictures. You'll have to believe me when I say that I was absolutely enthralled with Maria's wonderful improv designs. I'm completely smitten with her style!

Maria refers to her improv technique as "patterning" and said to keep creating patterns as we pieced elements. So, after choosing an all-solids color palette, I worked as she does - rotary cutting strips without using a ruler. This is the result of my first day of improv cutting and sewing to make tiny crosses, mirror ribbons, and bits. She shares other named patterns too. 

Maria explained that these improv designs are inspired by traditional blocks, and she uses Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Blocks as her resource. (Yay, I bought this book at least 20 years ago!) She suggested we arrange our designs to make a Rail Fence, Log Cabin, or Crossed Square. 

Progress through the week meant trial and error arranging shapes. 

I chose to work with the Crossed Square block, and began to recognize a comfort level with the color combinations and patterns I made. 

When I discovered that I liked bits (two or three color rows of small pieces) in each block, and moved the "un-bit" blocks to the center, the arrangement took shape.

Once I was happy with the placement of improv units, I used a rotary ruler to square-up units to sizes - 7½" X  7½" and 6" X 20" - that would finish into a 20-inch square block. I also trialed different sashing colors between the blocks, but decided I wanted more pattern!

Note: Along the edges are the patterns I didn't use! This style of improv creates more scraps! 😟

By Thursday evening, this was my completed 45" X 45" quilt top. It's extremely graphic, and quite bright! It pretty much seems that whatever quilting design I quilt on top won't show a bit! 

In the past, I have taken improv workshops with Sherri Lynn Wood; Tara Faughnan; Carson Converse; Anne Sullivan; and Melanie Tuazon, and still struggled to create modern improv designs that I can do, and that I like. I've often just thrown in the towel. So it's been a happy surprised to find myself excited about Maria's improv style. It seems to suit me! But I still have a lot to learn... like how to pare down/limit my riotous color palette, and patterning. 

When the Improv Patchwork book arrives, I will start another quilt, but this time will choose my own traditional block to make modern. There's so much to explore with this patterned improv concept that I will be happily entertained for months!

A while back, when a bought more jumbo-sized Bernina bobbins for my 770QE, I saved the plastic screw-top containers they came in. This week I found the perfect use for them... to hold dozens of broken pins and needles that I've been collecting in a little drawer. I know other sewists use empty prescription bottles, but I donate those to a local church that fills them with fishing line and a hook for Operation Shoebox boxes. I'm pleased to have discovered this bobbin container use, and have a couple more empties to fill.

Three bags of Hy-Vee white popcorn were delivered this week! What a surprise! This is my favorite Iowa-grown popcorn, and the brand I always bring home from a visit to Kansas City. After mentioning to our daughter that we needed to visit them because I was out of Hy-Vee popcorn, she started looking for it. Hy-Vee popcorn has been out of stock (!), so when Tay crawled into a low store shelf and found three bags in the back, they snatched them up. Popcorn is their way of thanking me for the masks I've been making and mailing to them. 💕 

Last Sunday's sermon - What the World Needs Now - by Pastor Mike Housholder was presented entirely while he was on the move - walking through the Des Moines (Iowa) Sculpture Park, driving in his car, and walking to these crosses on Lutheran Church of Hope property in West Des Moines. His message about love resonated when he questioned "How does a person deal with someone who lies about you?" "Love your enemies," the Bible says, even though that's completely counter-intuitive to human nature. Pastor Mike shares how "Radical love is the pathway to the new normal."

On Tuesday I started the "Children of the Day" Beth Moore Bible study of Thessalonians I and II. It's a Spirit-filling study that's precisely what I need to get through these endless days. 

Let me attempt to leave you with a smile. 


  1. I've always wondered why white popcorn is so hard to find in the store. It's my favorite. Haven't heard of that brand even though my dad is an Iowan and popcorn was always our special thing.

  2. Love your last pic, yes it made me smile! Love where things went with your improv, it's looking amazing! I struggle with improv, but it fascinates me so much that I keep on trying!

  3. Definitely good news on your health status! I like your riotous color palette on your newest improv quilt. You pulled all the disparate parts together beautifully with your sashing, and to my eyes the sashing gives it a southwestern flavor.

  4. Very glad for your good health report. I'm sure that's a relief to you. Your class looks like great fun and the quilt resulting is wonderful! I just read Fun With Barb blog and she took the class as well. Interesting how you each came up with your own twist in arranging and setting- not so hard to do I guess with all the bits and pieces you made. Well done. Your sign reminded me of another I saw about someone refusing to set the clocks back in the fall as an extra hour of 2020 was not needed!

  5. I think this quilt is fantastic!

  6. So pleased to hear about your recent class and how much you are enjoying her style of improv. Her book is one of my favorites, and I've really enjoyed exploring some of her 'patterns!'

  7. So happy to hear you got positive health reports. Your improve is impressive. Rotary cutting without a ruler. My brain is trying to imagine that.

  8. I love your improv blocks Linda. Maria Shell was an extremely popular Tutor at our National Symposium 2019. I wish now I had taken more notice and done a class with her. Some things overwhelm me, and I think it looks too complicated, but I now I think I would have enjoy that.
    Glad to hear your health is good.:)
    This sounds a little pathetic for these days, but we have been watching old episodes of the Waltons. They are so nice to each other, the kids are great! I think our grandchildren could learn a lot in how to be kinder. LOL!

  9. Yet, again... Linda is a star student!!! :o))

  10. Wonderful blog to read today
    Linda, I enjoyed reading all of this and your adventures, and your postage stamp quilt. The modern one looks pretty cool, like Aztec or something.
    I love your Lutheran Church and Pastor Mike is wonderful
    I love those bottles.
    I usually put all of my old broken sharps in a safety cap old tylenol bottle.
    This is very funny, the saying. Well, what lies ahead, could be worse, we might want 2020 again.
    GO VOTE. Our Supreme Court depends on us, and so does the future of our country and our sweet kiddos

  11. I'm glad you've found a improv method that resonants with you. I know it hasn't been your thing before. Improv is hard for me too. I've gotten Maria's book from the library multiple times. Just haven't tried any of her methods yet.

  12. Extra wonderful post today. I could see great things from your class. I look forward to what you will do next.

  13. Wow, you did have quite a week! Your Maria quilt looks great. Mine went in a box to consider later. And I think your color scheme is fine. Mary P

  14. I really love your improv quilt and congrats on the good medical news.


I reply to comments!

However, if you are a no-reply commenter, I cannot reply to you by email.


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin