Design Improv

One of the highlights of my summer was taking a two day class at Pacific Northwest College of Art taught by designer/quilter Denyse Schmidt. I've followed Denyse's career ever since I saw an article on her in Martha Stewart's magazine about 10 years ago. While I love fabric and quilts, I've never actually made one—I do sew, but consider myself a novice and generally use a 'figure it out as I go approach'. The class was a great opportunity to learn not only from Denyse, but other talented women—there were about 16 people in the class in all—some from the Northwest, but others from all over.

The first day we spent making three improvised blocks by drawing pieces of fabric from the three different bags—small, medium and large. We had to use whatever random piece you pulled which produces unexpected results and happy accidents. After we did those three blocks, Denyse talked about the components to design and things to think about as we sketched ideas for a series of blocks that would make up a whole quilt. 


At the end of the second day we all put our blocks up on the wall and talked about the process, what we liked, didn't like, what suprised us and where we'd take them next. Some people did a ton of blocks, I'm a little slower and got three done but look forward to doing more. It definitely made the idea of making a whole quilt less intimidating.

Detail of one of my 'garden' blocks

During this time my friend Tara Bliven from Ephemera Press had this cool idea for a project she called The Elevated Envelope. The idea was to create something fun that you could send in the mail to 10 other people and the theme was 'Summertime'. Following on the heels of my quilting class, I thought it would be fun to take the same techniques but use paper—randomly pulling pieces out of the box and then working with what I had. Again, it was so surprising to see these combinations and juxtapositions appear that were way more interesting than anything you could ever plan. Here are some photos of the envelopes I made. Because of the somewhat fragile nature of the finished envelopes, I mailed them in glassine envelopes for protection.

Stitching the paper quilts

Fronts of the 'quilt' envelopes
Backs of the 'quilt' envelopesDetail of envelope front

Detail of envelope backDetail of envelope front