Monday 2 March 2015

Improvisation my way

As a reward for making good progress with my City & Guilds work, I allowed myself to have a little play in the last few days. There were a few ideas in my head for a while, knocking to be let out. So on Friday and Saturday I gave myself permission to ignore the "must-do" and pay attention to "see-if-I-can-do"...

Many people are a bit afraid to use improvisation in quilt making (or improv for short), but there is no reason to be fearful. Improvisation can look completely random, but it usually isn't as much random as it seems. If you make sure your edges are straight, you can make your seams lie flat. And before you sew pieces together you can often lay out what you're planning to do, so you get an idea if it will work. And what if it doesn't work? Cut it up and play some more!
For me, improvisation is "making it up as I go along". Grabbing some fabrics and a vague starting idea and seeing where I end up. In other words free play with fabric. Nothing better!!

On Friday I played with some very simple blocks, four patches and nine patches. I chose two fabrics (blue and cream) and started cutting.

For the nine patches I cut squares at 8½”(the width of my ruler). Layering two contrasting squares together I made two random cuts across at a slight angle.

The middle fabrics were swapped and the three strips of each block sewn together. Then this was repeated, this time cutting through both joined squares perpendicular to the first cuts.

I ended up with four nine patches and in similar way made 14 four patches - I lost count at one stage, and made more than I intended... Then I laid them out to decide a composition in which I was going to put them together. I decided to have four nine patches in a square layout with four patch corner stones.

Then I played around a bit with backgrounds:

Cream seemed too traditional and a bit boring...

Mauve (if that's the right description of this purple-y colour) did nothing for the blue.

This lime seemed too strong.

Pale blue seemed very classy, but a bit dull...

Then, by happy accident:

The pale blue was only a fat quarter, not quite enough to spread the blocks onto properly, but enough to use if it was chosen to be cut up. So there was a good border of the lime still visible around the pale blue when I was auditioning. Much better!

To bring some of the lime into the centre of the piece, I decided to trim the centre four patch and  border it with a little lime:

 This piece is now 23" square:

I'm not yet sure what this will be used for, it may be left as it is and finished as a mini. On the other hand, I may have another play session to see if I can make it bigger without losing its coherence... After all, there are five four-patches left over...

This piece used improvised nine patches and four patches, however, the blocks were square at the end, and the sashings were cut to fit.

Some people might not call this improvisation at all since it looks rather "normal", but it was "made up as I went along". That is improvisation my way...  a personal way of making, without a preconceived idea of what you're going to end up with. Which is what I think improvisation is all about.

Of course I didn't stop here, once the genie was out of the bottle I couldn't put it back in! Next time a more modern improvisation...


Linking up with:

Fresh Sewing Day
Sew Fresh Quilts
Needle and Thread Thursday


  1. I love that little wonky cornerstone in the middle.

  2. What a great way to describe improv. To go create without a plan, but still use general guidelines. Looks like a fun project.

  3. Sure looks like a heap of fun to do!
    Lovely experiementing!!!
    esthersipatchandquilt at yahoo dot com

  4. Improv is amazingly fun! I love seeing what others are up too! Yep, if you don't like it just cut it up and use it or not! Its always a little exciting to get that idea started and see where it leads! Very well done! I can't wait to see where yu end up on this!

  5. You have a good eye for the colours that work together and I love the style of this improv piece. Keeping a traditional look is not a bad thing. You have a great talent!

  6. Oh! My goodness Sandra! Your happy accident looks wonderful! That's definitely improv with a great outcome. hope you let the genie out of the bottle fairly often.


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