When I take my daily walk, I often think about my quilting process. I usually go towards the sea, to look at the horizon from a deck. The reflections on the waves and the colors changing every hour are a source of inspiration.

I’ve recently attended a course by Irene Roderick named “Coreographing your dance”, and I considered to dedicate the title of the quilt I’m working on, to the feelings I have during these roundabouts. So, my title for the current work could be something like “To the sea”. But I prefer that my titles be short! So, since my hometown Trieste is at the eastern boundary of Italy, I could call it East. Yes: “East” is short enough.

Giovanna and myself have already written some articles about the way we choose our titles; in the next section, Carla @falcolupo describes her approach.

Names, names, names!

“When I start a new project, basic prompt is usually focused on the colors to be used: palette creation, work features. As soon as a composition starts to take shape on the design wall, the question marks pop out. If I don’ have already a planned intent, it is the work, who starts to talk to me: it whistles in my mind a concept or a feeling to express.

Choosing a title is very important for my works, especially if they are abstract improvisations: it is a way to express a point of view, to send my thoughts on air, to make statements… or simply to keep a reminder of my feelings of that moment.

My last work is Earthquake, generated by the need to give a purpose to all my scraps from Blue Improv Repetition challenge. Tiny pieces gathered on the design wall: they initially gave me the feeling of a sea, of a sky… Then, I started to see houses, crumbling walls… and the image of an earthquake became frozen on the page. But you can see whatever you wish: let’s keep free the effects of improvisation!”

Silvia @silviafic8 replied to our questions on how we feel about our quilts and their names. She wrote us the following story.

Sometimes my quilts have no title.

“When I start a quilt, sometimes I know its title since the beginning.
Fabric color may evoke an object, a landscape, a combination with the shapes.

My quilts don’t have always a title: especially improv works, where I go for abstraction, and the result may suggest some emotions.
I don’t like to define an interpretation, to necessarily attach a meaning to the colored panel. When I look at a work of art, its capability to emotionally inspire me is more important than knowing the underlying subject.

With my quilts, I feel the same. Emotions are so subjective, that reading background information about the artist and its work process will not influence my emotion, but it will only add on my know-how. I consider this valid also for other forms of art: music can touch my heart, even if I don’t know the story of the artist.

A work may have a name, a title, but for me it’s not necessary. Well, my quilts are not work of art… When I make a quilt for a game, I like to call it as the game: orangesummerimprov , blueimprovrepetition, and to feel the fun of it.

A viewer may, today, see a landscape in my work, and tomorrow something else, due to a different mood of the day. Why putting a constraint to the visions of a viewer by means of assigning a title? My hope is that my quilt – or at least some of them – raise emotions in the viewer.”   

Do you have a story about the events linked to your quilts, or a comment about one of the themes addressed in Quilt Improv Studio pages and discussion?

You can write it to us! Send a Direct Message to @quiltimprovstudio, or write a mail to infoATquiltimprov.art! Your message can prompt a conversation, and our pages are aimed to become a place for discussions to be shared!  

Blue Improv Repetition challenge is completed, and it’s time to wrap up!

As we did for the previous game, we decided to ask some questions to quilters who have finished their work within January 10th.

When we proposed a game based on repetitions, we wondered if this was way too obvious a topic, since repetitions are a classical design element. Maybe some other constraint should be added, to make the challenge more original? Or rather we should leave the rest open, giving room for free choice?

According to @vazquezurbez, there was a good balance: “It’s a great opportunity to make a small work following a few rules, but at the same time that allows to play with enormous freedom.”

We were surprised by the replies of participants: the few elements indicated (blue, improv, repeat), contained at least something new for many players.

For @anje_loskut “this was the first time to participate in such a game with repetitions.

@auroraa1714 also said: “This was my first time… ok, you do a quilt with triangles or squares… but it is not the same”.

@victorianelson2263 added: “I have made improv quilts before, but never before with strictly a single shape repetition. I liked the limitations of color and shape, as a way to explore other elements of the quilt improv experience.”

