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!

  • mjb

    August 4, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Sounds like a fantastic experience. I hope to make it north to one of her workshops one day.

  • Cheryl Arkison

    August 4, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Fantastic! Sounds like the best of times. And a good way to step back and enjoy the process – of sewing and being while sewing.

  • rachel | buttons magee

    August 4, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I LOVE what you have so far on your quilt! It’s going to look amazing. And it is inspiring just hearing the excitement in your writing.

  • Erin | house on hill road

    August 4, 2011 at 8:33 am

    oh, blair! i love your little jewel boxes. it’ll be a treat to see it all come together. and i meant it when i said that this is inspiring me to pull out my blocks and to make more.

  • jamaica

    August 4, 2011 at 8:39 am

    So, so inspiring! You’ve set my mind a whirl just hearing about it. The “jewel boxes” are fabulous, I would have never thought to use scraps so tiny. So much color surrounded by a field of white/neutrals is right up my alley. Can I ask a question about the process, did you cut your fabric down into a variety of smaller pieces before you started and then fit them where you can? Do you do any trimming as you sew them all together?

  • Susan M.

    August 4, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Okay. I’m so jealous. And, no it’s not a bad picture of you. We can see the stars in your eyes. Well…maybe it’s a reflection off your glasses. But, it’s obvious you were having a really good time. Like I said JEALOUS! Thanks for sharing. 🙂 Will look forward to seeing where you go with this concept from here.

  • blair/wisecraft

    August 4, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Thank you Jamaica. We did cut down the fabric before I put it into the bags, but I also did some trimming after sewing if I needed to, but not with a straight edge, just a pr of scissors.

  • Jamie

    August 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

    This will sound corny, but your little jewel box quilts are truly treasures. Back when I was printmaking I loved to do an intricate little print on a large piece of paper, so the focus is that little treasure. Keep this up, you have a great idea going here!

  • Frances

    August 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    It sounds like an amazing workshop. I’m looking forward to see how the quilt finishes up.

  • Jaime

    August 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    It was so great to meet you at the workshop. I agree that it was totally inspiring to sew with such a good group of gals. Your blocks were some of my favorites.

  • Heather

    August 5, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Nice posts, Blair. Have you been able to work on your blocks any more since the weekend? I have not, and am really missing the workshop. It was soo fun! Thanks for being a great table-mate!

  • blair/wisecraft

    August 5, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Heather! We have been away on a family trip, but I am so anxious to get working again. What about you? I am missing the buzz of creativity in that room!

  • blair/wisecraft

    August 5, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Hi Jamie! You left that workshop with most of a quilt top, don't stop! It is going to be stunning.

  • blair/wisecraft

    August 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I highly recommend a workshop with her!

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