Hmmm, what to do? I knew I wanted to incorporate my Improv Under the Influence technique because I think it is such a fun gateway for quilters venturing into improv from a traditional quilting background.My inspiration came in the form of Oakshott's new Colourshott range. This gorgeous, luminous fabric had served me so well with Chess on the Steps, but I wanted to use more colours...in fact all of them! Looking at a unit of improv strips sitting on my design wall from another project, it came to me that it would make a perfect thread spool. There are so many ways to make spool blocks and I've long admired vintage spool quilts. I've even made several fun spool quilts using selvages in the past. This time, I decided to take advantage of the colour range and create variegated spools, each with four different but related colours; just like you'd see on real thread display racks.
Ultimately, the pattern is part 'planned' improv (the thread units of each spool are built using my Improv Under the Influence technique) and part traditional piecing. Once trimmed, the thread units are pieced into the spool block, then joined together to form the wall hanging. One fun element of the pattern is that two rectangular spools sewn side by side form a square block, so the quilt could be laid out with alternating two horizontal/two vertical spools. That way, the light and dark grey backgrounds would zigzag, forming a secondary pattern. I've also created a table runner sewing 7 spools side by side. I can't wait to use it on my dining table for Stitch Group days!
I had a lot of fun quilting this piece using my collection of rainbow Aurifil 40 wt threads that I'd initially purchased to finish this quilt a couple of years ago. That custom box of Aurifil thread (purchased from my friend Carola) seemed an extraordinary extravagance at the time, but I have used all of the colours time and again, so I don't regret it for one second! In the background areas, I used a medium grey and quilted a swirling loop to resemble pooling threads. In each variegated spool, I tried domestic ruler work for the first time (sewing the straight lines with a darning foot beside a thick ruler) so that I could go back and forth in both directions without having to turn the quilt to avoid the dreaded 'fabric drag' between the quilting lines. Each spool features a coordinating or matching thread colour. It was a great success on my Juki!
I just love this little quilt. It is a great introduction to improv work, which of course can evolve into a much freer, creative process where the maker begins with a toolbox of techniques and an inspired idea instead of a pattern.
Want to make your very own? The Oakshott company has prepared full kits for the front and binding of the quilt, conveniently made with charm packs of their luscious new Colourshott range of shot cottons. If you are luck enough to attend the Birmingham Festival of Quilts next month in the UK, you can see my quilt in person at the Oakshott stand as well as purchase a kit - otherwise they are available online right here. You'll also need a copy of Simply Moderne issue #5 for the pattern, available here.