teaching sewing confidence, tip by tip

Monday, 8 August 2016

Improv: Beyond The Bee - July 2016 (NYC Metro MOD Quilt Guild)

Just between us let's pretend it's still July and talk about my July Improv: Beyond The Bee block for Caroline.

Improv: Beyond The Bee
As a Bee, we are using many of the ideas in The Improv Handbook For Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood and working with scores (rules open to self-interpretation) set by that month's Guild Queen Bee.

As I mentioned Queen Bee for July 2016 is Caroline and she sent me these 4 fabrics.

Caroline's Score: 
based loosely on "Yes, And" and Patchwork Doodle
Step slightly outside the Scores given in the book and base your work on shape - the triangle.
Think Half Square Triangles (HSTs), Quarter Square Triangles (QSTs), hexagons, Dresden, wedges

Caroline's Rules:
not every piece has to be a triangle
must accentuate triangles in some way
triangles must be the STAR of the show
supplied yellow is the MAIN colour - make yellow the STAR of the show
supplied print and 2 supplied greys are supporting
Add up to 2 fabrics - solids/read as solids/prints - but prints must be geometric and play nicely with supplied fabrics/palette
NO floral, repro, cutsie
NO red / NO blue / NO primary
NO saturated purple - must be complementary in hue.

12" square minimum - doesn't have to be square

Idea Conception
First I read the "Yes, And" chapter of The Improve Handbook for Modern Quilters and wasn't particularly inspired in terms of working this process alone and within a block, though I love the idea as described for use in a quilting Round Robin.  

Next, I read the book chapter "Patchwork Doodle" and couldn't wait to get started, my fingers were itching to grab a pen while I was still reading so that's just what I did and this is my instant doodle.

The great thing is that having done the doodle I couldn't wait to get started and went straight to it cutting up those given fabrics.  How often does that happen?

Making My Block - The Process
Below are photos of the fabrics as I sewed each stage together. 

It was daylight when I started work and dark by the time I finished the block so the lighting in the process pics changes quality throughout and they're not the best but the block development is still there for you to see.  I waited until this morning to take the finished photo in daylight so you can see how it looks clearly and how the colours work together.

Looking at my patchwork doodle, I wanted to keep the yellow triangles as large as possible so I used the cutting technique I've described in this post to cut the largest isosceles triangles I could from the given yellow fabric.

Let's take a quick run-through of how I did this here too.  I folded the diagonal to create a square

and measured the length of the side of triangle/square - 9".

Next, I measured the same 9" length down the diagonal of the square and made a mark on at the 9" point on the diagonal.

Then I cut across from 9" mark on the diagonal to the 9" point on the opposite side.

Opening out the fabric,

I cut along the fold line to create 2 isosceles triangles.

These two yellow triangles are now the starting point for my block inspired by my patchwork doodle.

  I started sewing the other given fabrics to the yellow triangle.

I only added one small piece of fabric to the given fabrics - it's a two-tone grey, geometric print from the Simply Color collection by Vanessa Christenson of V and Co for Moda and I like that the design reads as triangles when the diamonds are cut through.

I continued adding more fabrics, sewing seams and trimming away excess fabric that I didn't want.

As I went to trim the two grey fabrics I realised I was using a ruler.  I couldn't believe it - I was so frustrated with myself.   I couldn't go back now, I was using supplied fabric and couldn't afford to cut into that yellow in particular as this was to be the main star of the block, so I decided to continue from this point on without using a ruler and talk about my error as part of my process thoughts in this post.

As soon as I trimmed the next pieces without using a ruler I realised it didn't make any difference.  The process of creating triangles makes them look pretty similar regardless of whether you're using a ruler or not, as I think you can see in this series of photos.  If I hadn't shared my error I really don't think you'd have been able to identify there'd been a problem at all.

I'd also been pressing seams open and at this stage, I also switched to pressing them to the side, it really is easier when you're not dealing with 100% straight lines and the fabric is much more willing to lie flat when you side press, especially on curves.  You can also see a dart I created so the piece would lie flat - there are two lines of stitching at the top of the dark grey triangle on the far left.

At this stage I felt I'd taken the piece as far as I wanted to, I was really pleased with how it had developed and was looking so I stopped.

These are the left-over pieces that I'm sending back to Caroline along with the block.

The finished block size is 18" (w) x 15-1/2" (h) at the widest/highest points.

Assessing My Work Against The Score
Fast, easy, fun, grew quickly - looks fab.

I use my ruler instinctively/automatically. 
You can't tell the difference between triangles cut with a ruler and those cut free-hand.
Patchwork doodle technique for quick self-inspiration.

I've reread Caroline's Score notes and I have indeed created a block that plays with triangles.  Not every piece of fabric is triangular in shape but overall I believe the block accentuates triangles.  Even the yellow triangle that I'm disappointed I have lost the tip from still reads as a triangle.

Looks complex, but isn't.

Tip missing from one yellow triangle.
The weight of given print in the block is similar to the yellow fabric and there's a large area of light grey central to the block that detracts from the other fabrics slightly but I think this will be lost once the block is part of the overall quilt.

Next Time
Take more care working around the main STAR of the block (yellow triangles).

From Here
This one I fancy working on further myself - the triangles are fantastic to work with.
I'll use the patchwork doodle technique again too.

My Thoughts
Again this month's block didn't push boundaries and neither did it take me out of my comfort zone. The rules felt freer and, although I read the relevant pages from the book to ensure I was clear on what Caroline was asking for in her score, I didn't need to refer to the book while making the block.

I love that Caroline introduced the use of triangles into her score.  I think that this quilt has the potential to look very individual and maybe it won't be instantly recognisable as "one of those quilts from Sherri Lynn Wood's book", something I've expressed concern about with my previous two blocks.  Caroline didn't mention the 'no-ruler' rule in her Score notes but I'm still disappointed with myself for forgetting that this rule is an essential part of the Sherri Lynn Wood improv experience. 

Quite simply - I love this block.

Have you made a quilt using scores from The Improv Handbook For Quilters?  
I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences too.

I'm a member of the NYC Metro MOD Quilt Guild and from 2012-15 I was a member of our Guild's first Bee and I shared how I made each block with you here on this page along with our Guild's challenge and charity blocks and now the Improv: Beyond The Bee blocks too.

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Linky Parties This post may be linked to some great Linky Parties, always a great source of inspiration too.  If you click through to my 'Fave Linky Parties'  page you can see where I like to share my work.


  1. I love challenges, and this one seems fun. I'm also completely obsessed with triangles at the moment myself. Can't seem to make enough of them. I like the scoring thing y'all did - that adds another element. Fun

  2. It is a beautiful block. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the process. I've never tried improv, but I'm pretty sure I'd feel lost without my ruler :)

  3. Great colors and an awesome block! Apparently, I knew nothing about improv.


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