Another Mystery, Twisted Threads, AP # 39

First Anniversary

There is a local fabric store that is celebrating their first anniversary in business. To honor this anniversary they have offered a challenge. The challenge is to create a quilt measuring no larger than 20” x 20”. The deadline to submit entries is March 31, 2018. All projects must include this fabric.

Blue Bar Quilts Challenge Fabric.jpg

So How Come?

Sound familiar? Sure it does! It is almost identical to the challenge I am running on this blog.

So how did I let myself get involved in another Mystery Challenge? I have frequented this store many times to search out fabrics for my ongoing projects. Their inventory includes many unusual prints which makes them a great resource. I’ve often been able to find just the right item to fit my needs. I also receive their newsletters.

In one of their emails they shared information about their upcoming anniversary as well as the opportunity to participate in their Mystery Challenge. As incentive to encourage participation they are offering cash prizes. The thought of winning cash probably draws people in but there is a small catch…an entrance fee. It’s not incredibly expensive. Just makes the cost of a fat quarter a bit much if one doesn’t follow through with the challenge.

Attention Please!

The chance of winning money, surprisingly, is not my reason to join. The fabric wasn’t the draw either because I’m not particularly fond of the print or the colors. Gaining exposure through the judging process is what drew my attention. After tossing the idea around in my head, over and over again, I finally decided to take a leap. So here I am creating another project.

My Example

I’ve owned and read Sherri Lynn Wood‘s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously for a while now. I find her unusual techniques intriguing. She is an improvisational artist. Her definition of improv encompasses many traits. Some of them are:

  • it is about exploring, not explaining

  • finding your own way

  • making your own decisions

  • improvisation challenges you to rethink your common practices

Those were only a few of the words Sherri uses to describe improv. She also describes improv in this way:

Improv is…

Commitment on the Edge of the Unknown (page 97)

Where Should I Start?

The best place to start with a book is usually at the beginning. Like most books Sherri’s is divided into chapters, or scores, as she refers to them. I have read Sherri’s book from cover to cover many times. Many of the processes in her book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously are very familiar to me. The scores on curved piecing were the most intriguing though. Having already been exposed to the others I have decided to skip ahead and jump right into the fire. I’m going to begin with the “unknown.”

Score # 9

Using Sherri’s book as my inspiration I am going to follow her “Score # 9” to create my first “curved piece.” This will be a learning experience and a great opportunity to expand my horizons. So, let’s get started.

My first task was to harvest fabrics from my inventory to pair with the assigned fabric. I pulled some pinks, greens, oranges and blues. The focus fabric has hints of lime green incorporated in the pattern. Since lime green is one of my favorites I made sure that color was included.

The Analysis

I used my camera to take both color as well as mono photos of my fabrics to analyze them for their values. My hope was to achieve a well-rounded selection from the start.

Here’s how my color choices stacked up.

After choosing my fabrics it was time to get the construction process started.

Lets Cut Fabric

I didn’t exactly follow Sherri’s instructions to a tee. She suggests using a scissors rather than a rotary cutter. I tried doing that but wasn’t fond of how my strips turned out. It is possible that if I had my scissors sharpened I may have been more successful. Not wanting to be bothered with that now I chose to use my rotary cutter. Keeping that sharp is much easier. I also used a ruler. Sherri believes in cutting her fabrics free-hand but once again I wasn’t pleased with that outcome either. Aren’t I a rebel!

I created many sets of wedge strips; here’s one of them.

Twisted Threads Wedge Strips

Below is a larger selection.

Twisted Threads, Wedge Strips in the Making

Next I stitched groupings of wedge strips together.

Twisted Threads All Pinned

Notice all the pins. Sherri uses loads of pins to temporarily hold her wedge strips together. This makes it easier to keep the strips aligned while stitching. Of course each pin is removed just before the needle reaches it. The more pins the better.


This is what a strip looked like after it was stitched but before it was pressed open.

Twisted Threads, Multiple Wedge Strip Sets

I made multiple sets of wedge strips using different arrangements of fabric. The photo above shows some of them.

