In 2017 I took an online class with Elizabeth Barton, which she called the Master Class. Each month she would email us a lecture and assignment. We had three due dates, a sketch on the 10th, a blocked quilt on the 20th, and a finished quilt at the end of the month. Throughout the months she would provide commentary and critique. It was absolutely the most amazing class, I learned so much, grew my skills, and produced a great body of work.

Of course life happens, and if you missed a deadline, you simply missed her critique, and you could jump back in at the next assignment. I only missed completing a few months, but do have the sketches still. And one quilt in particular was calling me to finish.

October’s assignment was Movement. I thought of capturing the movement of water in a river, and asked my sister who boats for a photograph inspiration. She sent the above photo on the Green River, in the early morning as sun hit the canyon walls. As I made my sketch and thought about the design, I realized I wanted to capture the movement in the canyon walls as well.

I completed my sketch in time for the assignment critique, but fell off the map after that (hello new job and first trimester pregnancy nausea). This past spring I pulled out the sketch again, wanting to finish the quilt before baby arrived.

After enlarging my first sketch to become a guide, I started piecing the canyon walls together. I drew on some of the piecing techniques shared in Maria Shell’s Improv Patchwork book to make the rock forms of each wall.

Looking back at my photos I see that I completed all the canyon wall pieces in November, and then life stalled. I’ll probably share in another post sometime how my creative mojo disappeared ( I guess growing a human can do that to you!). Luckily quilts are patient and fabric waits happily in a box for you to return.

In March, I took up the quilt again. I hung the canyon wall pieces on a small design board on my sewing table, and began to chip away at it, bit by bit. Some weekends I might only get twenty minutes done, but those minutes add up, and the quilt slowly came to life.

For the water I cut strips of blue and improv pieced them together with slight curves. I attempted to capture some of the sunshine sparkling off the cliffs by adding a couple small slivers of bright fabric.

Before all the pieces were done I decided one wall needed more rocks added. I was very happy I made the change when I did!

Instead of a raw edge appliqué, I decided to piece together the scene. This is a bit trickier with curvy seams…

… but I think 100% worth it. I love the final look, with the quilt top one continuous smooth piece.

Quilting was such a joy, adding another layer of texture and movement to the quilt.

The last touch to add … was the boatman! This I did decide to add as raw edge appliqué, on top of the quilt top. With so much happening in the quilt, and the abstract look of it all, I chose to make the boatman and boat in silhouette, with the faintest of details emphasized with the quilting.

From the beginning, I wanted to finish the quilt by mounting it on canvas as Cindy Griselda shares in her book Artful Improv. My sketch I had been working off of was the size of the completed canvas. Cindy outlines her technique at the end of her book, which starts with painting the canvas sides black, then gluing the finished quilt on the canvas.

And just a few weeks before baby arrived, I finished the quilt and was able to present it to my sister.

I really like how it turned out, the colors and quilting and overall feel.

Since I missed the deadline for critique from my class, what do you think? Does the quilt scene capture movement?

For me, it does. Sure there are a few things I would do differently next time. Ultimately, I appreciate how the concept of movement goes deeper than just the design. Finishing the quilt at a moment of so much transition in my life has marked the quilt and reminds me when I look at it.

Just as the river slowly eroded and sculpted the canyon walls, a movement that takes lifetimes, my daughter is transforming our lives with smiles and wiggles, a movement that fills every second of every day.

You can see all the posts about my quilts completed as part of the Master Class here: https://sewserena.wordpress.com/category/master-class/

I want to tell you about the quilt that marked time. That was made in the nick of time. That noted time passing. That indicated it wasn’t time yet. That the right time would soon be here. That measured time. But first, a digression.

I’ve made quilts for most (as many as I can) friends and family who have babies. Once I was expecting my first baby, my mom asked if she could make me a baby quilt. I of course replied I would be delighted if she did. So we raided my fabric stash together.

