By Kris Farnsworth, Charity Quilt Project Manager
When the Tulsa Modern Quilt Guild first heard the guidelines for the 2016 QuiltCon Charity Quilt Challenge, the concept of “Improv with Intent” immediately inspired some of us to look at various project ideas. The thought of breaking an image down into pieces and individuals creating improv blocks to match those quickly found some support. In deciding on a subject, we considered superheroes, pop art, florals, architecture, and portraits. When one member mentioned Woody Guthrie as a possible subject, it seemed a great choice: he is a native of Oklahoma, and the Woody Guthrie Center is located right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In fact, the husband of one of our members is on the board of the Woody Guthrie Coalition, so we had an “in” with a possible charity!
Now that we had a plan, we needed to generate enthusiasm and ease the apprehension of some members who were intimidated by the project. We decided to do a trial run with a different image. While the process of making the blocks proved quite a challenge for some members, when the final product was assembled, they were impressed with the outcome and ready to tackle Woody (with the understanding that when doing the larger project, most of the individual blocks would be less complex, with a good number of background blocks needed of simple improv in one color).
As project manager, I took our digital inspiration and cut it into images to each inspire a 5”x5” (finished size) block and named them each with coordinates in a spreadsheet to make assembling the finished blocks easier. We ordered fabric and distributed all the material and images. In order to kick the project off, we hosted a sew day to share techniques and advice.
As the blocks started to be turned in, they were identified, labeled, checked for size, and given a trim if necessary. We held another sew day to create some time to focus on knocking out more blocks and to start assembling the top. When we first laid out the loose blocks and started to see how it was coming together, we all felt added motivation to see the finished product and were ready to tackle the remaining blocks.
Once all the blocks were in, they were all joined into the final quilt top. One of our members, Brenda Shreve (brendasredbarn.com), agreed to quilt the project for us with a combination of matchstick and a guitar/music pantograph with even some lyrics from “This Land Is Your Land” thrown in! Then all it needed was the binding, sleeve and label.
The Woody Guthrie Coalition, a nonprofit corporation, hosts the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in mid-July to commemorate Guthrie’s life and music. The festival is held in Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma with the simple goal of ensuring Guthrie’s musical legacy.