@margaret_stamford introduced something new in the following way: “I’ve already made some quilts using repetition techniques. This was the first time I’ve combined piecing and raw edged appliqué to achieve what I could not with just piecing: notice how some of the repeats float into adjoining blocks.”

@therollingcat_ wrote: “When this challenge was launched, I had already worked with both curves and repetitions, but not together. So curves it was, and such fun! I also took the opportunity to add hand quilting made in contrasting woolen thread. This was a new experiment too.

@hbeecook explained: “I have repeated shapes before, but never so mindfully. I found the prompt an excellent way to bring a focus to my improv!”

@Pieladyquilts is an expert of one-shape repetitions in her quilts. Still, she said: “I joined this time because I find it helpful for me creatively to have some limitations. Having the prompt of blue, with repetition, gave me lots of ideas.”

@buttermilk_hill summarised things well: when adding improv, “those two design elements are a great combination. The repetition provides structure for the idea, and improv sets up creative flow.”
@vazquezurbez also noticed that “repetitions give a sense of balance in the quilt.”

Sometimes we wonder if the three months timespan is appropriate for participants’ involvement in such games. 

@sakura.quilting was an early starter, and, after a while, she decided to wait: “It’s better to leave the unfinished project in the design wall for weeks, when not resolving doubts, and going back to it when you feel more certain about the way to continue.

@margaret_stamford worked with a much more tight schedule: “This quilt was made over four days prior to the deadline, so there was no time to refine my idea. One thing I learned from this exercise was to trust my initial responses from conception to completion when time was an issue.”

Whenever we share our improvisation results, this is always appreciated. @hbeecook wrote: “the group gives me so much inspiration and has helped me grow as a quilter. I love that it is an international project and connects us from so far away.”

Also for @therollingcat_ “it’s so refreshing to see how different quilters from around the world respond, and the resulting gallery is a real treat!”

The things we learn while doing an exercise are so personal and different for each of us.

@alsterdeeluxe wrote: “I learnt so many things! Mish mashing everything together doesn’t just work, you need to be much more selective and considered. And more is not always better. I took away maybe half of what I made before piecing the final version.”

@theeightchild explained: “Every time I quilt, I learn more about what makes a good composition and further develop my own eye for what speaks to me. I also learned some of the nuances of my walking foot.”

@victorianelson2263 said: “I have only done a few challenges previously. I feel like I learn something new with each quilt that I make, and a challenge helps me to try an exploration that I would otherwise not do. Blue is not my usual color but I enjoyed using blue, so that was a lesson I will repeat again.”  

@quiltergardener found that “improvising a shape several times is a good way to see how you can make that shape irregular and more interesting. When many of the irregular shapes are together, the effect is very pleasing to the eye. Triangles, squares, rectangles, drunkard’s path — every traditional block, when improvised and repeated, is more exciting.”

@karinkory added: “I learnt during the experience that the repetitions are a great way to bring calm to the quilt and also make it more interesting.” 

We are happy to facilitate diffusion of improv: 

@alsterdeeluxe revealed: “This is the first improv quilt I have ever tried; I’ve never used repetition before as a means of generating pieces. I think this is what drew me to the challenge, as I was interested in interpreting repetition as iteration.”

Also @astudillorosales said: “It is the first time that I venture myself into this: in this game I learnt to loose patterns away.  That’s the fun of it, because you don’t know what will be the final result. It made me very happy to realise that the fun is there waiting for me. If it doesn’t fit, you can improv. I will definitely keep getting fun.”

@auroraa1714 added: “Everytime that you improvise you learn that you should improvise more… let yourselves create!”

@buttermilk_hill underlined: “I learned -again- that improv is my favourite way of making”. 

We agree!!!

But… what is improv for us?

@sakura.quilting shared her views: “First, improv doesn’t mean wonky. Accuracy is always a must in my way of liberated quiltmaking. Second, changing the originally chosen fabrics is welcome, to use more scraps and to adjust to better results.” 

@alsterdeeluxe mentioned something on this topic, too: “I originally chose fabrics thinking that improv meant the same as scrappy, so I was just trying to use up random fabrics that I have that were donated, or ones I didn’t think I could use in other projects. But in the end I used this as a constraint and did what I could, including using the back of the prints I chose.”

