Before the launch of the new Quilt Improv Studio game, we proposed a poll to quilters interested to participate, in order to decide whether one or more shapes will be used during blue improv repetition challenge. The result was:


Thus, each participant shall decide which shape to use within the quilt.


Since that day, I’m thinking about the meaning of “shape”.

The first understanding of shapes goes back to childhood memories. Primary shapes are squares, rectangles, triangles, circles; many baby toys are made with such shapes, aimed to be inserted within holes, or as fancy buttons that sing varied tunes, or combined with meaningful colors. Our experience returns to these cubic blocks when we, as adults, play with babies on the floor, allowing that cylinders, balls and stars gather on the carpet and roll happily around.

When learning geometry rules at school, we understand that the shapes may be of many more types. Shapes are classified by the number of sides, and their names acquire complexity… who remembers what’s an icosahedron or a dodecahedron? Maybe the gems of the Seven Dwarfs can give an idea? And the irregular rhombus of a kite? And the symbols, the letters and so on? #@&%$! We live in an universe of shapes!

After those scattered experiences, we arrive to the question of today: which shape to use for our quilt?

I’m still thinking of that: I’m searching for the magic shape, that allows me to express the idea floating in my mind. Blue palette is ready, and the fabric I’ve collected is suggesting me a theme. Maybe I will change my mind during the improvisation process, but in this starting phase, I visualize a deep ocean, soft waves, swimming fish… a tropical and calm sea, fat and slim marine creatures, splashing around, like in a day dream… 

Which form can render this?

Can I call a fish “a shape”? How many sides, straight and curved, are required then… if I can manage to sew it at all?

My background as a Math teacher brings me back to practicality: piecing and engineering needs prevail. I’ve decided: I’ll use four sided shapes. One rule, many possibilities for repetition and deformation… perfect for improv!

My list is done: good fabric, simple rules, evocative vision… am I ready to start? How easy is to translate fantasy into something real? The improvisation path is open… A populated ocean is free to evolve, and possibly turn into a sky filled with flying kites!

Let’s join the participants of the  #blueimprovrepetition  game, and you will see how the story goes on.

When I was a child, I was fascinated by kaleidoscopes. I mean, old style kaleidoscopes, made with fragments of colored glass, inserted in a cardboard tube, with mirroring internal walls. The most beautiful ones were quite heavy for my childish hands, and when I rotated the tube, a charming clinking noise captured me. Pointed pebbles trilled like bells, accompanying the formation of shapes inside the pipe: multicolored flowers, fading shapes… bright hues, optical illusions lasting for one second and disappearing while I was trying to give them a name… I spent hours with my eye in the viewfinder!

Today’s kaleidoscopes are made in plastic, they are not as enchanting as the old ones… but I don’t mind: because I found my new kaleidoscope in the world of improv!

I was thinking of this yesterday evening: it’s days that I’m struggling with the quilt top dedicated to our game; I decided to challenge myself with free-form creation, postponing to a later phase the issue of how to unite a series of jagged pieces.  

I create blocks, I place them on the design wall, I displace them trying to harmonize each one with the other parts. If the audition is successful, I take a photo to remember parts positioning, and I immediately try another version. Each trial creates a new design, and the overall perception of the image is recombined every time! It’s like a kaleidoscope: images are fragmented, rotated upside-down, remixed, and in each session I think: “Yes, this is the right shape!”, but it’s not really true, because the following trial opens new possibilities again! Even the pictures taken become quickly obsolete, because something has changed in the meanwhile, some blocks have been cut and sewn in a new fashion, a new order, a new version…

My head becomes populated with a series of images, where my top becomes alive, it shows a smiling face, an elegant bow, a funny grimace, and then disappears, leaving me alone, with the last choice fixed in stone on the wall. 
Is this one in front of me the best possible combination ever? 
I don’t know, probably it’s not the right one, maybe another option (tried twenty changes before) was a better one… but pieces have likely been cut and modified too much: that old revision is now unattainable… 

I don’t know if I expressed my feeling well, but for me, improv is like this: a captivating acrobat that offers kaleidoscopic visions as a gift.

You may say it’s just fabric, just an ordinary attempt to create a beautiful work. You may say that there are hundreds of wonderful patterns (I’ve appreciated and executed plenty of them myself too), patterns which are easier to be followed with their step-by-step instructions. But my reply is that improv can be understood once it has been tried. Trying to play with fabric, to free one’s mind, to follow a dream… the worst result is a piece that needs to be modified, to be readjusted, unless that feeling arrives: the sensation of having reached what was desired. A voice from the heart telling that it’s possible to stop, and to enjoy the result.
I wish all of you to find the kaleidoscope of your dreams, while trying improv!

Venice, Rome, Trieste. This is where each of us is living. A distance of 700 kilometres keeps us apart, we have almost never seen each other in person. Ok, to be honest, Paola and Giovanna met once in Trieste, and we have ideas for visiting Carla in Rome, but such plans have no date yet. Thus, the solution is clear: our common passion travels essentially on-line.   
Distance is not a show-stopper: on the contrary, it sparks our curiosity!
When a conversation on improv does start, it cannot be stopped. We feel like visiting the same sewing room, the virtual studio we have created seems to be working like a real place! Quilt Improv Studio is a departure gate from which many adventures can fly, following the line of a thread.

