Friday, April 22, 2011

One Step Closer to UnRuly

I finally did it. I ditched the rulers and am making a quilt using only my scissors and rotary cutter (and sewing machine and thread and fabric - did I need to add that?). Woohoo getting more UnRuly all the time. At first I admit it was scary. But now?

Love, love, love it. Very freeing.

There are other quilts and backings and bindings class write-ups that I should be doing. For a few weeks there I froze. Couldn't figure out which one to do, struggled, didn't have enthusiasm for any of them. And as a result did nothing.

Finally broke myself free from the stagnation by rebelling.

I've been wanting to go ruler-free for awhile, but haven't had the courage. Okay, I tried it once on a very small One Patch Quilt - and I even hand-pieced that one. But I didn't push any further.

(Yes, I am a hypocrite. I'm always trying to convince quilters to get liberated, to try the UnRuly Letters and get wonky, and yet here I am trapped inside a box as well. Maybe a bigger box than some folks, but a box all the same.)

You know how I love Anna Williams. I read that first article about her in 1997 and there was a photo of her working with scissors. That was the first time I ever heard of a quilter working that way. I wasn't even tempted to try it back then - waaaay more than I could handle.

I finished this quilt top last spring: Love Anna Williams Style (aka LAWS) inspired by one of Anna's quilts.

but is it truly Anna Williams-style? sigh. Not completely. I used my rulers. I wanted straight lines to sew with, even though I wasn't measuring.

But this time? I'm going all the way, baby! or at least, getting closer...

Okay, I'm still using a rotary cutter, cuz I like it and it's fast, but no rulers, no perfectly straight edges. um, well, that is.. okay I'm not cutting any NEW strips but I am using old strips that were cut perfectly straight. c'mon. I've got lots and lots and lots of fabric already cut. I gotta use it! That's all the solids, hand-dyes and Cherrywoods. Of course I have to wrestle them away from Lily first.

I'm also using shirts. I've got lots and lots of them and for the most part they're not already cut into strips.

I did quite a few joins where I laid two pieces of fabric right-sides up and then cut through them both, with a gentle curve or two, so that they'd match up. That's not how Anna would do it, I'm sure. But it was  a place for me to start where I felt comfortable. I suspect I'm still straightening out too many edges, but I am getting looser as I go along. Baby Steps.

This love block in particular was inspired by Nifty Quilts. She's working on a quilt with 52 virtues (you're all invited to play along and make your own Virtues Quilt.

But Anna and Nifty are not my only inspirations.

The talented Victoria (who blogs as Bumble Beans) made an incredible ruler-free quilt back in 2009. I've learned so much from reading the WaveRunner Tutorial even though it's taken me way too long to try some of the techniques. She shows cutting and sewing wavy UNMATCHED strips (ie, those gentle curves don't curve the same say) and then steam ironing the heck out of them.

It looks so much scarier than it is. Really and truly. In fact, it is way fun. Great place to dip your toes in...

Another fabulous quilter I admire is Sujata of The Root Connection. Last year she made a wonderful quilt with, as she calls them, "bubbles and bumps." Using only scissors, she added and subtracted fabric to create this quilt, very intentionally letting the fabric speak to her and not worrying about flatness. Whee!

But the last straw that finally pushed me over the edge into madness freehand cutting? I discovered Sherri Lynn Wood's blog Daintytime. Whee, another kindred spirit. I've read her whole blog and it pushed me into action. I highly recommend her Mod Mood Quilt Along and in particular the posts about cutting fabric without a ruler, sewing together the puzzle pieces, and curve piecing.

Additionally, I love her Passage Quilting (insert little trademark symbol here) in which she sews (and teaches others to sew) together meaningful clothing items. Very moving. And wow, daring. She goes much farther than just using cottons. (Anything but leather? Wow, that is adventurous.) She has a Mini Passage Quilt Tutorial and it is wonderful. It really inspired me to use the curves of the shirts, instead of just hacking them into straight strips and squares.

So are you all inspired to try freehand cutting and piecing too? 

That is enough for one post. Gotta get ready to watch Fringe... Too bad we're not going to get any more of Anna Torv channeling Leonard Nimoy. She did it fantastically.

Later, gators!


Unknown said...

loooooove Fringe.... <3 you're so right - she killed it!

Diane said...

Oh good, you are having fun and getting stuff done! i WILL check out some of those links when I get a chance. I was told today at the shop that I need to get with the program and check out more cool blogs. Yesterday I discovered Oh Fransson and the Mod Mosaic. (Must_Do!) There are simply not enough hours in a day to a) look at all the cool stuff and b) take time to actually try them out in fabric.

Love Lily in the fabric bin. I usually keep current projects in a basket (or several baskets) and I usually have to move Shorty to get the fabric I want next.

cauchy09 said...

Oh, love love love! That strippy striping really is Anna Williams' style, although she did amazing things with the smallest pieces of fabric.

Also, thanks for the links to great quilters!

Have a great weekend!

Jennifer D said...

