This man
She's 7

Saturday Afternoon

So, on Saturday, I went to Denyse Schmidt's studio for a workshop.  Yes, I did.  That was really my birthday present, the rest of the trip was like icing on the cake.  I took the train from NYC to Fairfield, CT, where my friend Cynthia (hi Cynthia!) picked me up.   We had a quick hour or so to visit before she drove me to Bridgeport where Denyse's studio and business are located.  I arrived a few minutes early, set out my cutting mat, rotary cutter, scissors and thread and chatted with the other ladies who were there for the class.  It was an amazing group of woman - all but one of the eleven had traveled to be there.  And after quick introductions all the way around, Denyse explained to us what we were going to do.  It was all about improvisational piecing, the fabrics being chosen by chance.  If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I like to have control.  I think and over-think when I am sewing far too often.  This was just the type of exercise I needed.


My first block started with a peach colored, small scale polka dot and a burgundy solid.  Not really my colors, but I was going with the flow.  I then drew out a small bit of orange followed by a gold batik.  I was happy with it - they were all in the same color family - until I that blue, black and white print came out of the bag.  I did not like it, not one bit.  But I used it because I had to.  There was not throwing anything back.


This is what I ended up with.  Not too bad for the first go-round.  I would have added more of the blue and black print had there been enough time.


This shows everyone's first round squares.  When I saw them up on the flannel wall, I was amazed at how they looked together.  What I noticed looking at my square on the wall and not flat in front of me was that it was very, very log cabin-ish.  There isn't anything wrong with that - I like making log cabins.  But the problem was that I like making log cabins.  I was there to challenge myself and to learn something new.


My second square was not log cabin in style at all. (It's the one over on the left, all by itself).  I didn't realize it until it was finished, but the first fabric I pulled was on one end of the block and not in the middle.  I liked this square a lot.  It was very different from what I did on the first round.


We then set out to make four to six blocks with the fabric we brought as a constant.  I brought the green/white/brown print.  It was interesting to see how everything changed when choice was added to the process.  I had never thought about this before.  That extra decision made a big difference.  It was a bit freeing for me - I knew that all the blocks I made would be cohesive in some way.  At the same time, however, I found myself starting to over-think a bit, worrying that the prints I was pulling would take away from the entire piece.  I realized that if I went with my first instinct and kept moving at a fast pace, the over-thinking fell to the side and I just focused on creating.  And in the end, I was very happy with what I created.  With my six blocks, I have the beginnings of something bigger.  I'm pumped up to put it all together and keep sewing.


I left there completely inspired.  Denyse is an talented artist and a wonderful teacher.  Her insight into the finished blocks was poignant and she was so enthusiastic about our work.  Her friend, Richard, who helped out the entire day, was great, too.  I really enjoyed meeting the other women in the class, talking to them and seeing what they made.  It was remarkable to see eleven different blocks, made by eleven different people, each with its own point of view, that looked so cohesive when grouped together.


Denyse has workshops a few times a year.  If you are in the area, or can get yourself there, go.  It was amazing for me.  I left feeling inspired and invigorated, ready to create.  I can't imagine that you all wouldn't like it, too.




Congratulations on your day of play!


Wow, what fun! Thanks for sharing, it is an inspirational workshop even though I wasn't there. I'm going to try to work on something this week without over thinking it for a change.


Those squares look beautiful. It's good to just play and improvise for a change of pace. When I studied dance in college, I liked to take improv classes to just go with the flow. You never knew what you would come up with, but it was always fun.


Wow - that looks really fun!


Wow Erin! What a fabulous thing to get to be a part of! I love what you ended up with!


oh my goodness, erin! I'm inspired just reading about the process and looking at your pictures. I can't imagine how fun and inspiring it must have been! yay for you!


Congrats on being random!! I see so many cool quilts etc., but I need to have order and everything equal so I have yet to make a "crazy quilt".
Also what an awesome b-day present!!!


What an amazing birthday present to yourself. That's just the sort of thing that should set you off on the right creative foot for the year to come. Happy belated and thanks for sharing this experience with us.

Meg Evans

Amazing! I was wondering why CT was on your itinerary (NYC alone for a weekend would be so awesome), and this is so cool! I love the exercises, and thanks so much for giving us a recap--it makes me want to do crazy things with my stash! Can't wait to see how you continue with it.


too amazing.


WOW - I love the blocks you showed us and am eager to see more.

Mama Urchin

Sounds wonderful!