She chose a simple square patchwork design that complemented the beautiful fabrics. I love the scrappy feel of the patchwork!

And because how could I resist, here’s our little lady on the quilt. Later, my mom returned all the fabric to me that she didn’t use. When I looked at it, the first thought that struck me was noticing the beautiful green, turquoise, gray and orange palette. The second thought that struck me, was naturally, those colors would make a beautiful quilt!

I started and finished this quilt in the two weeks leading up to my little girl being born. If she hadn’t arrived one week late I wouldn’t have finished it. We liked to joke that she was giving me time to make one last quilt.

This Score, #4 Patchwork Doodle, invites you to take a shape, repeat it, add another, build off that block, add in another, and keep going like that. Like doodling!

Because I was just doing a small bit each day, and because each day the patchwork was slightly different, and mostly because I was existing in a strange time warp of when will baby come, I started a daily post of progress on Instagram.

Without realizing it, I had given friends a way to keep track of me. Each day I posted a progress shot, they knew baby wasn’t here yet.

Each day the blocks grew and changed and the rows on my design board grew. I kept expecting baby to come and the quilt put away, but she didn’t come and we kept stitching.

It was fun to start sewing up a block for no other reason than I felt like stitching that block that day.

Lets add more triangles, I’d think, and so we did. And without me realizing it, one morning I went to sew more blocks and when I looked at the top, I realized it was done.

For quilting, I decided on a meandering line, mimicking topographic lines. I thought of my soon to be born nephew and the adventures he would have.

And in the nick of time, the quilt was done, ready to be mailed off, and all I needed to do was rest before baby arrived.


What surprised me?

I remember thinking at the beginning, how will I come up with new blocks to add? How will I think of them? And then once I was in the moment, it was no trouble at all, ideas just kept coming to me.

What did I discover or learn?

I learned how to sew some of the techniques shared in the book to deal with puckers and excess fabric. Once I had a few blocks together things didn’t always lay flat so I learned to dart and adjust seams.

What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

I really enjoyed having my design board out to look at each day. When I wasn’t sewing I was contemplating and pondering what would come next.

What was dissatisfying?

The quilted topo lines didn’t quite turn out as I had imagined.

If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

In a way at this point I was rushing, so to have it be more satisfied, I think I could have taken the time to sketch out what I imagined, maybe even chalking some drawn lines as a guide on the quilt top.

Where do I want to go from here?

My world has been completely turned upside down since finishing this quilt, in only the best of ways. I hope I can be present in the moment where I am, knowing I will return to quilting some day. And at that point I can bring my new experiences to my craft. And make more baby quilts. Try a few more scores. Maybe make a score for a second or third time.

Quilts for Twins

When my girlfriend had twins I thought this posed a neat challenge for baby quilts. Of course first off I knew I would need to make two blankets. I imagined them being similar and distinct. And I knew I wanted to continue to try new scores from the Improv Handbook. So I went shopping in my stash.

I was also inspired by my girlfriends Japanese heritage and her love of the color red. I pulled fabrics for two quilts at the same time, the colors complementary and unique.

The first quilt I followed Score#5 Rhythmic Grid. I auditioned fabrics to check for value and contrast, deciding how I wanted to build my squares.

There is so much I love about this kind of quilting. How beautiful fabrics can be featured and combined. How quickly the blocks start to come together. How freeing it is to not measure and make decisions in the moment.

This top was pieced last summer while I was on break between jobs. Winston was my trusty companion for my staycation.

While I didn’t measure, this score was unique in building off each previous row, aligning key intersections. Here I’m adding the edge borders.

For the second of the twins quilts, I chose to follow the Score #2 Strings.

I divided my fabric selections into three groups, two bright and one dark, and then cut each into strips.

The strips then got pieced together randomly, giving me three large panels of pieced fabric.

I then cut each into skinnier columns, and pieced those into the final top.

