QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: “Rise Up and Reach” by the Southern Appalachian MQG

By Randy Case, Member & Design Team and Janelle Warren, VP Ed/Events & Design Team

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The Southern Appalachian Modern Quilt Guild (SAMQG) is now almost two years old and growing! We are a gregarious and creative group of modern and traditional quilters, drawn together from western North Carolina, northern Georgia and east Tennessee and meet in Murphy, NC to explore the intriguing facets of modern quilting.

With a year of study, tinkering and sharing notions of improv piecing, negative space, wonky stars and a lot of other new modern quilting ideas, our ambassador to QuiltCon 2015 told us about all the wonderful charity quilts she had seen at the show and challenged us to consider doing one for this year.

After a bit of tentative tiptoeing around the color palette and wondering if we could actually do this, someone suggested that we make the quilt for REACH, our local women and children shelter. That was just what we needed to spark the vision. REACH’s motto is “Compassion. Hope. Shelter.”

We wanted to express how our mountains are a shelter of love and reflect love and compassion in a safe environment.  Throughout the process, REACH’s motto resounded. With that safety and security of our environment, there is hope of the light as we see so clearly in our starry skies.

We had a great idea, a great group of members and a great organization to support. Now onto the great challenge of how to transfer this into an improv quilt. Together we watched the MQG’s webinar on improv, and we were on our way.

After an initial brainstorming session with the full membership, and a frenzy of sketching and swapping of sketches among the design team, headed by Randy Case and Janelle Warren, the final concept was narrowed down. We decided on an abstract representation of a sunrise in our beautiful Appalachian Mountains with a water reflection.

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This gave us a chance to refine and apply the improv techniques we had been working on recently. We roughed in a couple design options in EQ7 and, after feedback from the overall team, fine-tuned the final design and generated a full sized rendering of the main panel to guide the piecing process.

We gathered at our local quilt shop, Bless My Stitches in Murphy for several sew-ins to see this vision come together.

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Patty Singer

 

4 Diana Randy Janelle

Patty Singer, Diana Turkovics, Randy Case & Janelle Warren

 

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Janelle Warren and Terry Baird at Sew-In Fun

We supplemented the basic color palette with a variety of shadings and prints and started constructing some improv panels to capture the spirit and shadows of our mountain scene.

Lessons in color value and improv piecing emerged.  It was fun to see our members sewing away, laughing and having fun making their own material. Stepping outside the box of perfection and embracing the flow of improv further anchored out love of the modern quilting way!

As the component stars, mountains and sunrise elements began to take shape the team’s enthusiasm also began to build.

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Wonky Stars by Jeanne Hewitt and Randy Case.

Each new addition to the design wall was met with ooohs and ahhhs along with a growing confidence in the processes we were using. Our stitching sessions were genuine sharing times and, as we encouraged each other to stretch a bit past our comfort zones, we got to know each other and appreciate each individual’s contribution.

Randy engineering the piecing.

Randy engineering the piecing.

After numerous sew-ins, we figured out how to piece it all together.

Jeanne Hewitt, Randy Case, Pam Howard, Barbara Fowler, Terry Baird, Maureen Ripper Members not pictured:  Ann Graham, Patty Singer, Janelle Warren, Karen Hopple, & Barbara Haydon

Jeanne Hewitt, Randy Case, Pam Howard, Barbara Fowler, Terry Baird, Maureen Ripper
Members not pictured:  Ann Graham, Patty Singer, Janelle Warren, Karen Hopple, & Barbara Haydon

At another sew-in, the team was challenged with using all our scraps from the front of the quilt to piece the back!

Terry & Janelle Getting the Quilt Ready for our brave new long arm quilter, Randy Case!

Terry & Janelle Getting the Quilt Ready for our brave new long arm quilter, Randy Case!

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The back of the quilt showing off Randy’s great quilting.

Our trusty hand quilters, Barbara Fowler and Maureen Ripper, added the binding and sleeve.

We were pretty pleased with the result and thoroughly delighted to share our passion of improv quilting with our community and the REACH organization.

Buoyed by this year’s experience, and with QuiltCon 2017 just down the road a piece, it was an easy decision to do it again. We’ll see y’all in Savannah!

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: Niagara MQG

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I had only recently joined the Niagara Modern Quilt Guild when the topic of a charity quilt came up. I had been involved in guilds before and with charity quilts, however this was to be a totally different game! Our group was led by the indefatigable Tara. She deciphered the challenge details, timelines and colours and stressed the improv nature of the work. Before I knew it, I had agreed to longarm the quilt too. I was swept up in the creative energy that our guild generates when we get together.

