the improv handbook for modern quilters

By Cameron

I've been curious about improvisational quilting for awhile, but I hadn't found an approach that made sense to me until I came across The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, & Living Courageously, by Sherri Lynn Wood. She makes beautiful quilts that vibrate with color. For me, it feels like an honor to be able to get such an intimate look at her process.

In the book you'll find eight "scores", or starting points, for improvisational quilts. The scores are loose suggestions; for example, the first score has you working with squares. You make a set of decisions about the size of squares and the colors you'll be working with as well the order that you'll use to piece them together before you begin, and from there you follow your rules and your gut until you have a quilt. One of the benefits of improvisational quilting is it's speed. Once you're on a roll, you might find yourself with a quilt top in a day.

Wood shares her own work, but also shares quilts made by two or three other quilters. This is such a valuable addition to the book because it really lets you see just the huge variety of looks that can be made from the same score. If Wood's colorful aesthetic isn't your cup of tea, you might be more inspired by some of the other examples in the book.

The last chunk of the book covers improvisational technique, which I found to be helpful and empowering for all types of sewing. She walks you through cutting pieces without a ruler, which starts out feeling like a risky high wire act, but ends up feeling so natural that I now try to avoid using a ruler at home whenever I can get away with it! In Wood's process, precision does not equal quality. A can be quilt be stunning and perfectly functional even if the seams aren't uniformly pressed to one side and the points don't align perfectly. This approach to quilting is liberating and fun and frees you up from expectations. You can get frustrated that your quilt doesn't look like the one on the pattern envelope if there was no pattern.

I'm mid-way through a couple of quilts based pn the first two scores in the book. Above is my version of Score #1, Floating Squares, and below is Score #2, Strings. I've enjoyed every minute of working on both of these - which is good because I've still got a ways to go before either are finished. I'm just two quilts in, and I already feel like I've learned so much about making quilts and my own aesthetic. So, in short, two thumbs way up for The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. I can't wait to see what you make.