Poetry and Freehand Strip Piecing

It is always fun to try something new!  In this post, I describe using words for design inspiration AND cutting without rulers.

This month, I taught a live workshop in the Modern Improv Quilt Academy where we used poetry as an inspiration for creating our designs.

I was really blown away by the creativity that flowed in the group.  This is a process that I will definitely incorporate into future workshops in 2023 (I have a new idea already in mind…deets will be announced soon).

Meanwhile…. in this workshop, for my inspiration, I used a Robert Frost poem titled October that you can find here.

Design Inspiration

Notes and a copy of the poem in my journal.

I decided to take a more minimalist approach to making this small artquilt.  From the poem, the group and I extracted these shapes and made notes in my journal:

  • Lines (tree trunks, branches, stone wall, horizon)
  • Leaf shapes
  • Circles (sun and fruit)
  • rectangles (bricks or stones)

I decided to focus on horizontal lines and divide the piece into three sections: sky, light grassy ground and dark leaf covered ground.

The poem mentions stillness and gentleness so I decided to cut my strips organically.  Usually, I cut with rotary cutter and RULERS to create sharp edges.  That did not feel quite compatible so, I put my rulers aside.  It took a few tries to get comfortable using just a rotary cutter.  I can’t do much cutting with scissors because of mild arthritis.

Maywood Gelato Ombres

I chose Maywood Gelato Ombres for my fabric.  I pulled several shades of blues, yellows, yellow greens, oranges and even an orange to purple fabric. I added a bit of a brighter blue and a brighter yellow for part of the sun and sky.

Although the poem is about daytime, I went with mostly the shaded values rather than tints (brights).  So this is a more muted palette than I typically use.

Note: I am a Maywood Studio Ambassador for 2022.  However, these fabrics came from my stash and were not provided by Maywood Studios. I purchase most of my Gelato Ombres from small online shops on Etsy or equilter.com

I cut every strip freehand.   I did not use templates or any sketching.  I cut and pieced small components completely improvisationally,  building each section strip by strip.

Here are some of the leftover strips and components, including trimmings from squaring up the final piece.  I will definitely make another abstract improv piece with these luscious leftovers!

Maywood Gelato fabric. Strips and components and leftover trimmings.

October MidDay #1

Here is the finished piece.  I titled it October MidDay #1.  It will finish at 12 x 14 inches.

I decided that I will not add any quilting because it will be either mounted on canvas or matted/ready for framing. I think it is complete as is.

The final palette is much more muted than my usual BRIGHTS!  I noticed that I felt energized in a different way as I made this piece.

Note that even the Sun is made up of strips so it is all organic lines.    (I added my name to the image–it is not on the piece.)


And, I used the Smartist iPhone app to stage it in a room setting.  The image below is how it would look in a mat and frame.  Pretty cool! This is one of several works that will be available for sale on my website after January 1, 2023.

Staged using the Smartist phone app. (I added my name to the image–it is not on the piece.)


11 thoughts on “Poetry and Freehand Strip Piecing”

  1. Thank you for the inspiration and the process. My favorite poem is Langston Hughes “Life ain’t no crystal stair”. I have to give it a life in fabric.

    1. Jackie, My middle daughter recited this poem and won a prize at school. This sounds like a great idea for his poem.

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