Whoopee – You are here to make a lot of mistakes!

or: Celebrating mistakes 

Today’s post is about two workshops I took: „Get your Wedge Curve on“ und „Bias Strip Curves“ with Sherri Lynn Wood.

The Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Gilde offers a bimonthly quilt weekend at Washtenaw Community College. Teachers from all over the country are invited and holding workshops Fridays and Sundays. Saturday is for the guild meeting, show-and-tell, sharing news, come together, donating quilts for the SafeHouse, some small demos, vendors sometimes, a lecture… Some weekends even bring some special events like a garage sale or charity fabric sale.
A lot of reasons not to miss a quilt weekend!

My very first contact with Improv Quilting will be a lasting one. Boy, was I impressed by this new (at least to me) kind of thinking – and way more than only concerning the quilting.

Difficult sewing situations bring up a new feeling for patchworking, fabric and possibilities.

Is that so? Ah!?!?

I kind of felt quite odd attending a class that aims to make the fellow attendees produce as many mistakes as possible??? To learn from them. Why this way? I guess my frustration tolerance level hasn’t reached the American average as yet.

It became even worse when asked about their quilting experience, quite all of the attendees raised their hands at “more than 20 years”, except me. There wasn’t a category “less than 2 years”… Well, I start having the feeling that quilting is a thing babies are taught in their first months of life, like in baby bees, diaper piecing, or toddler quilting groups.

Sherri Lynn Wood

Sherri Lynn Wood in Ann Arbor

Sherri Lynn Wood is an artist from California. Go visit her site daintytime.net and find out some of her amazing projects, I like the one working with all recycled materials. Or find Linda Theil’s presentation for the Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild here. Best of all (for me…) is her book, ‘The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters’. I love that book, because it’s bursting with great ideas, step-by-step instructions and beautiful pictures of her art.

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood

She started quilting at a young age and found her biggest inspiration through an exhibition of African-American quilts. Hearing her saying that, I totally knew what she was talking about. In April 2016, I went to my very first quilt exhibition at the Flint Institute of Arts where I got in contact with African-american quilts for the first time ever. What a zinger! Read this here before you go on with this post, please!

African-American women showed us how, we may follow: IMPROVISATON. Did you read it here? Good, then let’s go on, less politics and psycho-schmycho, more quilting and improv. And Sherri Lynn is a wonderful, humble guide to show you how!

I just try to catch a few thoughts about improvisation:

Do what you want to.

Cherish decisions.

Don’t plan the result but enjoy the process, react, adjust and be creative.

Trust yourself.

Seek uncommon paths. Or find new paths.

Don’t aim at perfection, embrace surprises.

Be brave, take risks (ok, we’re still quilting here, risks may be not so much life-threatening, but anyways, I think you get it right!).

Don’t rely on given patterns.

Listen to your inner voice.


Follow your intuition.

Have the guts.

Strive for serenity and self-confidence.

Celebrate mistakes.

Find your own voice.

Have fun!

I know, I know – I tend to see things through my esoteric-colored glasses, but I really see the link. But I have been hooked since I sat there, my eyes glued to Sherri Lynn’s lips. There’s so much truth in this, and so much motivation and encouragement. I mean, who lives the life he/she planned at graduation? See!?

Sherri Lynn’s message for the day: If you can think it, try it. Get rid of the that’s-just-not-done-(by a girl)-thoughts! Well, yes, might be my pleasure. Off we go. Dare!
Officially, this workshop is about sewing curves…

Sherri Lynn tells us about Gee’s Bend class she took. The teacher gave only one instruction: “Ok, start sewing!” (This being said, Sherri gave way more instructions, don’t worry!)

But relying on the fact that mistakes most often lead to interesting effects, create new ideas and change the direction of your work, makes life, sorry, sewing easier.

First thing she sent us on a journey to ourselves. She centered us with a short meditation, which was super helpful to concentrate and forget the everyday world.

While starting the sewing, she forced us not to plan the finished product. And yep, some of us needed some friendly reminder that we really – that means really!!! – didn’t need a plan. Let loose! And get lost! Only one step at a time! Don’t worry about being wrong. These are your decisions, they don’t need to meet any goal and that’s why they cannot be wrong. This attitude helps a lot. Like: make your enemy a friend. A big bubble right in the middle of the fabric can ease the decision to cut that precious fabric finally into pieces :o).

And so she just made us do! ‚Cut strips and sew them together. Make them (some more, some less) wedge-shaped, and you’ll get nice fans. Repeat after me: No finished result in your head right now, just follow your instinct and watch what is happening. Act, react and be creative. Enjoy the process!‘

Cut wedge-shaped strips

After doing some fans, Sherri Lynn asked us to combine them, play with them. ‚Don’t be afraid of cutting them, there will be a new perspective.‘

… and do!

Well. And so it went on and on, we created, tried, developed ideas, rejected ideas, had more ideas… what a very busy workshop.

Bias Strip Curves…

Workshop? Oh, curves, yes, I signed up hoping to learn how to sew curves, right? And yes, I happened to do so. Sherri Lynn showed us, but more than that: She is a living almanac for all kinds of stupid things that can possibly go wrong. You got stuck, had a bubble, huge darts, sewed together a terrible mess? Go ask Sherri Lynn! She stays calm and helps on while all other attendees join you eagerly at her front desk to hear her solution, too.

That’s how it looks like when Sherri does bias and curves, yes and…

One of her most often cited great proverbs is ‘happiness is a place between too much and too much.’ Seriously, I could not have too much of her workshop. But when it ended, I left the room full of inspiration, motivation and in a very special mood.

And I took another good thing home:
The “Yes, and…”
If you answer your upcoming problems or questions with “yes, and…,” you’ll find a solution. Don’t think “yes, but…,” !
Think about this: There two kinds of similar sounding‚ yeses. Imagine calling a friend to ask to go out for dinner. Do you have friends that reply: “Oh, thank you for calling. Yes, but…” Can you feel it? This ‘but’ will be followed by doubts, concerns, hesitation blablabla. You’ll most probably end up going alone.
What if your friend said “Oh, thank you for calling. Yes, and…?” “…and I know which place we should go to.” “…and we could ask x and y to join us.” “…and we could meet earlier and do some shopping together” and so on and so forth.  Which buddy do you prefer to call?

I decided to be a “yes, and-buddy.” Thank you, Sherri Lynn, for sharing this thought.
Oh, yes, and I am almost good in sewing curves!

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