Perseverance Pays Off


Improvisational Art Quilt by April Sproule.

Creating a Great Foundation

  Once again my stubbornness towards giving up has paid off, but this time it came as a complete surprise to me.

   I really struggled with the making of this piece. It was started in a class on improvisational piecing, and there were many aspects of the piece I was very unhappy with. I didn’t like the color, or the composition, and it was lacking in other ways as well. But I toughed it out, finished the piece, and now I am so glad I did.

   The thing that bothered me the most was the piece looked cold and hard. The red was a very cool red, and we were only supposed to use 2 colors for this exercise. So, in an attempt to vary the palette a bit and add subtle interest I added in 3 more colors: a creamy beige in the background along with gray and black in the foreground. This gave me a gradation of 5 colors which I found much more acceptable.

   The point I wanted to share with you was the fact that in combining that beige with the white in the background it added an element to the background that helped pull everything else together. I loved this!

   Now I am in the process of starting 3 new class samples, so I decided to try the same idea used in the background with my hand stitched mixed media textiles. I am calling these backgrounds my "Foundations" because I will use them to build my stitched images on.

 I am using mostly vintage linens with some silks in neutral colors thrown in. The first piece below is 14" x 18".

Rust Dyed Linen background by April Sproule.

   Some of the linens have been rust dyed. I basically just baste the strips down to the silk organza. The fabric overlaps about 3/8". Then I hand stitch them down with an overcast stitch.

Closeup of piecing linen and silk by April Sproule.
Here is a closeup of the piece above.
 Below are a couple of 12" squares that I pieced.Hand stitched vintage linen foundation by April Sproule.
  Hand pieced linen and silk by April Sproule. 
   These pieces will all be hand appliqued and embroidered. I can't wait to get started. I only have general ideas of what I want to do with each, so I am curious to see what they want to be. If I hadn't finished that problem piece, I never would have tried this out. So my perseverance really did pay off in a great way.

The most valuable lesson I have learned when it comes to creativity is to just step back, get out of my own way, and let the ideas flow.




  • First of all – I appreciate your honesty and I REALLY like the finished piece! Secondly, I also appreciate you taking personal control of what this piece felt like to you! I’ve taken many classes where there are “limits” and that bugs the heck out me! Don’t tell me I can only use two colors! I want to use the colors that my head sees in this thing! :-) I often (and hopefully, respectfully) take the instruction and allow myself to interpret some parts as I feel them; confident instructors will encourage this and call it “experimentation” – and they accept individuality. Good for you for adding colors that made it work for you! We should all be encouraged to allow our instincts to step up in these circumstances…your learning went well beyond the original class purpose! Yes!

    Jane Jones
  • I recently struggled with a piece of improvisational piecing and put it away (off the design wall) for a month or more. When it came out of hiding, I did as you, and gave myself permission to contradict the teacher’s directions. Instinct and experience paid off and now I LOVE the piece.

    Martha Haynes

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