Monday, July 25, 2016

Abstract Quilts in Solids - A Workshop Review

Last year I felt so fortunate to spend two days in workshops with Gwen Marston. Her work has long been an inspiration to me, even though it took several years to work my way to improvisational design after borrowing her book Liberated Quiltmaking from my traditional guild's library about 10 years ago.  In last year's workshop, Gwen taught us techniques used in the making of her sublime 37 Sketches quilts (that have been published in their own gorgeous hard cover book).  You can the two pieces that I created in the workshop here.

Fast forward to last month when I received an email from Gwen asking if I'd be interested in reviewing her latest workshop, an online class on the American Quilter's Society iquilt platform.   The workshop is called Abstract Quilts in Solids - of course I immediately said YES!  This would be the perfect opportunity to learn more from one of my quilting idols while playing with a box of strippy scraps I recently bought from an IG destash. The colours are not my usual fare, so I figured having specific class techniques to try would be the perfect way to just use them and not obsess over what to make.

Blowing My Hair Back I
Strippy scraps purchased on IG destash from Pink Castle Fabric. These are leftovers from their Mocassin BOM. A fun colour challenge for me!

Gwen's class is divided into six lessons. The entire class is 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but there's no need to watch it from start to finish. Instead, I watched the intro, then one or two lessons at each sitting.  That's the beauty of an online class: sipping your favourite drink in your jammies while learning from a master teacher on your own schedule!  It is my goal to make a mini quilt from each lesson to practice the techniques, but also to force myself to use these crazy bright colours and (gasp) brown together.

Blowing My Hair Back I
The centre block of my string quilt.

It doesn't take long into Gwen's introduction segment to know you are in expert hands. Gwen's ease and relaxed approach really set the stage for her no-fuss lessons to come. I especially loved her explanation of why she finds solid fabrics painterly: she says "when you buy paint, it comes in solid colours, it doesn't come in Aunt Gracie." In addition, Gwen goes on to say that solids allow you to see the piecing angles and shapes and even lines of quilting more clearly. So true!

Blowing My Hair Back I
I've modelled this layout on one of the example quilts Gwen shares in her "string quilt" lesson.

Each lesson features a different style or technique of improv piecing done in Gwen's way. She's been building her quilts using these techniques for years. Her comfort in working this way is obvious and the language she uses is so encouraging and supportive that any student would feel they are able to try and succeed in creating their own versions.  I love that she describes blocks as having "a rollicking good time" together. Gwen doesn't fuss about colour theory; she admits to using colours that she enjoys looking at and that "are friendly beside each other". What great approach! Whether you are a tried and true traditional piecer, or a newbie adventurist in the quilting world, I'm quite certain you'll take a lot from this class; if nothing else, the permission to explore your stash with creative abandon and enjoy yourself while doing it.

Blowing My Hair Back I
Here's my string quilt called "Blowing My Hair Back I" it measures around 22" square. The name comes from the hilarious expression I learned from a taxi-driver in Juneau who said "whatever blows your hair back" - equivalent to "whatever turns your crank".  In this case, these wild colours are literally blowing my hair back!

Working in Gwen's style is definitely playtime at the sewing machine. If you're looking to expand your improv piecing repertoire, or just take a break from precision pattern sewing, I highly recommend this class.  You'll quickly see why Gwen is a beloved teacher and highly-respected maker of liberated, improvisational quilts.  Plus, it's just nice to spend time listening to her wise words and watch her masterful hands at work. Grab your scrap bin and have some fun!

I'll be sharing more class work from Gwen's lessons soon...


Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts said...

Well I'd call it Float My Boat, because it does. It looks great and very natural - not at all like you were forced into using these colours together. That fuschia (hot pink?) is awesome for the borders. Very eye catching and dare I say fun?

Theglasdiva said...

Your project turned out beautifully. I get got a copy of the book you mentioned. Thanks for the tip about her online class. I'll have to give it a try.


Sandi said...

Love the inspirational story about how you named your piece, maybe you should get some pink highlights?

Bearpawquilter said...

Whatever blows wind up your skirt!

Tamie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the class. I have always wanted to take a class with Gwen but I live on the wrong coast. This looks like it would be a great way to accomplish my goal.

trudys_person said...

I love Gwen and her work! She is such a great teacher! And this brings back memories of her funny encouraging ways ...

OPQuilt said...

Love this quilt, the name, and the fact that you were able to make it in an online Gwen Marston class. I love the bright colors and the feeling of freedom that the quilt incorporates. Bravo!