Tempo Rubato


I think by now you may have noticed that I took a couple of improv classes from Sherri Lynn Wood at QuiltCon 2013. Those classes and QuiltCon really pushed my quilting boundaries and I have been experimenting more and more with improvisation. So, when Sherri Lynn put out a call for testers for her new book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, I signed up. On nearly the last day, but I signed up.

Each tester was assigned a “score” and we were asked to keep up our projects to ourselves and off social media. We had a forum for questions but we couldn’t share or collaborate. Until now!

My assigned score was “Rhythmic Grid” which Sherri described as a “…method of creating rhythm while introducing the improv patchwork technique of approximate measurement.” Okie Dokie. Let’s see how this turns out.


I built Tempo Rubato row by row and added blocks to the rows using the approximate measurement technique. Approximate measurement is basically lining up the seam lines and free cutting the pieces without measuring or using a ruler. Of course it is impossible to get perfect matches but that is the joy of free cutting.


To finish the quilt, Sherri Lynn’s direction was to add borders which related in some way to the center of the quilt. I attempted to achieve a transparency effect of the orange and blue on top of the gray. The orange worked better than the blue, I think. Definitely need to try transparency again.


I used the walking foot and serpentine stitch in parallel vertical lines. My very first matched binding attempt was inspired by a lecture Debbie of A Quilters’s Table did at the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild. The matches are not perfect and they are very much like the improvisational piecing. I like the way the the zig zag line at the bottom left is orange from edge to edge.


Quilt Stats

  • Title: Tempo Rubato
  • Size: 40 inches wide x 44 inches long
  • Completely free-cut. No rulers were harmed in the making of this quilt top
  • Quilted with Bernina 440 Stitch 4
  • Quilting thread:  Superior Threads So Fine! Color 503
  • Tempo Rubato is probably my furthest traveled quilt. Hand sewing the binding was done on the plane to Hawaii
  •  Exhibits
    • Seattle Modern Quilt Guild at 2014 Northwest Quilting Expo (Portland, OR)
    • Seattle Modern Quilt Guild My MODERN Exhibit at Island Quilter, Vashon Island, WA, January 2015


And, why “Tempo Rubato“? Sherri Lynn wanted us to play with the rhythm of the blocks and “…break out of typical straight set grid….” My interpretation was to stretch and compress the zig zagging line. The musical term tempo rubato refers to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo. A pretty perfect term for what I tried to achieve.

13 thoughts on “Tempo Rubato

    • Thanks, Debbie. The project certainly felt like jumping off a cliff at first, especially with no one to talk to about it. Your talk at guild was at exactly the right time. I did the binding right afterwards

    • Thanks, Debbie! It was a challenge, like a puzzle to sort out. With only the written description of the score, I didn’t know if I was off the rails or not which was strangely reassuring. It’s fun when there is no “wrong” way :^)

  1. Thanks for sharing your quilt. I did the rhythmic grid, also, and found the process interesting. I like your quilt the best of all the rhythmic grid quilts I have seen so far. I especially like the way you solved taking the grid into the borders and binding. (And in my humble opinion, you can never go wrong with oranges and blues!)

    • Thanks, Marla! I’d love to see how figured out the rhythmic grid puzzle. And, as you said, orange and blue is a winning combo. I remember a particularly lovely orange and blue quilt at QuiltCon….oh, wait! That’s yours! 😊😉

  2. Thank you for your kind words! I’d be happy to send photos of my quilt “Grid-like” if I had a way to contact you. Can you see my email address? (This quilt may feature some oranges and blues, too.)

  3. Pingback: Improv Handbook Test Quilters | daintytime ~ Sherri Lynn Wood

    • Thanks, Lorna. I have to admit that I resorted to the serpentine stitch as a last minute, gotta get it done, how I am going to quilt it solution. It has since become one of my favorite stitches. Anything I can do with my walking foot is OK with me!

  4. Great quilt design, and I love your blog name! I just came over from Yvonne’s at Quilting Jetgirl, and it was your name that pulled me over! Hope you enjoy the New Quilt Blogger’s Hop, I found it very useful last year.

    • Sally – Are you a fellow techy, geeky girl? I’m learning so much in the New Quilt Blogger’s group. It’s an avalanche of information. I’m off to check out your blog, too.

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