Well, it’s been a long slog with this quilt, but the top is finally finished. I don’t know yet what to name it, but my working title right now is “Wings” because it made me think about butterfly wings while I was designing it.

It’s not perfect, but I learned a tremendous amount from working on this piece and I’m ready to apply what I learned to the next one.

I started this quilt last summer in my first class at the Crow Barn with Nancy Crow. You can read more about that adventure here.

The class was called Improvisational Exercises: Part I. Nancy has a series of classes and this one is one or two into the series. I thought I would be OK since I do a lot of Improv designing and quilting. And I was, eventually. One of the things I learned from the class and especially from working on this quilt for the last several months is that there is a difference between Improv designing and Improv piecing. Learning that lesson required a LOT of unstitching!

My usual way of working is to create units to incorporate into a larger quilt. I design as I go, improvisationally. That process didn’t work so well for this piece. The design itself is improvisational, with many of the lines cut freehand with a rotary cutter. Everything is laid out on the design wall before a single stitch is taken.

I started with the black lines.

Black and White Study in Process - Cindy Grisdela

Design in Black and White – Cindy Grisdela

Then I laid in the colors, cutting rough hunks of fabric to approximate the shape I needed. This part was a little hard for me because I was very aware of the fabric I was “wasting” when the shapes were cut to the correct size. The good news is I have a lovely bag full of scraps that will turn into something else wonderful!

Roughing in the Color - Cindy Grisdela

Roughing in the Color – Cindy Grisdela

This is an earlier version of the quilt that ended up getting revised–the color progression seemed too predictable. When I started sewing, I naturally did it the improvisational way I’ve always worked. But it didn’t work, and I had to rip out the seams again, and again, and again.

I was slow to learn the secret.

The design is improvisational, but the construction is very, very specific. It’s necessary to mark the lines with chalk before stitching, and pin the seams together carefully so the lines will work.

I originally planned to make it with color in every space, but Nancy encouraged me to open up some of the spaces with white. I decided to use a very light silver for the white spaces. As a color person, it was extremely difficult to take color out in favor of white, but once I did it, I was blown away by how it opened up the design and made it more interesting.

This quilt is huge by my standards–about 72″ square. There was a lot of up and down on the stepladder to reach the top. I was glad I had taken lots of pictures of the quilt in every stage of construction, so I had references to go back to. Below is a sample:

Screen shot of process photos- Cindy Grisdela

Screen shot of process photos- Cindy Grisdela

Now that I look at some of these, I wonder if I should make a few more tweaks to the design!

I think there’s a lot of material here to work with to create more designs using these ideas. And since I’ve gotten the hang of it, I don’t think the next one will take nearly as long to complete–I hope not anyway. I very glad that I took this class from Nancy, and grateful for her skill and insight as a teacher. I hope I can take what I’ve learned and incorporate it into my own studio practice and aesthetic.

I’ve decided to take some time off from shows this year to explore these new designs and hopefully take my work to a new level. Every few years, I feel the need to do this–to evolve and grow as an artist by exposing myself to new ideas and new ways of working. It’s a little tough to do–of course it’s easier to keep doing what you’ve been doing because it’s comfortable. And the risk is it won’t work. But I won’t know unless I try.

Here’s a sneak peak at the next one I’m working on:

New work on the Design Wall - Cindy Grisdela

New work on the Design Wall – Cindy Grisdela

Stay tuned!





  1. Janet on March 22, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing the steps along the way, not just the finished piece! Very bold, reminds me a bit of Mondrian.

    • Cindy on March 31, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Thank you Janet–I have a degree in art history, so there are lots of influences swirling in my head! Mondrian is one of my favorites.

  2. Mel on March 22, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    It is stunning!!! Thank you for sharing pics of process and inner monologue on some of the challenges you experienced along the way. I look forward to seeing how you apply these lessons to future designs!

    • Cindy on March 31, 2018 at 2:20 pm

      Thank you very much Mel! I had fun doing it and sharing the steps helps me get it straight in my mind for the next one.