A Workshop with Stacey Sharman

In April, we had the privilege of hosting Stacey Sharman to teach her Broken Grids workshop. During the workshop we explored the techniques of guided improvisation in a great stash-busting design involving squares cut down to triangles. The other students and I made enough blocks that we were able to explore various layouts with our blocks as well.

In April, we had the privilege of hosting Stacey Sharman to teach her Broken Grids workshop. During the workshop we explored the techniques of guided improvisation in a great stash-busting design involving squares cut down to triangles. The other students and I made enough blocks that we were able to explore various layouts with our blocks as well.

Stacey spent time teaching us the background on where the structured improvisational style comes from historically and where it’s frequently seen today. She delved into many examples, showing us the range of this style of building a quilt, not just from herself but from other contemporaries as well. It was inspirational to see what folks could accomplish with it!

I enjoyed the relaxed format of the class which provided time to explore the technique and practice it with Stacey there for guidance. We could discuss with Stacey and the class and then refine it for more blocks. The beauty of this is that really all the blocks are usable even if one’s technique varies from block to block due to the organic nature.

Once folks had more than a few blocks, we tried out different layouts. It was fun to see all the different combinations that could be made even with just a few blocks and even more fun to see what the other students in the class came up with. Even though we were all doing the “same” block, everyone’s personal choices made it look so different!

I’m looking forward to using this technique to whittle away my pile of scraps!

Precision Piecing with Tighe Flanagan

Lisa Bourgeault
Author: Lisa Bourgeault, VP Programs
Rachel Petterson

Tighe Flanagan taught a great course about precision piecing to about 20 of our members on September 17th.  Our guild has been focusing on skill-building this year, so his piecing techniques were right on point.  Many of the students came to class for that purpose, but others came to learn more about tessellating quilts and Islamic geometry.  

Tighe is most known for his quilts that feature his modern interpretations of classic Islamic geometry and art, and he told us that he especially loves finding designs in situ as inspiration for making his own quilts.  We worked on his Fig Leaf quilt pattern that is based on a fairly common motif in Islamic tile work.  Tighe likes fig leaves so much that he planted a fig tree in his yard—presumably, he likes figs, too.

Emily Harris
Amy Wang

In class, Tighe used a slide presentation to describe the “silver ratio” and how it is derived from using a pattern of diagonal lines drawn using specific points on overlapping large and small circles as guides. The concept sounds extremely complicated, but his drawings and explanation made it clear. Using the silver ratio grid, the resulting shapes can be much more nuanced than if they were built around squares and half-square triangles.  Students included a math teacher and other math fans, who all really enjoyed his explanation, and it was clear enough for even the math-phobic to get a sense of the idea.  

Students started class with their fabric pressed and starched and a set of templates (either paper ones printed from his pattern or acrylic ones purchased from his website), but we weren’t asked to cut pieces because we would learn some important cutting concepts in class.  One tricky thing about the silver ratio for sewists is that it doesn’t result in pieces that measure in inches, so the templates or his paper piecing patterns are a must. 

As we cut and sewed some of the blocks, we had ample opportunities to ask Tighe questions.  Some were quilt-related, but others ranged through math, computer programs for designing quilts and publishing patterns, and art in Islamic cultures.  Tighe shared his impressive knowledge with us.  He is warm and clear in his teaching, so it was really fun to talk with him.  

Some people were daring and used multiple colors in their quilts, while others of us played it safer with just one foreground and one background color.  It was really amazing to see the tessellating pattern come to life as we placed our blocks up on our design walls—almost like magic!  

One great thing about Tighe, whether he is talking in class or writing a pattern, is the respect he shows for the cultures from which he draws his design inspiration.  He also does a great job of describing the geometry behind the design, which is especially important given the development of geometric concepts in Islamic culture.  

You can check out Tighe on Instagram at @TigheFlanagan and check out his line of patterns and templates on tigheflanagan.com.

Learning Curves with Jenny Haynes

Author: Rachel Petterson, VP Education Programs

Kicking off the workshop circuit of 2022, we had Jenny Haynes of Papper Sax Sten come teach her Cogs, Thistles and Caterpillar Wheels workshop. This workshop focused on the freezer paper method for foundation paper piecing and piecing curves without pins as techniques but also touched on the design methodologies that Jenny uses for her quilts. Jenny taught us virtually from her home studio with a great multi-camera set up that allowed us to see everything she did while also viewing her animated presentation style. As a bonus, Jenny provided us with the recording of the workshop. Since this workshop was full of info, this was great for reviewing afterwards and getting a chance to reinforce some of our new skills.

