My Weekend at PNCA Part 2

More about the workshop I started telling you about yesterday…
Denyse wanted us to start thinking about and planning our own blocks during the second half of the class. I let my thoughts stew for the evening on Saturday, there was pizza and ice cream to be consumed with the Franz family. And laughing… lots of laughing.
So, the next day, it was time to start thinking and planning. I realized what I loved most about those first improvisational blocks were the tiny pieces of fabrics I kept pulling from the original brown bags. Teeny tiny pieces. I’d never done much piecing with fabric this size. It opened my eyes to the different effects of cutting down a large patterned fabric, or using a tiny piece of fabric in a bright color, bordered by a larger, calming block. I began sketching an idea using those little tiny pieces sewn together, thinking of them like little jewels, and surrounding them with lots of white, and fabrics I would “pretend were white”- I’ll explain.
I showed my idea to Denyse and the fabric that I brought. She quickly began to separate some of my tiny prints into the “white” or neutral pile, suggesting I treat them as solids. I took a picture of my stack-

And the prints I had to work with, a collection of yarndyes, thrifted men’s shirtings, yarndye plaid, etc-

I started playing around before lunch and made one block. I was only marginally happy with it, but making it made me realize what it was lacking and what I needed to do. I wanted to be as improvisational as those first blocks, and I felt like I was making too many rigid decisions and editing too much.

So I did my own version of paper bag piecing so I would take the picking and choosing out of the process. I would just grab and sew with whatever I got (I made sure to put in all the fabrics I thought were suitable, so I wasn’t picking crazy stuff). Also, Denyse made the suggestion that on those next pieces to concentrate only on the inner “jewel boxes” themselves first, and not the outer white spaces that made up the rest of the block. That was a brilliant idea that I hadn’t considered, and made it much easier. After lunch I made 3 more jewel boxes (I could have made more, but a small group of us went to lunch with Denyse and that was a total treat I couldn’t pass up!).

I am going to continue to play with these. Denyse talked through a couple of variations with me on where to go with this, and I am really inspired. I’ll be sure and post what I come up with.
(this is such a bad picture of me, but I don’t care!)
This girl is cool, and funny, and smart, and just plain nice. I was pretty star struck at first, but to be honest, she’s so approachable and willing to help, you just stop thinking about that.

Denyse has been teaching variations of this course since 2003 and she really knows how to talk through process (as a few of us were discussing on twitter). Not only that, but I really had fun getting to know Denyse herself. There were many of us from out of town, and we tended to hang together during the day and had such fun getting to know each other. It was a treat to be in a room with others all sewing and creating at the same time. Sewing as I do can be a solitary activity (not that I don’t love a stretch of time alone to create) and it was a nice change of pace to create and get inspired within a group. No blogs, no websites, just creative talking, sewing and support. I highly suggest switching gears and being a student when the opportunity arises. I want to try and do this from time to time.
Now to wait for Denyse’s new book to come out! Spring ’12!

My Weekend At PNCA Part 1

Could you hear the excitement and anticipation coming from my house? Early last Saturday morning, I got up before the rest of the family and headed down to Portland for a 2 day workshop at PNCA with Denyse Schmidt. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that Denyse is my quilting hero, the reason I made my first quilt years ago, the spark that started my love and passion for quilts, and this workshop, part of the Summer of Making series was a birthday gift from Peter, one that I’d been anticipating all summer (as I told the kids, my summer camp). I knew it would be a fun weekend, not only to sew alongside some other fantastic, funny, and interesting ladies (so fun to sew with others, rather than alone as I usually do), but to hang out with my favorite Frantz family.
We started Saturday with Denyse explaining her improvisational “paper bag piecing” method. I know some of you quilters know the idea behind this, but you are given 3 brown paper bags with various sizes of fabric. Without looking in the bag and choosing, you pull out pieces randomly, begin sewing and piecing, and building squares. Here is our first set of blocks (mine is bottom left).
We did this exercise 3 times, discussing after each what we liked and didn’t like. As we each suspected, there were some nice combinations within each block.
Here is Denyse, arranging the blocks on the flannel wall.
By midday on Saturday, we had the makings of a beautiful quilt top.
The goal of this exercise is to really embrace the unexpected combinations and happy accidents of colors, shapes, and patterns that we wouldn’t normally think of putting together. I focused on speeding through my own improvisational blocks, I didn’t want to hesitate for a minute and possibly start making decisions.
Here is one of my first blocks-
Often quilting can feel very rule-oriented and rigid. It can feel wrong and incorrect if its not done using the proven traditional techniques. Rules aren’t bad, in fact there are many times when I’m sewing a quilt that I enjoy being told exact process steps and I often learn something sewing that way. But it is also great to break free of that and experiment without the rigidity of hard and fast rules. Making it up as you go along can also be beautiful.
At the end of Saturday, once we’d completed these blocks, Denyse tasked us with pulling out the elements that really spoke to us during that exercise, to start designing blocks for our own quilt in our sketchbooks. I’ll explain more about what I came up with tomorrow, I wasn’t initially excited about it, but after talking with Denyse about it, now I am.

Stacks of Books

If anyone is looking for kid’s chapter books at Seattle Goodwill stores, I must apologize now, because I think the kids and I cleaned house around town yesterday. I told them they could have any chapter book they wanted, so “go get to shopping!”. (We are on Spring Break, and I insisted everyone have an ample supply of books to lose themselves in.) As a mom, isn’t it the best when we get to say a resounding “yes!”?

Painting the Family Room


In the midst of plenty going on around here as usual, I’ve decided that now, right now, is the time to paint the family room. Peter is convinced that I can’t paint a room as well as he can, but I think he’s busy enough to let me have a go at it. (He, of course, is wrong, we know that.)READ MORE

Gaining Momentum

I’m so happy that Ian’s quilt is coming together, these projects sit on my worktable for far too long these days. All I needed was a reasonable deadline. Not a crazy one, a doable one. I was thinking of this when I was watching Project Runway with Emma today. I mean, how the heck do those designers really know they’ll get it done in time? How much of those garments are actually glued together I wonder?READ MORE

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