The materials for our quilt were generously donated by a local quilt shop, The Modern Bee. Our president, Susan, obtained the fabric and had it cut and ready for us to get to work. The game had just begun.

The first challenge came when deciding what the theme of our quilt would be. Even with our fairly small guild, we had more ideas than we knew what to do with. We started a Pinterest page to gather ideas — from Canadian inventions like lightbulbs, Robertson screws, zippers, snowmobiles, wine and grapes (we are a Niagara Guild after all), to inukshuks, beer bottles, donuts and Mountie hats — we have more than enough ideas for a lifetime of charity quilts!

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Eventually we settled on hockey. But how to improv on a hockey theme? Again Tara came to our rescue with a fabulous tutorial on her blog. She suggested each member make a simple hockey stick member to start, knowing perhaps we would move on to words, nets, masks, jerseys — and yes, even a Stanley Cup! Finally the blocks were complete.

We met for a sew-in, thinking perhaps this part would be simple and quick. But it took a concerted effort and again the guidance and patience of Team Captain Tara, who worked magic with only a taped out quilt perimeter on the floor and a tape measure. We stitched the mismatched block sizes together until the very end of our sewing day.

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Next, the longarming, which was where I came in. How to quilt something so unique? We had decided to add the words to The Good Ol’ Hockey Game by Stompin’ Tom Connors to the quilt. In addition to the words, I quilted modern squares that reminded me of the skate marks on a hockey rink.

After quilting, it was bound by Heather and labelled. More photographs were taken, and the quilt was packaged and ready for its American tour. So many steps, and each time a guild member there to pick up the puck and pass it on.

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It certainly was a challenge. It pushed us all to try something new and, best of all, work with no rules — no pattern! We had no idea how this game would end, but we were all thrilled with the result. We made it through the season to the tournament and now our quilt is off to the finals… at QuiltCon 2016!

Hope you enjoy our quilt. Proudly modern quilters and always Canadian!

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: “Wintry Mix” by Seacoast MQG

By Kali Zirkle, Charity Quilting Chair

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The Seacoast Modern Quilt Guild is located in the coastal areas of southern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts, and we wanted to represent ourselves and what we would be experiencing in February while QuiltCon was happening in Pasadena. After some discussion we decided to use Charity Quilting Chairperson Kali Zirkle’s idea of a wintery outdoor scene with a red barn in an icy low volume background as the basis for our improv with intent.

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On a Saturday in July at our guild meeting, we came armed with scraps in the given colors and our sewing machines to begin to create the quilt. Peg Connolly focused on piecing the red for the barn, Judy Durant focused on the area of sun peeking through the clouds, and most of the other sewists focused on creating a low volume background that had hints of icy blue mixed in. Everyone worked from a pile of fabric left on a cutting table in the center of the room and as the pieces got larger they were added to a portable design wall. Once we had a few sections made we started to piece them together and begin thinking about the placement of the barn within the quilt. After the meeting a small group got together to finish piecing the top, Jessica Benoit May pieced the back, and it was handed off to our 2016 guild president, Mary Gregory of See Mary Quilt for the quilting. She quilted dense swirls over the entire quilt which give it great texture and movement and attached the binding.

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The quilt was donated to HAWC, Healing Abuse Working for Change, located in Salem, Massachusetts.

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QuiltCon Charity Spotlight: “This Quilt is Our Quilt” by the Tulsa MQG

By Kris Farnsworth, Charity Quilt Project Manager

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Woody Guthrie photo by New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Al Aumuller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: Postcards from North Caroline by the Charlotte MQG

by Elizabeth Busscher, Vice President, 2015

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First off, please let me say how proud I am of all the members who contributed to this quilt. When I proposed this project, I got some grumblings from the group.  Apparently, improv quilting is not our favorite! But, I think we all can agree – the end product was totally worth it!

To prepare for this challenge, our guild reviewed some basic improv techniques by watching the MQG webinar “Improv with Intent” and discussing how we as individuals could create blocks that were improvisational, but still form a cohesive quilt. We decided a quilt with six individual blocks, each with its own theme would work best for our group.

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At our September meeting, we brainstormed the themes for each block, all to be captured under the umbrella “Postcards from North Carolina.” The six ideas represented are:

  1. Beach
  2. Mountains
  3. Sports
  4. Fields/agriculture
  5. Charlotte City
  6. State bird/flower

From there the guild broke up into six teams and created individual postcards. This was a great program for our guild as it allowed for sewing time, and time to get to know other members. We also very quickly learned who was not a fan of unstructured cutting and sewing – me for one!  It was definitely a challenge for some of us. Others had issues with the limited color palette, but we all got over our fears quickly. 