For the paper piecing, Jenny sent over templates ahead of time that we printed and had ready for the workshop. She walked us through each step of using them for the paper piecing, peppering her instruction with lots of tips and tricks. I’ve personally used both the traditional sew-through-the paper method and the freezer paper method, but only had instruction in the former. After Jenny’s class, the freezer paper method felt so much more comfortable and I love that you can reuse the templates a few times! By my second cog quadrant, it felt natural. Jenny thoughtfully gave us time as part of the workshop to work through our individual issues while being on hand to answer questions as they came up during actual implementation of the techniques.

Once we had the chance to make some cog curves with our paper piecing, we moved on to the curve piecing which we’d use to form them into a complete block. Jenny demonstrated her method for piecing curves without pins which is a big win in my book since it allows you to move so much faster. Although Jenny’s instruction was straightforward, this is definitely a technique that will take practice. However, I like that Jenny’s templates build in allowance for doing it without pins which gives students much more confidence to try out the technique while having the assurance their sample will still turn out successful.

Finally, Jenny covered some of the principles she uses when designing her cogs and thistles quilts. She explained how she decides when to stop and start, how many teeth to put on her cogs and ways to accent the cogs using fussy cutting techniques. These were all great for those of us looking to use the techniques from this workshop to put together our own quilt!

Overall this was a really fun way to spend the morning that stretched some creative muscles I hadn’t used much. Jenny’s teaching style is easy going, but informative. She focuses on her topics, but you also pick up so many general quilting tips that she tosses in along the way. Jenny shared some of her other workshops coming up that make creative use of curves and I have to say I was intrigued!

A Visit from Anna Maria Horner

What a great way to kick off the new year!

Anna Maria Horner first led a Workshop on “Color Fluency” where we discussed the color wheel and then curated a random set of fabrics into a coherent color palette. Anna Maria discussed how to use prints and, while some combinations may seem random, the  different colors are bound together by color and value. It was a very small peek into how she achieves her beautiful quilt palettes and print combinations.

At our monthly guild meeting, Anna Maria shared a staggering collection of gorgeous quilts, walking us through her creative journey. Her fascinating lecture included how her creative career has evolved from design school through to today, and how she learned to quilt on the way! Each quilt came with a story and many “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience.

Perfectly pairing with the workshop and lecture, Wooden Gate Quilts set up a pop-up shop so that members could get their hands on the fabulous fabrics and patterns used in Anna Maria’s quilts. This was a treat that we very much appreciated and will definitely repeat again!


Improv Abstraction Workshop


At our recent workshop, Improv Abstraction, Karen Foster showed us how gentle curves can be combined in infinite ways to create one-of-a-kind quilt designs.

Karen teaches a relaxed approach to layout and design, starting with a gentle curve shape to provide a base structure for the quilt. From there we played with the curve blocks and improvised complimentary shapes. We also learned techniques for machine piecing “severe” curves, and even circles.

The class wrapped up with a review of all the unique shape and color combinations we made in creating our overall quilt designs.

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.”


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.


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.


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

Molehills Class with Latifah Saafir

This month we welcomed Latifah Saafir to our guild to teach us a thing or two about curves. On June 11th we got together and learned how to make Latifah’s Molehills quilt. She taught us all we needed to know about how to cut, iron and piece curves to make molehills of our own. Many of us worked cutting and sewing single arches into lovely molehill fans and a few of us even dared to paper piece our arches. Every molehill made in class was one of a kind and so much fun to explore with each other throughout the day. Here’s a round up of our adventures that day.

IMG_0958Eileen showing off cutting arches using templates.

IMG_0957Kristine pressing her purple and pink arches.

IMG_0960Michelle-Nicholle stitching some curves on the machine.

13385927_149128045500685_214421362_nMichelle-Nicholle’s arches laid out on the design wall with some full fans thrown in as well. (We love!)

Liz built a plethora of lovely yellow arches during class.

Tricialyn played around with layout of her colorful arches on the design wall.

Sarah pieced the day away using the paper piecing templates.

Rochelle finished a full fun pieced pink fan in class. (We love the fussy cut mermaids!)

IMG_0970Sarah shows off one whole pieced fan at the end of class.

IMG_0961Our design wall with a least one completed fan from every member in class. What a lovely bunch of molehills. We wanted to sew them up into a colorful quilt right then and there!

We had so much fun sewing the day away with Latifah Saafir! She had so much knowledge to offer on how to make this beautiful quilt. Lots of tips and tricks on how to be comfortable sewing curves on a machine and creating these awesome blocks. This technique might look a little daunting but we all agreed this was a great quilt to ease into learning curves. We highly recommend Latifah to other guilds and groups alike! She’s a great teacher and an all-around awesome person. We can’t thank her enough for spending a day with us at the Silicon Valley MQG.