Composing A Design

After building my inventory of wedge strips it was time to start composing a design. I placed all of the strip sets on my design wall and played around with different arrangements. As I found groupings that I liked I took them to my sewing machine to stitch them together. Many times the attaching of the strips meant there were sections that needed removing. Those were trimmed using my rotary cutter. The removed strips were saved and added in new areas.

The whole process of pinning, stitching and trimming went on for hours. Each adjustment or addition changed my piece in dramatic ways.


Once I had a design that I was happy with I auditioned various fabrics to use for the background. I even enlisted the help of my hubby to narrow down the options. He had many great insights to share. I guess he’s been listening to me after all! 🙂 With a background chosen I was ready to proceed with the quilting.

I decided to fuse my design to the background fabric. Before doing so I turned under the raw edges 1/4” and pressed them in place. Next I hand stitched the outer edge to my background with a dark purple thread. Once my wedge design was securely fastened I used a variegated yellow thread to quilt it. On the background fabric I echoed around my center design with a matching, variegated purple thread.

After the quilting was complete I trimmed off the excess fabric; remember my piece couldn’t be larger than 20” x 20”. The raw edges were then protected by facings. A label and hanging sleeve were also added. This is how my piece looked when it was finished.

Twisted Threads, AP # 39 All Finished
Twisted Threads, AP # 39 View from the Back
Twisted Threads, AP # 39 Closeup

The Title

I’m sure you have probably noticed, from the labels on the photos above, that I have given this piece the name Twisted Threads. As I was creating my piece the process of cutting and turning the various groupings every direction brought to mind a vision of twisted threads. Twisted Threads then seemed like the natural choice for a name so that’s where the name came from.

My Evaluation

Part of creating art is the evaluation process that comes at the end. On page 20 Sherri says:

Never judge a work as good or bad.

Instead she recommends that you

evaluate your work in a non-judgmental way.

She uses these questions to evaluate her pieces:

  1. What surprised me?

  2. What did I discover or learn?

  3. What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

  4. What was dissatisfying?

  5. If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

  6. Where do I want to go from here?

I found the process of creating my curved art piece challenging and interesting all at the same time. The steps taken to make the wedged strips was fun to follow. I enjoyed seeing how the different color combinations changed with the addition of new strips. Stitching the curved pieces together was the area that stretched me the most. Merging the concave edges with those that were convex is what tried my patience. This was a much slower process than I was used to but its results were far more rewarding.

If you had asked me right after I had finished my curved piece if I would be making another I probably would have said, “No!” Now that I have had some time to evaluate my experience and think about what I would do differently, my answer would be, “You Bet!”

As I stated earlier, merging the curved edges together into one was the most challenging. To help make the process easier in the future I would strive to create gentler curves. The curves with the more pronounced angles were the hardest to manage. If those were eliminated the experience would be much less stressful.

I also would resist the temptation to use up all of the trimmed-off segments. My piece, as it turned out, has so many different angles merging into one another. Each one of those sections is screaming for attention. If I had added breathing-room via the use of solid colors I believe my piece would have been much more relaxing to look at.

Moving forward I would like to improve my skills for the techniques that I have learned. I’d also like to explore the addition of bias strips as a means of adding negative space. My next attempt at creating a curved piece will most likely be on a larger scale. There will be no need to stay within the 20” x 20” dimensions.

There’s my evaluation. Time now to enter my project in the contest.

Thank YOU!

I am always so thankful for your visits and the wonderful comments you share. Your participation is very much appreciated!

Talk with you soon!


Bits and Pieces, Art Quilt # 33

Quilt Expo

I attended the Quilt Expo in Madison in September. Walking into the Expo Hall is an overwhelming experience. The room is filled with rows of vendors selling and demonstrating their wares.

