Susanne Woods, founder and publisher at Lucky Spool Media, compiled the Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making as an all-inclusive guide. Through the book’s 10 workshop chapters, expert quilters teach you modern quilt-making design principles, providing support as you practice a variety of quilting techniques and concepts. Including in this informative guide are 16 new quilt patterns. Susanne and Lucky Spool are sharing excerpts from the Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making in a weekly series at Sew Mama Sew.

Learn more about the book and find the first excerpt on Principles of Color here. The second excerpt from Alissa Haight Carlton covers straight-line quilting, and the third excerpt from expert Dan Rouse focuses on working with prints. In the fourth workshop Denyse Schmidt helps you with improvisational patchwork and the element of time.

Denyse Schmidt hardly needs an introduction. Most of us know Denyse for her early exploration of color, composition and improvisational patchwork after her graduation from RISD. She is a published author, a pattern designer and has a series of beautiful fabric lines, past and present. Her workshops consistently sell out, and inspire sewists from around the world.

Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making excerpts:

Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making brings an authoritative voice from modern quilting leaders, putting their expertise in your hands for access and success any time!

Goals of the Workshop: Improvisational Patchwork, The Element of Time

The fourth workshop in Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making begins to explore specific techniques. A consistent piecing technique in many modern quilts is the use of improvisational patchwork. Denyse has long been teaching workshops on how to encourage students to let go of their learned habits and preconceived ideas about patchwork. Here she shares why the element of time is such an important part of her workshops.

In any exercise or design problem, the setting of parameters is essential. In improvisational patchwork, time is a significant parameter. Sewing a quilt is a huge investment of time and energy, and this knowledge often triggers a strong desire for control in order to guarantee good (or familiar) results. The desire for predictable results is at odds with the nature of exploration and discovery, and of being in the moment. As a consequence, it’s easy to get mired in over thinking. Here’s where you need to let go. Use the element of time to stay focused on making and creating, not thinking or planning. The more you create, the more you have something to work with— to look at and respond to.

I give my students just twenty to thirty minutes to finish their first block (and less time for subsequent blocks). Set the time and simply dive in— there is no time to worry about the results. This timing exercise is about clearing the mental clutter of “it needs to look like this,” and instead allows you to make discoveries and combinations you wouldn’t have tried otherwise. In this way, you work toward discovering your own voice.

Our most inspired ideas usually come in the process of making. It’s similar to writing exercises: writing quickly and giving yourself permission to write badly. Usually in that rotten first draft (before the self-editor/critic pops up) there is the germ of an idea or a phrase that loosens up all the muscles and gets you writing. I am a big believer in learning viscerally. You can read about all kinds of theories and ideas, but until you actually make something, and see the work come through your hands, I don’t think we ever really understand it, not on a gut level.

All photos in this excerpt © Gale Zucker Photography.

Lucky Spool’s Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making compiled by Susanne Woods (192 pages, $28.95, published in 2014 by Lucky Spool Media, LLC) has lots more information on improvisational patchwork, plus many other great workshops.