By Allison Schnackenberg, President
South Florida MQG is a newly formalized guild — we took the leap and joined the MQG midway through 2015. Prior to that we were an informal group meeting once a month in our local quilt shop, the wonderful Stitchcraft of Boca Raton. Most of our members are new to modern quilting, coming either from a traditional quilting background, or being entirely new to quilting. Our very first workshop was an improv round robin, and it was a joy to see the gusto with which everyone abandoned their rulers and threw themselves into improv! So we were pretty excited about the idea of a group improv with intent for this challenge.
SFMQG covers a large land mass — a part of Florida that stretches from Palm City to Miami! Due to our members being so spread out, it can be a challenge to organize time to work together as a group on a sewing project. For this reason, we decided to work on individual pieces of the quilt. Many of us have been profoundly influenced by Sherri Lynn Wood’s wonderful Improv Handbook, and following her lead, we identified the steps we wanted to follow for this project.
Curating our fabrics
In fact, the first step was done for us by the MQG — the colors, which were part of the challenge framework.
These colors really spoke to us: a Florida sunset! We have glorious, dramatic sunsets in this part of the world – the blue skies melding into the golden and crimson sun on the dark horizon over the sea. The colors were a gift for us!
We then limited ourselves to five colors, and we restricted our patchwork size by limiting the amount of fabric available to each participant (a fat eighth of each color).
Defining our process
An important part of the process for us was to make it easy for everyone to participate. For many of our members, working on this quilt would be their very first hands-on attempt at improv. I gave a presentation at a meeting which was aimed at removing some of the fear and loosening up the death-grips on those rulers. I then devised a step-by-step process for the patchwork which I hoped would make everyone comfortable. The instructions were specific enough to give the terrified a guide rope, but loose enough to allow the more confident to base jump right into the wild blue yonder. I deliberately did not include any photographs with the instructions, or post any tutorial photos, because I wanted imagination to take flight. We simply used that inspirational sunset as our guide, and used our scissors to create shapes to build our patchwork.
I can not tell you how dumbfounded I was at our November meeting, as block after beautiful block turned up on the design board. A glorious wall full of colorful, abstract, improvised sunsets! As a guild, we knocked it out of the park.
For our December meeting, we spent the entire afternoon sewing. We are lucky to have Tonya Ricucci, the Unruly Quilter and a master of improvisational piecing, in our guild. Tonya led the group in charge of devising a layout. They simply starting putting pieces together like a puzzle, fitting one patchwork section to another and building our quilt top. Another group improv-pieced a back for the quilt from the leftover fabric used for the top. A third group cut and prepared binding. We had two members pressing everything as we went. We pieced the top and back together that afternoon. Our talented member Patti Auten did the free motion quilting in the following weeks. Charlotte Noll and Kerrilyn O’Rourke lent their talents to sew the binding and sleeve.
It fills my heart with joy to see a such a new guild come together and complete this project. So much fearless creativity was harnessed and devoted to the completion of our quilt. I hope that the visitors to QuiltCon enjoyed our work as much as we have enjoyed seeing the beautiful creations made by other modern guilds. There is something truly special about feeling part of a project that so many people around the globe have also been a part of. Thanks to the MQG for making this wonderful project possible!