I must have pictures of the completed quilts somewhere (on a camera SD card perhaps?). The second string quilt was completed last spring. With the twins first birthday fast approaching, I had extra motivation to finish!

It was such a joy to receive the following pictures from my girlfriend when she received the quilts.


What surprised me?

It was such a pleasure to make two quilts at the same time. Pulling two sets of fabric from the same inspiration but making them different was a fun creative exercise.

What did I discover or learn?

It can be hard with all life’s competing wants to get a baby quilt done before the baby is born. I completed these a few months shy of their first birthday. Instead of being late, I think they arrived at the perfect time. How wonderful for my friend and her family to continue to feel loved and supported through all the months of raising little ones.

What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

It is such a joy to not know where the quilt is headed and to just go with it. Each step felt like an exploration to find out what would happen next. This kept the excitement high, similar to solving a mystery!

What was dissatisfying?

I made a couple of color choices I wasn’t thrilled about.

If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

By the second quilt I had noted what I didn’t like and was already practicing making different choices.

Where do I want to go from here?

I really enjoy baby quilts as the object to try scores on. They are small enough to complete quickly, are fun to use beautiful fabrics, and make heartfelt gifts! I think making baby quilts improv will be my new go to.

My First Score

I wish I could remember how I first came across the Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood. Was it in a bookstore? Online? It’s lost to me now. But what a treasure the discovery was, and I am excited to share with you over the next few posts four (4!) quilts I’ve completed and not yet shared.

Of course like most things in life it is important to start at the beginning. So I started with the first score, Floating Squares, and dug into my hand dyed fabrics for colors.

We had just moved into our home (so this is over three years ago now!) and I wanted to make a curtain for our kitchen window.

Luckily the kitchen table was just about the right size so I got lost in sewing block after block until the top of the table was filled.

I chose to simply finish it with a hem around all four sides. Leaving it unbacked gave it a glorious stained glass window look as the sun shown through. So I guess it wasn’t technically a quilt …


The book recommends taking a moment after each quilt to reflect on the experience, using this set of questions as a guide.

What surprised me?

How much fabric it took. I selected a couple colors to start with and soon realized I needed a lot more fabric so I kept picking more and more colors.

What did I discover or learn?

I learned how to sew large wonky sections of fabric together with no rulers or measuring.

What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

I really enjoyed the stain glass look which hadn’t been an intention from the beginning. When I was holding up the piece to the window to see if it was big enough and saw the sun shining through, I decided to keep it that way.

What was dissatisfying?

I remember I ended up with two large sections that created a dominant line through the middle once pieced.

If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

Anticipate this when sewing sections together and work to create sections of different sizes.

Where do I want to go from here?

Oh my gosh, I loved this book from the start. It highlighted a way of doing things, instead of following a pattern. I would love to make every Score in the book!

The most perfect season. Beautiful warm days and cool dark nights. Time to play outside and time to be cozy inside. We are still adventuring in the mountains but also find myself being drawn to my knitting and evenings at my sewing machine.


October’s Pressed Seam fabrics blew me away with their blue beauty. So many gorgeous shades of blue. Meanwhile, our mountains and valley trees are turning a golden yellow orange.




When I wasn’t playing in the mountains, October found me quilting improv baby quilts. I find myself pulling from my stash of fabrics, now enhanced by my Pressed Seam fabrics. I look forward to showing more photos of the quilts as I finish them.


So many beautiful colors in my stash and in the natural world around me. How lucky are we to be surrounded by nature and color.


I’m stuck in concrete jungle land for work this week, and my spirit longs for open skies and quiet vistas. I miss blowing wind and crisp air.




So I’ll leave you with the setting sun on the aspen leaves, shimmering with their changing colors. This season disappears so quickly, thank goodness for photographs and memories.


Get to the mountains before the color is gone!

September’s assignment for the Master Class was focused on edges. Hard and soft edges. Lost edges. I had never learned about edges before, but once I started looking, you can find them everywhere. This is perhaps the most magical of illusions in art. Basically, lost edges are shapes or places that you don’t see. They could merge softly into the background, or be of similar value so you don’t see the difference between them.


