I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump since I got back from Houston last November. And it’s a shame, because I had a break from traveling and had hoped to get quite a bit of work done. But life happened–there were the holidays, and family, and well–it didn’t get done.

But I feel like I’m back now!

Before Thanksgiving I put together some blocks that I had used as demos in some of the classes I taught last fall. I had deliberately chosen a color palette that I knew I wanted to use later for these demos–kinda getting a two for one deal.

Beginning with Blocks – Cindy Grisdela

This is a new color palette for me–less of the brights, but intriguing. I thought it needed a little punch, so I added in some turquoise–you know, to add the spark. I like to use an unexpected color or value to create interest in the composition.

Adding the spark with blue – Cindy Grisdela

And it sat like this for a while. I use these Angled Stripe and Improv Circle blocks a lot in my work, but I wanted to do something different with them–not just the same style I’ve done before. It’s definitely a challenge to work outside my comfort zone, but I feel like it’s necessary so my work doesn’t become stale. By the way, those vertical black lines were markers for a previous project that I didn’t take down before beginning the work on this one.

Opening up the Blocks – Cindy Grisdela

I went back to my Improv Puzzle style compositions–you can read about one of those here–to get some new ideas for where to go, and began by opening up the block with some light values.

I liked this design idea a lot, but the construction was looking quite difficult and I wasn’t sure where to go with it. So it stayed up on the design wall for weeks. I call this is the marination phase–and it has nothing to do with procrastination! I would go to the studio and look at it periodically, but no solution jumped out at me.

After the holidays were over, I decided I either had to do something with the design, or take it down and start over. There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies, Finding Forrester, where the young would-be author is stuck on what to write and his mentor, played by Sean Connery, shouts “Just punch the keys!” in that famous Scottish brogue. The point being that you just have to write–something, anything–to jump start your creative brain. So I just started sewing. Putting scraps together, making blocks, not knowing how they would ever fit together.

But that’s the beauty of improv design for me. I don’t know what it’s going to look like until I’m finished and I have to trust the process. Ask “what if?” over and over and evaluate the results.

Making Progress – Cindy Grisdela

I added some coping strips to make the difficult construction work better and the dam broke–I was able to finally move forward!

Top ready to sew – Cindy Grisdela

The final flimsy top is the featured photo on this post and it ended up being a little different from the image above–I always seem to make changes as I stitch.

I’m considering adding some asymmetrical borders in the light cream fabric, possibly with some striped inserts–I’ll keep you posted!

I will be teaching my Improv Puzzle class at the Enclave Retreat in Leesburg, VA on March 25-29, 2020–click here for more information and to register. It’s a lot of fun!






  1. Sally Harcum Maxwell on January 8, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    I always enjoy reading about your creative progress, Cindy. I like the new palette, especially with the addition of the turquoise. It’s a great addition. Will you be exhibiting this at the Mid-Atlantic?

    • Cindy on January 8, 2020 at 10:32 pm

      Thanks so much Sally–I appreciate it! I don’t think I can get it quilted and photographed in time for the Mid Atlantic, but hopefully it will be done soon.

  2. Heather Pregger on January 11, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    Slumps happen. I had a big one last year. I kept plugging along, and suddenly the spark came back. And now I feel that I’m moving in a slightly different direction. Perhaps the slump was part of my artistic process, forcing me to examine my work and move on.

    Love the palette on this one, by the way. The addition of turquoise is wonderful!

    • Cindy on January 11, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, Heather–I appreciate it!

  3. Phyllis Prideaux on January 14, 2020 at 10:45 pm

    Love this color way! Looking forward to your visit to our guild in April, in New Bern, N.C.

    • Cindy on January 15, 2020 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you Phyllis-I’m looking forward to it too!

  4. Connie Brasier on January 30, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    I love the colors of the new quilt but when I saw it I immediately of the the southwest and Indian lands – the bold colors of late afternoon desert landscapes — the turquoise of course from Indian jewelry- the points of course represent the mountains and the various greens the cactus and other desert plants. (I live in Florida but took a trip to Bryce Canyon, north rim of Grand Canyon a couple of years ago – WOW) Those vistas stay with you once seen! Keep working and creating – I love to see the possibilities you bring to life.

    • Cindy on February 2, 2020 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Connie. I do love the colors of the southwest but I’d never really used them in a quilt before. It’s funny where inspiration comes from!

  5. Sandra on February 2, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Hi Cindy! I love your blog! I was gifted your gorgeous book for Christmas and I love that too! It opened up a lot of possibilities for me as a novice quilter because my brain hurt too much when I tried the traditional blocks ๐Ÿ˜€ I read it from cover to cover and even tried creating some of the blocks in your book. So much fun and so freeing โ™กโ™ก

    Liking your quilt top a lot and the turquoise really livens it up and holds it together, it definitely needed something. It has a restful look about it. Look forward to seeing it finished ๐Ÿ™‚

    South Kilkenny Ireland

    • Cindy on February 4, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      Thank you for your kind words about my work, Sandra! I’m thrilled that you are enjoying Artful Improv too–have fun!

  6. britt on February 3, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    interested in following your textile journey

    • Cindy on February 4, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Thank you very much!