Improv patchwork is known by a small number of people in Italy: we wish it becomes more widespread around us… and the world is full of improv quilters! 
By comparing information from each of us, we familiarize with new methods, we share notice on quilt artists to be followed, we express our thoughts on approaches to improv… and the geographical distance between us disappears: it doesn’t matter if we’ve not met yet, the bond grows strong!
Two months have passed since the launch of our Orange Summer Challenge: seeing that it reached quilters from distant places in the globe has been a joy and a surprise! 
We feel the charm of experiencing a collaboration really aimed to deepen our knowledge and, when possible, to involve more quilters in improv initiatives.   
There is still time to try the Orange initiative: we hope that it gives fun, that it facilitates connection between quilters, and the only risk in practicing improv is to get passionate for it!

If you are starting or finalizing an Orange improv quilt, you may be interested to know that we are already engaged in phone calls, chats and discussions on the next steps: we are setting the foundation for the new game to come. We invite you to keep an eye on @quiltimprovstudio Instagram stories, because in the next period we shall involve you on some decisions for the next initiative, in order to take your preferences into account.
What to add? Our video talks on the topic of quilting are like a river of words, flowing and flowing along… until they are interrupted by a burst of laughter! And we love those moments too!


I believe that the choice of the fabric required to start a new quilt is an important phase for every quilter, because it will influence the coming project. And this is even more relevant when starting an improv quilt.

For me, a long search is needed: I dig among my fabric collection, I pair some of them, I choose and I discard other ones… I group all the valid options, selected as analogous or contrasting color respect to the starting main one.
As soon as, in the gathered fabric, it emerges a suggestion for a quilt initiation, I stop the search.
I literally stop: I don’t go to the sewing machine, but I rather pile the collected fabric, and I let it rest and decant, as if it were a wine waiting to become ready for being tasted. I peek at my pile every time I pass near the fabric, I let some days pass… and when I feel confident that this choice is my choice, only then I go to the cutting mat.

I’ve been quilting for 25 years, and I’ve collected fabric everywhere, including New Zealand!
It’s always been fun to visit fabric shops and sites dedicated to quilting… each time I had the possibility to travel, my luggage carried back home at least a small piece of fabric, to be added to my stash, with the idea that one day it will find its place inside a quilt.

Orange has a special place in my heart: thus, now, it’s been a joy to search all its shades accumulated in many years! It’s not been easy to catch them all, but, after a long search, I had a large amount of fabric in front of me: a feast for the eyes, and an opening of memories: “what about this piece?”.
I recalled moments from twenty years before, when I folded a new purchase and put it aside because it seemed too precious to be cut immediately; I remembered where, why, with whom all of this had happened… I touched the tissue, and a sudden memory of past beauty was revived. 

To identify one by one the solids I’ve found, I started to study and to dig for information, with color maps and online databases. I noticed that most of my solids came from two main suppliers; sometimes it was difficult to distinguish between them, and I was surprised to discover that in some occasions the same name was applied to different shades! For this reason, in my palette you will find: two nectarines, two mangoes, two clementines… names that make we think of juicy fruits, of sunny tints… quite appropriately, since we are talking of orange colors!

Now I’m ready: the palette is defined, with 16 solids, 3 grunge and some other prints. Too many? Maybe: I don’t know if I shall use them all. Let’s see how the work will go on. A slow start can be allowed… waiting for the right idea to take shape: we are talking of improv, aren’t we?





Let me introduce myself: my name is Carla Maria Beretta, I’ve been a high school teacher of Maths for 41 years. I loved much my profession, but, to relax between the days spent with teenagers, I pursued my passions as mental escapes and pausing time: reading (which I did a lot since I was a child) and, since the nineties, patchwork and quilting (yes: I started a lot of time ago!).

My quilting path has been oriented for years towards traditional patchwork. I learnt several techniques. I developed my taste for warm and saturated hues. I love playing with colors… and the possibility to choose fabrics of different colors or prints, to mix them in an unique blend: this is what gives me emotions, a feeling that repeats each time I start a new project! Patchwork relieved my frantic life as a peaceful oasis.

After years spent sewing traditional patchwork, I went closer to Modern thanks to the game We Love Tula Pink promoted on Facebook in January 2014… and from that day, my curiosity for Modern increased and I searched for all references about it.  I deepened my knowledge by reading, trying, sewing, until I found some information on improv patchwork… and I became fond of it.

I love exploring possibilities prompted by a rough idea, and to translate it in a piece made with my hands, done without following any rule, if not the one of finding harmony for the eyes, to make it meaningful, and moreover to create a unique piece: even the maker could not repeat his improv work in identical way, even if he tried. Each improv piece is a definition of some moments in our life, it reflects the feelings of that period, it expresses our deep thoughts and the words we would like to tell. An improv patchwork piece is an adventure for the search of ourselves… it charges us with energy in such a way that no other technique could reach.

Today I mix improv sewing with works for my family. I have four nephews and I am an expert of baby quilts, soft fabric books and quilts for my daughters and their small kids… but, among one task and another, whenever I can, I play with my fabric, and I sew, I cut, I try, I try again, I dream, until I can tell myself: “yes, this is the right one”.

I have fun in experimenting the creation of shapes with solid fabrics. Such as in this recent quilt I’ve just completed:


And in this work of mine which was part of quilt shows in Rossano Calabro and Bomarzo in Italy:

During the last months, I deepened the acquaintance with quilting friends Paola and Giovanna, with whom I share the love for improv. In the midst of our discussions, it popped up the idea for the Orange Summer Challenge and… as for each true improv, the starting point is the clearer part.

Which is our destination? I don’t know: we initiate our path and, along the way, the arrival point will become clearer!