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At the October meeting, we revealed each group’s finished block. It was wonderful to see those piles of fabric turn into six finished blocks. A big thanks to Keleigh for taking all the blocks home and making them into the finished quilt top. (And for free piecing all those letters!)

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And another big thanks to Vicki for quilting and binding. It looks amazing!

When this quilt returns from the show, we plan to vote on a charity that will receive it. I’m sure whoever the final recipient is will treasure it. I know I’m honored to have been part of the group who made it.

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: Never Forgotten by the Melbourne MQ

By Catherine Mollica, member

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For this project, the Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild design team was gathered together from a handful of volunteer members. We started by thinking about the landscape of our state, and soon turned closer to home. Our inspiration pictures were those that featured as part of the 5000 Poppies Project commemorating the ANZAC campaign centenary 1915-2015, which marked a significant nation-building time for the new federation of Australia and the sacrifice of young men in the trenches of Europe and the Middle East during WWI. During the First World War, red poppies were among the first plants to spring up in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. In soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. The sight of poppies on the battlefield at Ypres in 1915 moved Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write the poem “In Flanders fields.” In English literature of the 19th century, poppies had symbolised sleep or a state of oblivion; in the literature of the First World War, a new, more powerful symbolism was attached to the poppy — the sacrifice of shed blood.

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Many a quilter has looked at Federation Square in the heart of our city and wondered how they could recreate its angular features in fabric. We quickly realised that the images from the 5000 Poppies Project presented a unique inspiration: The background of Fed Square (as locals fondly call it) places us wholly in the present; the sea of poppies represents remembrance for heritage, respect for history and a nod to our traditional quilting roots. In addition, the actual sea of crafted poppies was created by a global creative volunteer collaboration.

This translated beautifully to the colour palette chosen for the MQG challenge this year. The grey, cream and black showed the glass, frames and unique shapes of Fed Square, and the yellow and blue represent the reflected sky and neighbouring Flinders Street Station. We asked members to contribute shades of red to allow great variety in the petals of the poppies.

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We were inspired by the challenge to improvise with intent, and ran collaborative construction sessions so that we could explore our framework and try to develop the design as a group. At first many of us felt daunted at the task, but once we started to get some shapes on our floor-based ”design wall” we felt excitement at seeing the concept develop. We had “check ins” periodically during each session, to gather round the blocks and see where it was heading, and to discuss what we liked and didn’t like. The discussion and exchange were what moved the quilt forward, and these moments of re-examining and evolving were wonderful! It was exciting to hear everyone’s observations and be open to changing what we had done as we made new discoveries.

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Our final quilt reflects input from everyone who worked on it and problem solved when everyone became very aware of the extra time needed to improvise and fit irregular pieces together, rather than following a repeating pattern. We’ve enjoyed the process of developing this quilt together — working outside our comfort zone at times but discovering new ways of working and improvising. We’re very proud of our finished quilt, which will ultimately benefit a local charity in the coming months.

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: Constellation of Wishes
 by the 
Vermont MQG

By Janet Jaffe, memberConstellation_of_Wishes

Greetings from the Vermont Modern Quilt Guild! We’re 30 women (no male members… yet!) of different ages and backgrounds who meet in downtown Burlington on the 2nd Sunday morning of every month to share our ideas, talents, quilting know-how and workmanship. We also have a lot of fun at meetings punctuated by laughter. Although the Vermont Modern Quilt Guild is barely a year old, we continue to welcome new members on a monthly basis.

We began the process of entering our very first MQG Charity Quilt Challenge in July, first by selecting our local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to be the recipient of our quilt. Next we considered the challenge theme, “Improv With Intent.” Have you ever seen the Make-A-Wish Foundation logo? A consensus was quickly reached to use improvised star blocks set in black backgrounds as our theme, no holds barred.

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At our September meeting, fabric swatches were brought in by Rachael Arnold to provide color guidance for our individual block construction. Janet Jaffe gave a demo of an improvised star, based on the Gwen Marston’s technique for variable stars in her book, “Liberated Quiltmaking.”

By Thanksgiving weekend, when we gathered as a group to decide on the layout and assembly mechanics, we had collected 50 stars and the feverish piecing ensued! Thirty-six stars ended up on the front and the remaining fourteen were pieced into the back, effectively making it a reversible quilt!

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At our holiday meeting/pot luck brunch/Yankee gift swap in early December, the quilt top and back were revealed. Guild member, Marty DelNevo volunteered to do the quilting on her long-arm. The binding was attached by Anya Byam.

