Improv Workshop with Sherri Lynn Wood

Last weekend the guild hosted “Improvising from a Score” with local quilt artist and teacher, Sherri Lynn Wood, where we learned improvisational piecing techniques within a defined framework or “score.”

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We started with an extended group discussion about the different aspects of improvisation, and some of the techniques used in improvisational music and theater, and in everyday life.

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After a brief meditation period, we sewed in silence, letting our creativity flow without distractions. We set specific limits and then cut and sewed patchworks… abandoning fixed patterns, templates, and even our rulers.

As a group, we reviewed our work in progress and voiced Evaluations of our experience thus far expressing a Surprise, a Discovery, a Satisfaction, or a Dissatisfaction, and discussed where we would go next. Some of the students’ evaluations included:

  • I am surprised by how the different sections are connecting and working together.
  • I discovered I can make a very straight line without a ruler!
  • I discovered I can NOT make a straight line without a ruler… and that’s ok.
  • It is satisfying to move quickly and not to worry about precision.
  • I am dissatisfied by the color I am working with, I will continue to use it and see where it goes.
  • I am surprised by how much I love it.
  • I discovered that I don’t have to love every piece of my patchwork in order to love the whole thing.
  • I am satisfied by how freeing is it to just keep moving forward, without a plan.
  • I discovered that the simple limits we set were just enough of a framework to focus my work.
  • I was surprised that the silent sewing made the decisions come quickly and easily.

Ultimately, we made a lot of progress and gained a broader understanding of the improvisational process. We learned techniques that can be used to create flexible (improv) patterns or to augment fixed patterns and that setting boundaries focuses our work and still leaves us with endless choices and flexibility.

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Concepts taught in this workshop can be found in Sherri’s book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously. You can learn more about Sherri Lynn Wood’s projects and workshops on her website

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