We asked participants what they would have changed inside their work, if given an opportunity to do it again:
“I would do the quilting differently. I might also add some additional larger squares in the composition to make it calmer (@victorianelson2263).”

If I had the possibility to make this quilt again, probably I would use just one colour for the quilting thread. A simpler work for a better result (@sakura.quilting).

I would choose a finer color gradation and, for the squares I wanted as the repeating element, I would choose a stronger contrast (@karinkory).

If I made this quilt again I would select my blues more carefully. I just used what was in my scraps and I don’t think some of the pairings were as successful as they could have been. That being said, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction in using scraps! (@hbeecook)

“That dark blue square in the centre… It didn’t look that way prior to piecing. Luckily, the quilting helps to draw the eye away just a bit (@theeightchild).” 

All the works have a meaning of their own, as they are right now. Desire to change may appear only inside the mind of the owner: we didn’t notice those elements mentioned as worth to be adjusted! 

May these reflections just become a suggestion for future things to try?
@Pieladyquilts  sees it this way: “I made this quilt with hand dyed fabric. I’d love to try it again with solids to see how it would change the effect.”

Also @quiltergardener gathered ideas: “I played with quilting the negative space to complement my repeating shape, the snowball. I would like to do more of that in the future.”

@maria_dlugosch wrote: “I have tried new rulers and will certainly use them again, they have been a success. This quilt will be added to my quilt pattern collection.”

@hbeecook confirmed: “I would definitely try repetition again — I’m exploring other shapes to use for a future quilt.”

More comments from quilters who joined us, and finished early, have been told in a previous article at this link.

There are also other stories, from quilters who initially started the game and then found a different route. @gigi.v13 completed the top and decided to postpone the quilting phase to another moment; after the deadline more works continued to arrive, such as those of @beckymcneillartanddesign and @patchwerrk; @mari.quilt kept the blue plus repetition concept and, instead of using improv, turned to a quilt based on a pattern (a drawing made for the diary cover of the quilter’s daughter found its place into the fabric scheme!).
We invite you to appreciate the beauty of their works in the #blueimprovrepetition page and in the authors’ Instagram pages. 

We’re happy and grateful that the elements of the game prompt are used by participants, even if the process takes a different destination!


Thanks to everybody who joined the Blue Improv Repetition game.

You can review all improv quilts completed by the participants in the @quiltimprovstudio gallery.

See you soon with a new challenge!

Sometimes the stories are circular and repeated: they pass through trial and error, beta testing, until a final version is achieved.

This is the case of our quilting on-line games! 

Now we will tell more about their background.

At the beginning of the current year, when Giovanna and myself started to be in contact on the web, we were considering the creation of something to be put into a common project. What if each of us compose an improvised quilt, by using the same colours and the same size? How different would be the results? How would our couple of works appear, if placed one by one aside, in a possible future showcase?

Giovanna proposed that we build a palette based on the Kona cotton colour of the year 2020, a dark green having the wonderful name: “Enchanted”, and I added the thought to combine some split-complementary colours, as described by Boulder Modern Quilt Guild at this link.

Spring was near to come, and we spent weeks sending to each other the photos of a possible colour choice! When everything was ready, we discovered to have purchased our common fabric stash just in time: the world had entered in a turmoil, and the supply shortage (caused by many shops closing down) was just one of many troubles!

Creativity helps to feel better, quilting ideas overlapped to each other, and this plan underwent a transformation several times.
I used the selected colours three times, before settling on a work that I felt to be green enough.
We met Carla @falcolupo, and this raised our wish to expand the network of contacts focused on improv!
Showcase plans transformed into our virtual project Quilt Improv Studio. A typical example of planning that changes on the road, because we are improv inside!
Carla’s input to the quilting game prompts became the start of our first Quilt Improv Studio challenge: she proposed that orange colour be used for common works on mini quilts, and that game became open to everybody!
Second open challenge on Blue Improv Repetition is still ongoing (you may share your work until January 10th).