In all, 13 members contributed in some way to this effort. The process of working together served as a bonding experience for the diverse membership of a guild in its infancy, uniting us in a common cause to serve our community through the sharing of our unique talents. Thanks for the opportunity, MQG!

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: 35 Sisters by the Pittsburgh MQG

By Amanda Hancock, President

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When the color scheme and challenge theme (Improv With Intent) was announced for the 2016 QuiltCon Charity Challenge, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to represent our fair city! Pittsburgh is well known for the beautiful golden steel bridges that surround the downtown skyline. Three of the most iconic of these bridges are affectionately termed “The Three Sisters.”

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For this challenge we expanded an image of one of these sisters to quilt size (70″ x 90″) and then deconstructed it into 24 manageably sized blocks. Guild members were then given these block images along with packets of fabric that were no bigger than fat eighths (and were in fact mostly small strips) and instructions to improv piece their block using the image portion as a reference point. In the end the blocks were put back together to reconstruct the bridge in its entirety. The final effect is a cool, impressionistic image of the bridge which is at once cohesive and also expressive of the individuals who contributed to the effort.

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We were lucky in this endeavor to have had Sherri Lynn Wood visit us while we were working on this project to lead a workshop on improv piecing. Many of the members have expressed their gratitude for this opportunity, and we all agreed that the concepts and skills learned during the workshop were instrumental to our success with the challenge.

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Initially, many of us felt nervous and apprehensive about the project. How would it turn out? Would it look crazy? What if my block doesn’t look like her block? What if the lines don’t match up! How do I even do that curve?! However! Many agreed in the end that it was a very freeing experience to shake off all the rules, lay the apprehensions aside, and just make. Many are even asking when we can do this again! Overall, the experience really brought us together as a guild. We are, as of this blog post, a guild that is 34 women strong. We named this piece “35 Sisters” as a nod to both the bridge itself and the hands that constructed this version of it.

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As of yet, we have not identified a charity to donate this quilt to. We would like to donate it to an organization that can perhaps auction if off to raise proceeds to maximize its potential impact for the greater good.

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: Beach Blanket Improv by the South Florida MQG

By Allison Schnackenberg, President

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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. 

Find inspiration
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! 

Set limits
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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

QuiltCon Charity Quilt Spotlight: “Sew Pieceful Together in the Desert” by the Phoenix MQG

By Bonnie Bobman, Quiltcon Charity Quilt Project Manager

After reviewing the MQG prompts and video, the PHXmqg discussed what “Improv with Intent” means to us. We talked about the challenge that improvisational quilting brings to many sewing tables. We found that only one of our members truly worked with an improvisational direction in her quilting. More importantly was that many of the members were eager to learn but never knew how to approach this fantastic method! 

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Our intent for the Quiltcon charity quilt journey was to take this wonderful opportunity to learn together and join our many varied backgrounds and improvising our way to become one solid, cohesive group.

One member led a workshop on improv quilting as well as provided a home video where we could see the process and revisit the clip any time. The most important part of the process was to let go, have fun and, of course, have no rules! We tried to be concerned with only the moment and not so much the outcome. It’s easier to reign yourself back in but it is so much harder to break down the structure on our conventional quilt piecing.

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During our workshop, everyone was instructed to bring only rotary cutters and self-healing mats. Making that first random cut without a ruler was probably the most challenging step for those new to improv piecing. But once the first unmeasured cut was complete, the next came easier, and those that followed were even better! We experimented with curves, slicing, dicing and using tiny bits to create larger pieced segments. You could see the relieved, surprised and excited expressions of accomplishment all around the room!

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We had collected close to fifteen miscellaneous sized blocks. The project manager had permission to put them together and fill in the gaps to create one focus “fabric” for the quilt top. In the true improv method, the final design came from playing with the fabric until it reflected the group’s direction — togetherness.

Once the top and back was complete, the quilting was balanced and simple. The quilt went to another member for binding where she had full reign to do what she liked. Finishing touches of the sleeve and label were done by our final member. 

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We strive to have a learning environment within our guild; sharing our boundless talents and insights from all of our members. This group challenge was just one of many creative projects we have here in our Arizona guild. Our intent was to reach a very important, intangible and supremely crucial goal for our guild: to create a sense of cohesiveness within a chapter that is blessed with wonderful members from so many places — Alaska to Mexico, Connecticut to California. We are indeed a living form of a “quilt in the desert”!

More pictures on phoenixmodernquiltguild.com.