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.

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