In the meanwhile, we have completed our old project with the enchanted green fabric. During the year our plan has changed many times, but at the end we returned to our original idea: once we decided on the palette and the measures, we completed our two quilts without making comparisons.

In the next few days you will find out what we have realized: follow us on Instagram as @jonikquilts and @thecultofquilt  to see our “different but equal” green quilts!

Some days ago Pantone  and Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton released their 2021 Colors of the year. 
Could they be a starting point for organizing Quilt Improv studio’s new challenge? We will see: new year is coming soon!

The material we use when we start sewing improv, can have a consequence on the resulting work.

For example, I’ve noticed that the size of the fabric I group on my sewing table as a fresh start, occasionally influences the piecing mesh I will finally execute.
Do I have available large yard stash?
Do I prefer to handle medium pre-cut strips?
Do I recover all tiny-piece leftovers having the same colour of the planned palette?
For me, the initial input sometimes happens to remain embedded in the coming composition, such as: in the tessellation scale, in the shapes elongation… even if at the beginning there was no intention for it.

May small gestures subtly create recurrence?

Recurrence easily translates into repetitions.
Repeated gestures are a very natural element for improv quilting.
The act of piecing and sewing has its own rhythm that is reflected in the resulting image; the more repetition is effortless, the better uniformity is achieved, so that the flow of composition stays mirrored in the fabric without hiccups.

Sometimes I ask myself if I can keep repetitions regular for a long time.

If unity of time, space and subject is adopted during piecing (as in Aristotle’s drama rules!), my resulting texture remains uniform. If, on the contrary, my top piecing is interrupted by other projects, and re-started after some mind changes, then fabric may play unexpected tricks. Some extra-feature slips in, changing the mark-making act…
For example, it took me one year to complete “Dam”. When I started, I allowed sewing line to follow scrap border irregularity. Months later, I introduced a straightening cut to each block. Only later I understood that, from that moment on, all the composition took a turn.

How will I deal with #blueimprovrepetition challenge? I still need to start, but I can already look at the examples from quilters who joined us, and have shown their progress. I can peek on sewing gestures taking place in sites upper than Northern Polar Circle, in Australia, in Chile, in Russia, USA and so on…
I can’t wait to be with them!

Some time ago, my mother visited my home, strolled around the corridor, checked all the rooms, looked at my wall panels, and concluded: “You make too many blue quilts!”.

One of my early quilts was made using almost only blue. I pieced some striped blocks, I tried their position on the table, right near the solid fabric remainder. It looked so nice that I decided to embed that solid as negative space. I allowed myself to piece blue lines on light blue background, in spite of their similarity. The resulting quilt had very mild contrast: pieces seemed not separated objects, but rather ripples within the same object. That Kona shade was named “pool”. Quilt title became “Water”, and free motion quilting populated the waves with diving creatures.

Blue color is often in my gaze.
I live in a town facing the sea.
I love exploring river courses with my bike.
I noted that there are recurrent water related subjects in my quilt titles: “Lagoon”, “Seaside”, “Fountain”, “Nautilus”, “Pond”, “Boat race”, “Ford”, “Dam”.
I’m not the only one who feels immersed inside blue subjects. Also my son, when observing this quilt of mine full of deep blue, decided to name it “Sails”. It’s incredible how a slight curvature is capable of transforming a triangle piece into a moving vessel. 

So, combination of a certain shape and a certain colour is enough to become evocative? I shall be aware of this, before I pick the shape to be used in our next improv game! In a past quilt of mine, where I cut wavy pieces while using just a spark of blue, this combo was enough for me to choose its title as “Tide”.

Today I collected all the blue fabric in my stash, and I found some double pieces. When I visit my favorite quilt shop, I often end up buying their blue solids again and again. I can be sure it will be used someday.

I must admit that, before taking this picture of my fabric, I cleared off the doubles. Among this pack, I will select my favorite shades. We are all busy with preparations: Carla has retrieved her blue fat quarters coming from New Zealand; Giovanna is checking that, among us, we choose different shapes; I’m adding contrasting colors to the blue field that fills my sewing desk. And you? How do you select your starting material for the  #blueimprovrepetition game?