Right before the Baltimore Craft Show last weekend, I had a brainstorm for a new quilt. This frequently happens when I’m in deadline mode before a show for some reason–maybe that’s just when my creativity ramps up? The result was Jumping for Joy, which you see in the featured image above. I thought it would be fun to walk through my design strategy for this one.

Initially I was inspired by work posted on Instagram by my friends Maria Shell and Elaine Poplin, which started me down this particular rabbit hole. As you know, I’m fascinated with improv log cabin blocks. Maria and Elaine made blocks out of stripes, and I didn’t want to do exactly that, but I liked the idea of adding some stripes to my blocks. Usually my improv blocks are totally scrappy, like this one–a detail of my popular Red Totem quilt–although it does have some stripes in it:

Red Totem detail - Cindy Grisdela

Red Totem Detail – Cindy Grisdela

But I wanted to try something a little more controlled and a little more stripey. So I dumped out my scrap basket of solids and made some blocks fairly randomly.

Jumping for Joy blocks in process - Cindy Grisdela

Jumping for Joy blocks in process – Cindy Grisdela

These were the first blocks I made. I liked using the striped effect in just some of the blocks. I made most of them in sizes that were multiples of three so they would be easier to sew together.

Designing Jumping for Joy - Cindy Grisdela

Designing Jumping for Joy – Cindy Grisdela

Here it is laid out with a few more blocks. As an aside, there’s a reason why I’m laying this out on the carpet instead of my design wall–the design wall is full of larger pieces that I didn’t have time to finish before the show!

This is just a day or two before I have to leave for setup–there isn’t time to make more blocks if I want to get it sewn together and quilted before the show. I have a couple of choices at this point–give it up and come back to it after the show is over, or find a way to finish it–hopefully without staying up all night! You can see in the photo that I decided to go with option 2 of course.

I keep a basket of leftover blocks and units on my ironing table–anything that doesn’t work in a particular project or that I made during a “therapy sewing” session goes in there. Even if I hate it, I don’t throw it away. You never know when you might be able to use it somewhere else. So I headed there to see if I had anything that might work.

Basket of leftover blocks - Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Basket of leftover blocks- Cindy Grisdela

You might wonder if this is a failure of creativity. I don’t think so. I was forced to rethink my original plan due to time constraints, and I think I came up with something even better than what I started with.

Designing with Stripes - Cindy Grisdela

Adding some different stripes to Jumping for Joy – Cindy Grisdela

I found some Angled Stripe blocks in my basket–you can see one of them in the middle of the photo above. These are blocks that I make when I want to sew but don’t want to think too hard about it–I call it therapy sewing. And I get stripes to use in other projects like this one. The angles appeal to me given the linear nature of the other blocks, and I like the “happy accident” of the red stripe in the block on the top right flowing into the red stripe in the middle block.

Detail of Jumping for Joy with new stripes - CIndy Grisdela

Detail of Jumping for Joy with new stripes – Cindy Grisdela

Above is a detail showing the other new stripes I added from the leftover basket. I’m happy with the way they frame the center block and bring out the turquoise in the outer row. Again–not something I could have planned. The piece finished at 12″ x 24″ and I mounted it on painted black canvas. I want to keep exploring this idea in a bigger piece, so stay tuned!

For me, this is the beauty of improv–starting with an intention, but being open to new ideas as the piece evolves. I never know exactly how things are going to turn out, and that’s fine with me.

What does improv mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’d like to learn more about improv–check out my book, Artful Improv on Amazon or your favorite quilting shop. I do have signed copies available in my online shop too!




  1. Rachel Biel on March 4, 2018 at 5:37 am

    So fun to see the process!

    • Cindy on March 4, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you Rachel–it’s my favorite way to create!

  2. Anastasia Logothetis on March 25, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    I like very much your wonderful work !!!!!!!

    • Cindy on March 25, 2018 at 9:23 pm

      Thank you very much!