Ha Ha ! and here I was just this morning telling myself "Tonya wouldn't use that ruler and even it all up! Don't do it!" but I did anyway ;0)

I always say "What would Ma/Pa Ingall's do?"
I think she would use scissors in this case. ;0)

But... who needs rules? or rulers? or rules against rulers?

Luvs ;0)

Nifty Quilts said...

Awesome post. You're talking about most of my favorite quilt makers too! Did I tell you what happened when I showed up at a class with the Gee's Bend gals? I pulled out my rotary cutter and they said, "What you doin' with that thing, girl? Put that down and get some scissors over here right now!" You'll be all ready for 'em!

sewkalico said...

LOVE your new WIP with the shirts!

Twisted Quilts said...

You certainly gave us all something to think about. Do away with my ruler, hmmmm? I know I cannot do without my rotary cutter but when I think back to watching my grandmother quilt I am sure she didn't have a rotary cutter and probably not a ruler. I do know she cut lots of things including clothing freehand. I need to think some and see if I am ready for all this freedom.

Alice said...

I cut out this quilt with just scissors and I was amazed at how tidy it turned out I have a large pair of dressmakers shears and they were great.

joe tulips said...

Thanks for all the took forever to get through them all! (and that is a good thing)
anyway, I love my straight edge to much to give it up. That doesn't mean I won't try this type of cutting...someday. I am happy just watching you do it!
How did you finish the One Patch Quilt??

joe tulips said...

PS....your first love quilt is "tonya style" and I love it!

Jenny Squawk said...

I've been doing some ruler free cutting lately, too. Love my rotary cutter because of the speed. Warning: If you are ruler free and keep your hand where you'd place it on the ruler, keep the bandaids handy!

Maybe I'm just a klutz. but every time I get a serious wound on my left/ruler hand. Just one injury per project. Have fun and love the wip! I've got enough Sasquatch dress shirts to make some cute girl dressed and some quilts.

Sujata Shah said...


Looks like you are once again being a rebel and loving it!
I found that the scissors were more effective at some point than the rotary cutter. For me, quite peaceful and calming too.
Love the mix of shirting and cherrywoods in your quilt. And that one patch quilt is a treasure!
You have inspired me to get back in the sewing room today!

Victoria Findlay Wolfe said...

Hey TONYA! You took the leap! wahoo! now we can really PLAY! Girl you rock any which way you sew together... besides, Ruler's have their place, for sure. Bu ti love to stay open to PLAY any which way you can... Why not? cut it sew it, cut it again, fabric with fabric makes quilts! yippee! Love that!
I LOVE the red lines in the plaid in your LOVE block... hehe!

Fabulous post, and fabulous inspirational quilters... all of them!

Chris Daly said...

So many great links in this post. Congratulations on going ruler free. I've done it a few times now and it is liberating and a bit scary at first. I love my mom but she raised me to think with geometrical precision.

Rosalyn Manesse said...

Oh you naughty gal--you had me making that no ruler, no rotary cutter a few months ago--and I loved it! I'm so glad to see this "Love" quilt, because right now I'm looking for some inspiration for another "name" quilt with the unruly lettering.

Judy Sommerfield-Fox said...

Love it. Have been dreaming about "freestyle" quilting. I guess I just need to close my eyes and jump!!

Sherri ~ daintytime said...

But aren't you cutting your letter blocks ruler free? I just assumed so because it seems like it would be so much easier than using a ruler. Well I'm glad you finally discovered the freedom (from the ruler)!

Almost 20 years ago Nancy Crow told me in my first quilting workshop ever that you don't need a ruler to piece a quilt, or to cut a straight line and a light bulb went off in my head. Everything was possible.

Quilter Kathy said...

OH my goodness...what a great blog post! Unfortunately I almost got lost in blogland with all the fabulous links...managed to resurface an hour later!! LOL! Thank you for the fun and inspiring time!

jovaliquilts said...

Wow, I am so impressed! The quilt is awesome and it's just amazing that you keep finding more boundaries to push.
And the LAWS acronym -- great! In actually using her style, you are LAW-less (unruly), a great paradox. :)

sewprimitive karen said...

Hi, Tonya! Is your freehand Baptist Fan tutorial gone? There's a link on Bonnie's info but it doesn't work and nothing comes up on your blog when I search "baptist". I have a little quilt here that I want to do Baptist Fan on but I want to just do it, not mark.

sewprimitive karen said...

Found it :-).

Kim said...

Oh wow...I'm back after hours and hours of looking at your continue to inspire me Tonya and I love that you give shout outs to those folks who make your heart soar at the machine.
Aren't we lucky to all be connected this way?

Happy Sewing

Quilts And Pieces said...

Glad to see Lily is protecting that fabric!

Amanda Jean said...

your scrap baskets are making me swoon! so so pretty!

The English Teacher said...

Any time I get to do something without a pattern is good by me!
Looks like you're having a great time with this, and your stuff's as cute as ever, so have more fun with it and carry on!

Lynda said...

There's a fine line between 'unruly' and 'puckered dome of Saint Paul's cathedral', and I think straight edges (or deliberately wavy ones) are required for a flat quilt. Have fun!

Meredith said...

I am so glad you what works for you. Everytime I see the Love it makes me think of Philadelphia. :)