In November, I went to Denyse Schmidt's workshop and it was an a amazing experience. Denyse just wrote about the class on the Purl Bee the other day. You can read about my experience here and see a quilt I made using the technique I learned here. For Christmas, Fatty gave me a gift certificate for Denyse's Advanced Improv class so the two of us took a trip to New York last weekend so I could cash it in.
The whole idea behind the advanced improv class is to take an idea and to develop it into a plan for a quilt. I struggled for many weeks about what to actually work on in this class. What it came down to in the end was what I had on hand. And what I have is a HUGE stack of Heather Bailey fabrics to use for Jane. I was planning to make her a zig zag quilt, but never started it. So, I chose the one large-scale floral that her room colors are based on and started buying solids to go with it. I want something suit a 9 year old and a 19 year old, something she won't outgrow before it's even finished.
The night I made the homework blocks, they didn't seem that
bad. It was late, I was (over)tired and put them in pile, happy to
have that bit of business finished. The next day, after I took this
photo, I knew it was bad. Really bad. And the one block that I didn't
like while I was piecing them, was the one I liked the best of all.
When I say best, that is an exaggeration – it was like the least offending of all four. I didn't have any spare time to do them over or even make
At the studio on Saturday, I showed my blocks and inspiration fabric to Denyse, Richard (her teaching partner) and my two fellow classmates. I explained why I chose these colors and who the quilt would be for. I went through the laundry list of things I didn't like: the proportion was off; the dark pink really, really bothered me (and everyone else!); the rest of the pink wasn't much better; I felt I needed more neutrals (maybe a brown?). What I did like about these blocks was that there were "L" shapes made by strips of continuous colors in all of them. The repetition of that pattern was really appealing to me. The somewhat monochromatic blue/green/yellow block was the one I liked best and I wonder aloud if maybe I should take the pink out all together or separate it somehow.
After some consultation, I started sketching a bit and playing with fabric. Denyse and Richard pulled bolts of different solids and we compared them to the ones I had. We picked a few more yellows to add in – a pale butter, a bright lemon and a mustard – along with a second lime green and a second ivory. We talked about cutting up the floral fabric to use it as a solid. Then I started sewing.
I liked my first block and used it as a starting point to make other blocks. I made some blue blocks, some pink blocks, and per Denyse's suggestion, an ivory one. I took Richard's suggestion and used the Heather Bailey fabric as a print in some places and as a solid in others. I strategically cut it to get pieces that were mostly pink or green or yellow or just the background alone. I repeated the "L" shape in all the blocks and used the ivory for continuity. Five blocks into this project, I like where it is going. I like the log cabin-ish centers and the small (well, small for me) scale of the blocks. The muted yellows, especially the mustard, help ground all those easter egg pastels and tone down that dark pink.
I haven't worked on it any more since I have been home. I have been letting the process and the ideas percolate a bit. I am going to keep at it, though. I think I will have to make at least four more blocks to see if I can make this quilt come together the way I want. I will be pulling some other prints from my stash to see if I can add a few more bits of interest and texture. If it doesn't come together, that is ok, too. I am learning so much about myself as an artist just through the process. That alone is enough.
A big thank you to Denyse and Richard. You guys are great inspiration and a lot of fun! I appreciate your feedback and encouragement. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you come up with another class. I'd love to come back!