Just Listen + Hey Mr. DJ Pattern Release

This quilt top was a long time coming, somewhere in between Coachella, Lilith Fair, and Big Day Out. I originally created the Hey Mr. DJ block pattern last year, and went on to create my Hey Mr. DJ mini quilt. But like a good DJ, this pattern had another record to spin. The original quilt was quite constrained in palette and design, using a selection of Carolyn Friedlander fabrics and Kona White, with the four blocks set on the grid. I remember at the time someone even saying something to me along the lines [and I paraphrase], “Your quilts are always so recognisable with all that white background.” Two side eyes and pursed lips later, I knew an epic remix was needed.

Hey Mr. DJ Block Pattern

I wanted to take this block to a place that was completely different than the original. As I started thinking about everything I wanted it to be, I knew I had to set some design parameters early on. First, no white, especially no Kona White. If there is one thing I do not want to be, it is predictable! That got me thinking about solids though, in that they still provided the contrast I feel this block needs. I decided to use a bold colour scheme in contrast to the original mini quilt. It’s rainbow, but each of the colours has a 50s Cubano vibe about it. It’s bright, but not cliche bright, if that makes sense to anyone but me.

For the inside of the headband and ear cups, I used a Friedlander Crosshatch in Charcoal as a subtle reference to the original quilt. That middle transition piece was the hardest fabric audition, with nearly every piece pulled from my stash. In the end, I selected a tone on tone grey silver from one of the Cotton + Steel collections. It has these dime-sized, reflective circles scattered throughout, which to me suggest highlights of a metallic reflective band.

My other design challenge was to leave the square blocks intact since they represented the pattern, but also making them feel like they transitioned from one to another throughout the quilt. There was to be no grid in this quilt, which instantly led me down the thought process of improvisational piecing. I rarely (if ever?) have seen paper piecing combined with improv: it seems like they would be at such odds with each other. However, that made me even more excited about mixing these two techniques in an effort to see what madness I could make of it. Challenge accepted!

The more I worked with transitioning these blocks from one to another, the more I started to see sound. There’s actually a really interesting phenomenon called synesthesia that speaks to this. I’m not claiming I have this ability (Mr. Sparkles rightly tells me I’m tone deaf all the time)! But when creating these blocks, my improv brain was imagining ways that sound could be represented through shapes and colour, all the while creating a unified movement throughout the quilt.

After all of the Hey Mr. DJ blocks were finished, I just started making little improv sketches with varying combinations of solid fabrics. I started with simple shapes like checkerboards, and soon moved on to tiny stripes, interlocking weaves, and complete scraptacular surprises. I played a lot (and nearly died) from curve frustration. In doing so I also discovered a marbling technique that I’m quite keen to revisit. One thing always leads to another, now doesn’t it? Another thing I learned about working with improv curves (rather, improv as a whole) is you never quite know what you’re going to get!

The title “Just Listen” was born about half-way through piecing the quilt top. I knew approximately where I wanted each block to be positioned in the quilt, but how they were ultimately to be connected was shrouded in mystery. Then I started to relax, thus creating with impulse and instinct. I knew if I was spending too much time thinking about any particular section, rather than actioning it, I had to just listen to myself and the quilt. Listen, create, connect. Listen, create, connect.

And so I did, until nearly the entire quilt was one. That’s when I realised how metaphorical this idea could be. Just listen: stop shouting over each other, and listen. Empathy, positive intent, connection. That’s the journey that this quilt wants to inspire. We all wear headphones of our own desire (political, moral, spiritual beliefs), but it’s the ability to connect to others around us despite these, that will truly make us a grand symphony of love.

You can purchase the Hey Mr. DJ block pattern below.

Hey Mr. DJ Block Pattern

15 Responses

  1. Susan Grancio says:

    So much fun to get a peek into your thought/design process! I am learning a lot about more contemporary design reading blogs such as yours. I am playing along with a couple of “improv prompt” series and feel my design sense growing, after nearly 50 years of more convential quilting. @susansquiltstudio

  2. Candy Radford says:

    I love it!

  3. Mia House says:

    This quilt is great. It reminds me of the t-shirt quilt you made for Cody. I wish I was brave enough to improvise. I plot everything out on graph paper. That is more “me” though. I am methodical and so my quilts are too.
    The quilt title reminded me of a book by Sarah Dessen. If you are ever in the need for some adolescent girl fiction, here you go:

  4. Your words “listen, empathy and connection, they strike a note that we should all hear, every day.Love your quilt, the design, the making, and all else. Have a wonderful weekend, may the sun shine, the blossoms bloom, and all else give you much happiness.

  5. Katie says:

    Very interesting post. Love your quilt! I have a version of synesthesia. My DH was amazed when I said of course numbers and words have colors! I only found out about 15 years ago that it had a label and not everyone sees what I see in my head. Hmmmm. Maybe I should parlay that into a quilt design. BTW “Molli” is black and white and “Sparkles” is blue. 😉

  6. There is much to love about this quilt and I think you did an excellent job. I also find the ear trumpet (orange elongated shape in the centre) to be a humourous addition.

  7. Afton says:

    Your transitions take this piece from a set of cool blocks to a truly fascinating piece. Have you heard of Amy Friend’s most recent book (http://duringquiettime.com/improv-paper-piecing-book)? I don’t have it yet, but it plays with the intriguing combination of paper-piecing and improv too.

  8. Susan the Farm Quilter says:

    Cool quilt! The “block” in the lower right (as I’m looking at it) looks like a profile shot of a head!! Love the colors you chose, the unexpected megaphone, ear trumpet and other shapes that came out of your improv piecing! So, how is this beauty going to be quilted?

  9. Dorothy says:

    Love it and ditto for what Jean said

  10. Jane Reiter says:

    LOVE this pattern–so cool!!!! Thanks for sharing, jane 🙂

  11. Kathleen says:

    Way cool!

  12. Brenda says:

    This reminds me of your brother’s t-shirt quilt. Once you’ve pieced the blocks/cut the shirt/fabric/whatever, there is no reason at all to not improvise to your heart’s content. A success!

  13. Kelly says:

    This one is really great. I really feel more orderly with blocks myself but i love how you easily you improvised connecting the colours between I wonder if you can get a gamer mic in that pattern. Lol it’s all I see on my older sons head. These headphones or the gamer headphones. This quilt is much more suited to a Mqg show.. thanks for sharing this technique or experience.

  14. Lucinda Jones says:

    This quilt rocks with originality !
    I love how you took your blocks and made them no longer boring squares

  15. rebecca says:

    My absolute fave of your creations thus far!! LOVE!

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