I also had a separate project with our local quilt guild to make a fall colors quilt for an upcoming art show. So I decided to merge the two projects into one, finding this inspiration photo in our library of a close-up of aspen leaves in the fall.


For my first sketch, I thought I could make the leaves towards the front the hard edges, and the leaves in the back the soft edges. I thought to use lighter value fabrics in the background to blur their edges together.


I started with a fabric pull, without judgement, pulling out all the colors and fabrics I thought I might want to use. I had decided I wanted to focus my colors on a split complementary scheme, with blue and yellow-orange, orange, and red-orange.



Using my phone to take pictures and turn the fabric to grayscale, I then sorted by value. The two rows of the lightest value fabrics on the right would be my background.


I pinned up all the fabrics on my design board to test them out. I think they look pretty good!


It was exciting to see it come together. Piece by piece I cut and pinned and cut and pinned.


This is how to quilt looked when I turned it in for our blocked assignment. Elizabeth’s suggestions for modification included some shifting of the leaf arrangements, making sure the two stars of the show didn’t sit right on top of each other in a vertical line, and to adjust the background leaves so they weren’t too evenly spaced out. She also recommended changing the main leaves, their solid color doesn’t capture the beauty and interest of their natural variation.


I wholeheartedly agreed, so back to the drawing board I went (or rather, the dyeing board!). I traced the approximate leaf shape onto white fabric, and after soaking in soda ash, spread it out on the table like I was going to paint it. I then sort of dapped/painted various shades of orange (red-orange, orange, and yellow-orange!) onto the leaf.


I made two versions of each leaf for four leaves, as I wasn’t sure how my technique would work. For one set I made the shift between colors more gradual, and for the other set, I made the dabs more distinct. I also shifted the colors a bit in case one worked better than the other. Once I cut them out and hung them on the quilt, the gradual color change leaves stole the show.


At this point, I was getting pretty excited. There was a bit of work taking all the leaves off, piecing the background, and then putting the leaves back on, and gluing it all down.


To encourage the soft edges of the background, I decided on an all over quilting pattern that mimicked the leaf shape. I hoped it would help blur the edges and provide texture to the background.


It came out beautifully and was a pleasure to quilt! Then I glued on the stars of the show, the two aspen leaves.


Taking inspiration from the photo, I mimicked the leaf vein lines for the quilting on the large leaves. I used a lighter variegated yellow-orange thread. I was super pleased when I saw the final effect, it was more than I could have hoped for and wanted it to be. The leaves fairly sparkled with color and light. Yahoo!


Here’s the finished quilt, binding using the art facing method. 21″x28″. All fabrics hand dyed by yours truly. Raw edge applique and free motion quilted. Glue basting instead of fusible webbing.


It will be on display at the Mountain Rambler Brewery, as part of a Fall Colors collection through our local quilt guild, participating in the Chocolate Art Walk on October 28. I can’t wait to see all the other fall color quilts!

Hello September, that funny month which begins by still offering the hot days of summer fun and ends with fall: cooler air, changing colors, and shorter days … With the changing season, the Pressed Seam Club sent the most glorious fabric. This might be my favorite bundle yet!


The deep and yummy blues remind me of all the fun we have had on the water this summer. We fell in love with stand up paddle boarding, and have been having a blast visiting our local lakes.


The most exquisite paddle was on Mono Lake, with the tufa towers and glossy water and phalaropes spinning circles … So many beautiful colors and textures and sounds. Much like this fabric!


There are a lot of wonderful textures in this bunch, from woven to canvas to double gauze, I look forward to playing with them all. Much like paddling has felt like playing, exploring the lakes and being silly.


Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons where we live, and yet it is bittersweet too, as the days get shorter there is less time outside, but more time sewing inside!


Maybe this set can become a paddling Mono Lake quilt …