So, on Saturday, I went to Denyse Schmidt’s studio for a workshop.  Yes, I did.  That was really my birthday present, the rest of the trip was like icing on the cake.  I took the train from NYC to Fairfield, CT, where my friend Cynthia (hi Cynthia!) picked me up.   We had a quick hour or so to visit before she drove me to Bridgeport where Denyse’s studio and business are located.  I arrived a few minutes early, set out my cutting mat, rotary cutter, scissors and thread and chatted with the other ladies who were there for the class.  It was an amazing group of woman – all but one of the eleven had traveled to be there.  And after quick introductions all the way around, Denyse explained to us what we were going to do.  It was all about improvisational piecing, the fabrics being chosen by chance.  If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I like to have control.  I think and over-think when I am sewing far too often.  This was just the type of exercise I needed.

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My first block started with a peach colored, small scale polka dot and a burgundy solid.  Not really my colors, but I was going with the flow.  I then drew out a small bit of orange followed by a gold batik.  I was happy with it – they were all in the same color family – until I that blue, black and white print came out of the bag.  I did not like it, not one bit.  But I used it because I had to.  There was not throwing anything back.

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This is what I ended up with.  Not too bad for the first go-round.  I would have added more of the blue and black print had there been enough time.

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This shows everyone’s first round squares.  When I saw them up on the flannel wall, I was amazed at how they looked together.  What I noticed looking at my square on the wall and not flat in front of me was that it was very, very log cabin-ish.  There isn’t anything wrong with that – I like making log cabins.  But the problem was that I like making log cabins.  I was there to challenge myself and to learn something new.

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My second square was not log cabin in style at all. (It’s the one over on the left, all by itself).  I didn’t realize it until it was finished, but the first fabric I pulled was on one end of the block and not in the middle.  I liked this square a lot.  It was very different from what I did on the first round.

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We then set out to make four to six blocks with the fabric we brought as a constant.  I brought the green/white/brown print.  It was interesting to see how everything changed when choice was added to the process.  I had never thought about this before.  That extra decision made a big difference.  It was a bit freeing for me – I knew that all the blocks I made would be cohesive in some way.  At the same time, however, I found myself starting to over-think a bit, worrying that the prints I was pulling would take away from the entire piece.  I realized that if I went with my first instinct and kept moving at a fast pace, the over-thinking fell to the side and I just focused on creating.  And in the end, I was very happy with what I created.  With my six blocks, I have the beginnings of something bigger.  I’m pumped up to put it all together and keep sewing.

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I left there completely inspired.  Denyse is an talented artist and a wonderful teacher.  Her insight into the finished blocks was poignant and she was so enthusiastic about our work.  Her friend, Richard, who helped out the entire day, was great, too.  I really enjoyed meeting the other women in the class, talking to them and seeing what they made.  It was remarkable to see eleven different blocks, made by eleven different people, each with its own point of view, that looked so cohesive when grouped together.

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Denyse has workshops a few times a year.  If you are in the area, or can get yourself there, go.  It was amazing for me.  I left feeling inspired and invigorated, ready to create.  I can’t imagine that you all wouldn’t like it, too.

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