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!

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