Saturday, October 4, 2014

Intuitive Quilting

On the Monday after the Quilting in the Garden weekend my daughter and I took a class entitled Intuitive Quilting Workshop from Jean Wells, contemporory quilter, founder of the Sisters, Oregon Outdoors Quilt Show and 2010 inductee into The Quilters Hall of Fame. The class was hosted by Alden Lane Nursery as an extension of the garden show. It was based on many of the techniques in Jean Wells' book Intuitive Color and Design. The techniques taught in the class were exercises to encourage the students to cut intuitively without rulers to create and piece gentle curves. It was a process, not product, class. Although neither Robin nor I make "art" quilts, we were open to learn some of new methods and stretch ourselves outside our comfort zones.

Two class practices Jean Wells used were indicative of a good and experienced teacher. First, she split the class into two groups for her demos and taught each twice. The non-observing group worked on practicing what had just been demonstrated. The benefits of this were that with fewer folks, you could get closer to see what she was doing and you had the opportunity to hear it a second time if you were quiet, or peek in if you wanted to see something again. Second, she was very clever in not requiring you to bring fabric to the class. She provided 6" or so wide strips the length of a width of fabric and they were only solids. Her experience is that when people bring their own fabric they are more careful with it or try to save their favorites or part of their favorites. Having the material provided was very liberating. Plus, she assured that there were no prints, so consequently that decision point was removed from the design equation.

We were told to pick five fabric colors we wanted to work with for the day. I picked five colors I liked but did not make any effort to assure they went together. She then discussed the "palette" each of us picked. Whoops. I had only picked a rainbow assortment: red, orange, yellow, green, pale blue. Once we started our assignment we were told we could add a sixth fabric. I added a rustic brown. We began by making curved seams and adding in very narrow accent inserts. My accents were fine lines of yellow. Here is my sample of curved piecing, cut with a rotary cutter and no ruler.

Our next exercise was to make nine of something – loosely defined as nine very free-form nine-patch blocks. My nine shown in the next photo are not trimmed yet, obviously, and are backlit because our design wall of batting was taped over a window in the classroom. My creations are non-stellar but I had fun even though I found it hard  to throw caution to the wind. I can see the potential for a bit of stained glass funkiness in another different of nine blocks with a better chosen color palette and closer adherence to a common size.

The next topic was inspiration sources for art quilts. Jean Wells spoke of how she would go from a photo, to a line tracing, to a line art quilt, like the following example of crates on a wharf from her book Intuitive Color and Design.

I could relate to that sort of inspiration. I took this photo of a crosswalk in Snoqualmie Falls, Seattle last July because I thought its pattern could work up as an intricate quilt.

And wouldn't this overhead view of a milk crate of books make for strip pieced quilt with a diamond gridded border? The books just happen to be my daughter's from her adolescent years. They have been making a home in our garage for over a decade.

Robin and I had a blast taking this class together and the time just whizzed by. We came home and realized we had been so busy neither of us had taken any photos of each other or us with the teacher! But we agreed that our blogs would survive. With uncanny mother/daughter similarity, we realized we were both very tired from the exertion of trying to be creative and inventive in a random fashion. A non-logical, spontaneous approach is not in our nature but it was a challenging change. Ironically, relaxing and "letting it go" can be exhausting if it is not your norm!

Will I start making art quilts? Probably not but I would not "rule" it out. I took away some techniques from this workshop and I do think that little snippets of this curved line piecing may perhaps weasel its way into some of my blocks or borders. I might be tempted to try a somewhat ordered creation like this Jean Wells log cabin-like example.

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