What an incredible opportunity Erin. Looks like you had an amazing weekend. Thanks for sharing your photos (those colours!) and the insight into your process.


Wow. That is just so cool. :) It sounds like you learned to get outside your box a little bit. I love working that way, it is so freeing, isnt it? There's so much thinking involved with graphic design that I love to just be able to make without worrying so much.

Sarah Jackson

How amazing! As you know, I have that same, ahem, control issue. A class like that would be so so good. Maybe someday. I'm thrilled that your wonderful family gave you the opportunity to go.


Wow, I didn't even know she does workshops! That's so cool that you got to go. What a great birthday present.


you are one lucky duck! how fun would that class be??? I can only imagine!

I can identify with your process....of making log cabins vs. something a little bit more unpredictable. thanks for writing about your process and experience. I'm so inspired by just reading your post!!!


Lucky you! I've wanted to do that ever since I learned about her workshops, but CT is fairly far away from WA!... I'm glad you had such a wonderful, invigorating time.


I am so jealous! Thanks for bringing some of Denyse's workshop to us as well.
I love random fabrics. It is amazing how those we would never use, usually make the quilt beautiful.

melissa s.

i just sent the workshop link to my husband with a big HINT HINT in the subject line. you lucky, lucky girl!!!!


Oh my goodness, amazing, Erin! What a fantastic experience!


oh you really are a lucky lucky girl!


Thanks for sharing, loosing or having no control on fabric choice sets free some great quilt ideas. I 'll give it a try:)


so awesome erin! what an amazing experience to be challenged like that to get out of your typical style. i know the finished quilt will be beautiful!

Anna Willett

i am so jealous of you!! what an amazing experience. i wanna go!!!


so cool- thanks for sharing this part of your weekend. From now on I will live vicariously through you! :)


Sounds like an amazing experience. What a wonderful birthday present.


Wow, Erin, that sounds like an amazing experience! Good for you :)


wow, what a great birthday present! looked I like it was a lot of fun. :]

katie r

How fun! and beautiful! Glad you had a great trip.


A very good day - what a fab birthday present!


I love the look of everyone's work up on the wall ...what a great way for you to spend a weekend! Am envious of the east coast, CT, NY, solo creative, and Miller family time you got! -it all sounds so perfect.


Amazing. So cool to have evolution occur like that.


Thanks for sharing with sounds like a fascinating class!


That's just so cool! What a fun trip for you - and thanks for sharing!


Wow! That looks like so much fun. Denyse Schmidt's quilts are what inspired me to start quilting. I never thought of taking a workshop with her, but now it will be on my mind :) Great work!


Looks and sounds like lots of fun!

miss chris

Just echoing what everyone else has said here... how cool is it that you went to her workshop! I think I would have similar issues with control, even though I have read about this process and think it would be fun to try....


Not being a quilter myself, I can only imagine how special it was to spend time with Denyse in her workshop. I look forward to seeing the rewards of your day in future posts. What a wonderfully special gift. Blessings all around!


Wow! That's a great day!


oooh thank you for sharing this! I'm so inspired to do something like this. I love the style. The first thing that popped in my head was IT's so Gee's Bend-ish-like. Next year it will be on my list of things to do!


*Spits the dummy* OK I want a husband who buys me workshops with Denyse dam Schmidt. *sulks*

amy h

What fun! I think things with a little bit of randomness to them get you thinking more creatively than completely planning something out. It takes creativity to make something unexpected work, and the results are usually great.


If you are a person inclined to over-thinking and analyzing and order, it really takes courage to step beyond that even for an afternoon workshop. I am projecting of course, but I still thank you for sharing this story. I have never done anything creative in a speedy fashion and I do believe it hinders my true potential and blocks avenues of expression I don't even know are within.


i love the idea of challenging yourself to step outside of your box.
..... listening to denyse, and her creative mind must have been amazing.


I'm totally jealous!!! What a great trip and thank you so much for sharing. I can't get enough of looking at DS inpsired projects. Love it!


sounds amazing. happy birthday to you!


What a wonderful experience! There's nothing better than to be around other creative people and an awesome teacher. Lucky you!

theresa/t does wool

aren't they fun...and inspiring...workshops...I love's been 2 years...but now I need to go again...glad you had fun!


what a wonderful day erin, and thanks for sharing your experience! i'm glad to know i'm not the only one who over-analyzes everything; it is something that ends up being absolutely paralyzing for me. good for you for pushing through it--those blocks are amazing!

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