Meet Against the Grain! My quilt made as a test quilter for Sherry Lynn Wood's newly released book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.
I realised when I went to write this post I hadn't taken any good photos of it! I guess because I knew I couldn't share it I hadn't bothered! So down to the beach we went. I absolutely love how this quilt turned out. And I am beyond thrilled it made it into Sherri Lynn Wood's book. I have to admit though, there were times I absolutely loathed it.
Improvisation speaks to me. It calls my name. I seem incapable of(or unwilling to?) follow someone else's pattern. I don't want what I make to turn out like someone else's. I remember how freeing it felt the first time I found Daintytime. Sherry Lynn Wood became one of my first quilting inspirations. It was so exciting to learn she was writing a book. I almost didn't sign up to be a test quilter though, as I had at the time only completed 3 quilts. I felt wholly unqualified and was unsure if she'd want someone as inexperienced as me to sign up. In the end I went for it, I figured maybe it would be good to see if beginners could handle her scores, her techniques.
I was so excited to get my score and instructions. The instructions were very brief, I read them over and over again. I didn't start right away but let things simmer in my brain for awhile. I kept questioning certain instructions "did she mean this....or this??" or "does she want us to do this..or this?". Within each group there was a forum for us to ask questions and have some discussion. I finally went with the intention of asking for clarification and found many others had already asked similar things. I loved how Sherri Lynn mostly said "yes". She affirmed that our interpretation of her instructions were all correct. That was the point, she gave us a starting point and a way in which to start building. The rest was up to us. It wasn't until I let go of what she or the book publishers might want and went completely with how I felt did I feel free to start.
With the Floating Squares score there is a very basic start, very simply instructions. Then some suggestions on ways you could expand that if you wished. Although I knew in my brain that it was unlikely someone else was going to produce something similar to mine with so much open ended instruction, the rebel inside me still needed to be satisfied. I couldn't do just the basic technique. I had to do the basic technique 6 times switching up the fabric as I went. I had no idea what my finished product was going to look like so I tried to ensure some cohesiveness by keeping one fabric the same during each round.
Sewing the blocks was so much fun. I really enjoyed just sewing as I went. The blocks all ended up different shapes and sizes and I didn't worry about it at all until I decided I was done making blocks. I got stuck at this point for awhile. It felt like I had a zillion puzzle pieces that didn't fit together, and I didn't have a final picture to work from. I tried so many different variations. From completely random to linear and everything in between. I spent so many nights standing on my couch looking at my "design floor". It was at this point I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Once I decided on a layout(phew!) I moved onto the task of fitting all the blocks together. To try to keep with the cohesiveness I used the same fabric that was common to all the blocks to join the blocks together. There was a lot of adding bits and taking away bits to make it work. Sometimes I felt really restricted by the deadline, I don't like to work under pressure. But in the end I was grateful for it because there were so many times I was frustrated and had to step away for a day. If I hadn't had the deadline I may have stepped away indefinitely and who knows if I'd be finished now?
Once the top was done it asked me to be spiral quilted. I complied. On my tiny machine I spiralled round and round and round. Which looking back was completely insane as I had never spiral quilted anything previously. And this quilt is approximately 6' square. It's certainly not perfect. Or maybe it's perfectly imperfect :) Sanity is over-rated any ways right?
For me the book has lived up to expectations. It's absolutely stunning, so many beautiful quilts! There are so many things I'm excited to try. One day I hope I'm lucky enough to take a class with Sherri Lynn, until then I'm thrilled to have this book encouraging me to move onwards and try something new!