Wednesday, 17 February 2021

improv 101

Hello hello. I've been so tempted to give improv another try again after seeing a few projects out there in the blogging world - in particular from Kaja from 'sewslowly' and Audrey from 'quiltyfolk'. It's something I really struggle with, but I still keep coming back for another go.

I started out with a hand pieced quilt block given to me by my daughter a few years ago which I've been keen to incorporate into a quilt top somewhere. If you look closely, you can see it's perfectly imperfect. The maker didn't fuss with the orientation of her stripe, she just let those triangles in the HST lay as they lay.
And while the background fabric is the same throughout the block, she must have run out of the orangery gingham as there's a small amount of spotty fabric substitute AND several pieces of the gingham have been joined carefully to make up some of the units.

Don't you just love the energy of a plaid, or a stripe, those directional prints which add to the charm and can make all the difference!  "Especially when they go a bit “off”. It’s not a look that everybody loves and I get that, but I love directional prints and how they can “make” something good into something extraordinary" Roberta Horton.

Anyway, after some faffing around, I settled on making my version of the make-do quilt pictured below, from Roderick Kiracofe's book 'Unconventional & Unexpected'. It's got a very scrappy, very utilitarian sort of look that has always appealed to me!

- from Roderick Kiracofe's book, "Unconventional & Unexpected" pg. 67 {see here}

I wasn't too sure just where to begin with this actually! I ran off a photocopy of the quilt pic and sectioned it off into long strips and studied it for a bit.  And then, eager to start, I pulled out a little fabric pile I had put aside some time ago and just jumped right in, beginning with the bottom right hand corner section with my vintage block.

But it's not as easy as one might think... the maths, getting the colours to flow from one row to the other, achieving that all important contrast in value. 
And, if you stop by here often you may also notice I'm using a few more solids and tone-on-tone fabrics than I usually do. Another thing I find tricky!

Hm-m-m- so not feeling the love at. all.

After the weekend of struggling with this, I had a conversation with Audrey, many thanks for your advice 👍. 
It's now looking more like how I imagined, after swopping out a few fabrics. I didn't want to completely replicate the original 1975 version, mine seems a bit more colour coordinated but it still has a few rogue surprise additions too! 

Each time I come into the sewing room though, I move a bit, add a bit, discard a bit - it's a little like doing a jigsaw puzzle! 

- checking the values out

At the moment I'm still deliberating between the light beige print 
{see pic below} or maybe a dark brown print for that long strip down the centre 
When you pop back next time {wink wink} you may find I've changed things around yet again,
but here's where I'm at today . . . 

. . . and there's still lots more coin & rectangle segments to come
Until next time, Linda


  1. I keep trying improv but I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m just not satisfied with what I make. My creations have been so bad I have thrown some away. You seem to be getting as handle on this technique. Keep up the good work.

  2. This is really coming together well--I love that "Ghastlie Garden" print in there--it really adds a lot of movement... I agree that Improv is not all that easy as the finished products end up looking . Keep at it, it's really looking good...hugs, Julierose

  3. I enjoyed watching Audrey put something like this together and now you're working on a total improv, too. I am in awe of this way of working. What fun you are having.

  4. I've said for years that working without a pattern is infinitely harder than following someone else's directions. Every tiny decision impacts the next move, over and over and over and over and over again - which is why your head is feeling so exhausted and spun about. Keep going - you're onto something unique and wonderful. But it will not happen quickly and editing is essential. Hang in there!

  5. I think many of us are trying to figure out this improv thing! You're definitely not alone in your endeavors. I've studied Audrey's quilts too, along with several others, trying to work up the courage to start one. Keep on with what you're doing, it's looking really good.

  6. I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long time, but had to comment today to thank you for sharing your adventures in improvisation. Keep it coming!

  7. I know exactly what you mean about improv! The more I learn about it, the more I'm understanding that there are also different types of improv. I understand how you're feeling about this project - it's somewhat brain-taxing, isn't it? But you're doing right to cut and place, and then consider and reconsider before changing things. Improv is a moving target! And you're enjoying target practice. :-)

  8. A very different challenge for you, will be interesting to see what has changed in your next post. Have fun.

  9. How interesting Linda! And were you aware that Roberta Horton, who you quoted here, passed away recently. My friend Elizabeth @occasionalpiecequilt wrote about her recently on her blog. I’ll watch this grow and develop over the coming days.

  10. This is looking exciting Linda, carry on the good work it's coming along beautifully!

  11. Love what you are doing here! I can't wait to see this when you get done fiddling around. It's amazing how much you can transfer the vibe of an improv. quilt over to your own effort yet still come up with something very custom, very YOU all at the same time!


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