My newest large scale art quilt is finished, and I’ve decided to call it Abstract Akimbo. I like the word “akimbo” and it seems to apply to the figures in this piece, which are all a little off kilter. The other choice was actually “Off Kilter,” but I thought that might be a little off putting.

I started this piece in a workshop with Nancy Crow last year. You can read about that adventure here.

Black and White Study for an art quilt- Cindy Grisdela

Large Black and White Study 2018 – Cindy Grisdela

Briefly, I created the black and white study above that was to be the basis for a larger piece in color. We were instructed to enlarge and skew the new piece using shades of gray, so I elongated the central figure and put it on a slant, which made the other figures skew in different ways to accommodate it. It was a fascinating exercise.

Adding color to an art quilt - Cindy Grisdela

Building the colors on Akimbo – Cindy Grisdela

Then I began adding the color. This piece, like all the others that I’ve created this way, are improvisationally designed, but constructed very methodically.

I finished sewing the piece together in the workshop and brought it back to my home studio. It sat in the unfinished pile for almost a year. I kept putting it up on the design wall and mulling how I was going to quilt it, but never could come to any conclusion. So down it would go for another month or two. I have done the stitching on the these large quilts in two different ways. Some of them have used simple vertical lines, which I like, but this one had so many shapes and colors going on that I didn’t think that was the right choice.

Others I have stitched different motifs in the different areas of the quilt, matching the thread to the background color. I didn’t like that idea for this one either.

So I finally came up with a hybrid solution.

Hybrid straight line stitching detail - Cindy Grisdela

Abstract Akimbo Stitching Detail – Cindy Grisdela

I stitched my favorite fan motif in the figure shapes and experimented with straight lines echoing the background shapes. This was challenging. My Bernina Q20 doesn’t have a walking foot to keep the lines straight, so I had to embrace the wonkiness of stitching the lines freehand. Putting it in the most charitable words possible, the lines are organic! I kept telling myself what I tell my free motion quilting students–the texture is the most important thing–saying it over and over as the lines didn’t go exactly where I wanted them to go. There were many times I despaired of the whole thing ever working. But the photographer was coming to shoot images for my art group and it had to get finished if I wanted it to be included in the photography session. In this case, the pressure to finish was a good thing. I didn’t have time to stop and think about it too much once I’d made the decision.

But guess what? Once the whole piece is finished, the texture IS the most important thing and the fact that the lines are not all perfectly straight doesn’t matter at all.  I really like the secondary textures that are created every time the lines change direction.

Abstract Akimbo Art Quilt - Cindy Grisdela

I’m glad it’s finished and I’m glad I challenged myself to do something different with the quilting. This one finished at 50″ w x 57″ h.

Thanks for reading. How have you challenged yourself to do something you weren’t sure you could do, and how did it turn out?





  1. Susan Cone on April 26, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Stunning!!! Love everything about this wall hanging especially the texture. Could you tell me how you start and end your quilting in the middle of your quilt? It looks like you might pull both threads to the top but then do you tie it off and cut close to know? Do you end with backstitching or knotting in place? I have a Bernina 770 and I seem to get nesting on the back of my quilt and would love to a trick to eliminate nesting. Thank you Cindy! Looking forward to your class when you come to CO.

    • Cindy on April 26, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      Thank you Susan! I do pull the threads to the front before I start quilting, which greatly helps with the nesting problem on the back–sadly it doesn’t eliminate it completely, but it’s easier to manage. When I’m finished, I use a large eye needle to run the thread back into the batting before clipping them. It’s a little tedious, but then I’m sure they won’t pull out later.