Handloom Batiks

One of the booths I visited was Handloom Batiks. I learned of the owner, Usha, through Rayna Gillman. Usha’s fabrics came highly recommended. Her booth was filled with colorful hand died fabrics. After admiring the many options I decided to purchase a fat quarter bundle and, of all things, a bag of scraps. Who purchases other peoples scraps? Well, me of course! 🙂 When I placed the bag of discards near Usha’s calculator she reminded me that the bag was filled with scraps. I let her know that I was well aware and very excited to own it. Being an improv quilter, I enjoy turning scraps into works of art. This bag of scraps was like candy to a child. I couldn’t wait to turn it into something spectacular!

Another Improv Quilt

One of the books I recently purchased was The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn WoodHer Facebook page, by the same name, is filled with wonderful examples of art pieces created by her followers. While scrolling through the postings I was reminded of my bag of scraps.  The Facebook tour inspired me to start another improv art quilt using my bag of scraps.

Search and Rescue

With my new book in hand I carried the fat quarter bundle and the scraps to my sewing table. Before beginning my project I paused long enough to take a few photos, then dumped out the scraps and began unfurling their edges. It was so exciting to see what was inside. 99% of the specimens were declared useable. By useable I mean they were large enough to actually stitch together. The scraps came in a variety of sizes and shapes. All of them needed pressing so that’s what I did next.

Handbloom Batik Scraps.jpg
Handloom Batik Scraps

Handbloom Fat Quarters.jpg
Handloom Fat Quarters

Handbloom Batik Strips.jpg
Handloom Batik Strips

My Imagination

While pressing the fabric scraps I imagined I was in Usha’s sewing room viewing the trimmings left over from one or more of her projects. How awesome it would have been to see what she had created.

Time Flys

As I continued to iron out the wrinkles I happened to glance at my studio clock. I was watching the time because I still needed to make preparations for the Tea & Art event at my house. I participate in an event with my home-schooled grandchildren and my oldest daughter. Once a week they gather either at my house or their own to read poetry, sip tea, enjoy a snack and then work on an art project. Generally the art projects are focused on curriculum. Other times sewing projects are thrown in for fun. My daughter chooses the activity for the gathering. I’m there to enjoy and assist as needed. Here’s some photos from previous Tea & Art adventures.

Thank goodness I verified the time with my watch because the clock was not only behind, but it had completely stopped. Apparently the batteries had expired. Who knew!

Hurriedly I finished the pressing, shut everything off and quickly closed my studio. I had just enough time to tidy up my kitchen and dining room and prepare for our activities. My improv project was just going to have to wait. Time to make tea!

Thank You!

This brings to a close the beginnings of AQ # 33. There is much work yet to be accomplished. Be watching for further updates. Thank you for sharing your time.


Please Note: If you would like to read about my Tea & Art adventures click on the category Tea and Art, An Activity. There you will find a list of the postings I have shared.

My Library Has Grown

I recently expanded my personal library through the addition of several new quilting books. Among the purchases were

Library Purchase.jpg

I purchased Double Wedding Ring Quilts and 15 Minutes of Play because I will be attending  Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s class at the Woodland Ridge Retreat Center in October of 2018. By acquiring both of them in advance I figured I could become familiar with her teachings and give myself a head start. I also purchased the companion templates. If you have ever considered purchasing either book I would strongly recommend that you do. Both books are filled with valuable tips to help launch or improve your journey into or with improvisational quilting.

I stumbled upon The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters purely by accident. I had never heard of the author or her book until I did my research on Victoria. One might think that if you have one improv quilting book there is no need to purchase another. I totally disagree. Just as with many other topics each author has his or her own way of doing things. Much can be learned from each of these different voices.

The last book, 37 Sketches, was highly recommended by my close friend Barb. Barb had learned a great deal from Gwen by taking many of her classes. Apparently Gwen recently retired from her teaching. Adding her book was my way of owning a piece of history. I’ve found this book to be a great addition for those moments when you choose to relax and browse through publications. It’s a pictorial snapshot of Gwen’s journey through art quilting. This book has become a welcome addition to my home.

Well that’s my take on four very worthwhile art quilting companions. If you are not sure about adding them to your own inventory, then find them at your local library and see for yourself.