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? 

Improv process sometimes reminds me of game-books, those stories where the reader can decide how the plot goes on, by choosing between different options at the end of each chapter, thus being redirected to distant pages to continue reading; multiple story endings exist, as a result of the alternative routes taken.

Sometimes I see, inside one of my completed quilts, all the different paths I had in front of me while sewing, all the versions that I didn’t make come true, like the multiple game-book story ends.

For example, during the construction of the columns and rows quilt, I prepared digital images that developed possible options on how to finish it: a full texture overlay; texture fields interrupted by windows. Even if I finalized it in another manner (with an open-boundary network), I still would like to look at the real quilt, and to see, like a hologram, the other possibilities coming true.

Photographing construction alternatives is even stronger in showing me the history of a quilt improvisation path. I completed my first exercise attending the  course of Irene Roderick, where I photographed all the different compositions tried with the process named quiltdance. I still love one of such photos, an improv I did not materialize, a “deep sea” version: it had a blue area going down bigger and bigger; it should have contained strange yellow shaped creatures, diving scattered versus the bottom: I still wonder which shapes those creatures may have grown into.

When I pose myself the question on how to check the effect of different composition choices, I can hear the voices of Nancy Crow and Lisa Call, telling me: “Do them all! Work in series!”. I visualize the effort of spending months sewing the remake of all the imagined versions for the same quilt. But, in contrast to such good rule, many other ideas push and wish to open the door; all the unused colors in my fabric stash ask for their turn in a fresh new start. I often remain with the words of Alanis Morissette, singing in my mind: “The good advice, that you just didn’t take… isn’t it ironic?”

In the long run, with some favorite shapes, I still do a bit of work in series mode. I have a few preferred motifs, or concepts, to whom I periodically return. Such as the simple, and evergreen, nested square shape. In the past years, I’ve tried several ways to position squares in a textured field. This month, The Orange Summer Challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to continue such series.

Since the Orange Summer Challenge is still open until late September, I decided to sew a second orange quilt. While participating to the game with a second entry, I didn’t feel the pressure I experienced with my first entry: I didn’t need to try something unusual. I could select something I was familiar with, remixed within new boundaries, i.e. the simple rules set by the game.
Now, my orange squares quilt has become one of my favorite versions of square-based quilts in my series. I can admit it: repeating an exercise serially feels like a good idea.

When I started doing patchwork, most of my work, since the beginning, took the shape of wall quilts.
I completed also a king size bed quilt, some baby quilts, table runners as wedding gifts; but hanging wall quilts have always been my preference.

A wall quilt deserves a title, doesn’t it?

My quilts are abstract, but it’s easy to see emerging shapes within an abstract pattern. So, my titles often reflect what I can see as popping out, usually during or after the composition: not an initial intention, but the surprise brought by improv.

I realized soon that each viewer does notice a different pattern of his own within a given abstract image; sometimes this vision remained parent to my title, other times it was very different, thus showing the opening of possibilities. Due to this, I occasionally quilt (in the form of sewn handwritten text) all the words that the viewers told me, derived from their mental images: their suggestions came while the work was still in progress, which was a lively experience I was honored of. For the finished quilt, the title could still be a single word, but the multiple options remained embedded in thread on the work.

In other occasions, I went more extreme.
Looking at my older quilts reminded me of all that was happening in the period when I was piecing it. I experienced this also with drawing, including some drawings done when I was a child, and with my photographs: they often kept inside years-old memories, even if not at all related with the picture subject. Thus, I started to fix, in a quilt title, a favorite moment coming from the period when that work was in progress. Quilt scope is free!
Some of those titles are very personal hints. They may hold small instants of magic. Such as: “Paper puppet”. This name refers to a fleeting moment spent with my kind on the balcony, when we played with home-made paper figures, pending from a thin rope held in our hands, figures who seemed to dance while moved by the air… to jump and run on the mild wind… “Paper puppet” became the title of a patchwork, which contained many floating squares: some resemblance with the title still exists, while our playful memory becomes unforgettable, sticking to the name of the quilt.

Titles like these are less representative of the image visible on the quilt: they are more an expression of the feelings experienced while sewing that piece. Still, in one of my last quilts that has name selected as a story memory, I noticed that the consequences of this approach can be funny.

In the days when I was sewing the quilt for the Orange Summer Challenge, I spent a weekend on the mountain: my first holiday in open air, after months passed strictly at home. I met friends, and we took a long walk in the wood; at a certain point, it started to be late, and the only way to get back in short was to pass through a river barefoot, in a point where the water was not too deep. No bridge available nearby. I opened the way, testing if it was possible to pass. The water was icy… it hurt the feet. We were nine: parents, kids, persons aged from 10 months old (a child who stayed dry, clinging on the back of her mother) to seventy years old (a brave grandmother who passed the river with fluent and bold stride!) Since at the beginning we felt unsure, it was a great emotion when all of us succeeded! We reached a restaurant just in time before the rain started to pour!

When I was back home, I titled my quilt, which contained nine rounded log cabins (exactly as the nine faces of us, who looked at each other happily after the river crossing experience), “Ford”. This wonderful memory deserved to be fixed there.

Some days later, my quilting friends Giovanna, while looking at the finished mini quilt and hearing of its title “Ford”, asked me: “Where is the river?”. And I had to admit: “There is no river”. The abstract quilt image was weakly connected with the symbol of the nine of us who passed that ford, but I had not depicted any river, and even the colors had nothing to do with water… the quilt surface was extensively covered by warm orange solids. Giovanna insisted: “I meant, where is the river you visited, geographically?”. This, I was more than happy to tell: I love being familiar with all the river names in my region, so I could explain everything about its flow line. And I allowed myself: maybe my title was not so odd.

How many different ways to choose a title may exist?

 

The route indicated by improv process, sometimes takes unexpected turns. This is one of such stories.

A few months ago, while I was testing a challenge of our own with Giovanna, we selected 13 fabric colors to be used by both of us, so that each of us would compose a quilt dedicated to color green.

Giovanna was checking whether our color combination was working well, by trying the palette with a software that creates nested squares. Maybe seeing the image of her trial has influenced me: I started sewing my work, by coupling colors in a composition based on squares.

Day after day, switching and adjusting block position, I prepared enough pieces to fill the chosen size on the design wall. The figures were growing from left to right, from a crowded corner towards a bit of negative space, as if the blocks were going with the wind. At that point, everything seemed ready, it was only required to unite the blocks. But… I felt uneasy… something in the composition didn’t fit.

Suddenly, the mother quilt divided itself into two children quilts.
It was like the duplication mechanism of a cell that splits into two cells: biology calls it “mitosis”…

So, the route of improvisation led to two different paths, and I finalized two distinct quilts. Which, by the way, played me another trick: they forgot the quest for green, and decided to be dressed in orange (a-ha, orange likes to become a dominant color! Our first public challenge knows it well…).

At the end of the story, I started a third quilt to respect the initial goal set between Giovanna and myself, and for the third one I really used a lot of green. But this is another story…

In the previous post, we left Giovanna busy with her suitcase to be filled, and some travel to be done.

What was the content of her suitcase?
A bundle of quilts!
All the quilts she had sewn in the recent years. Large quilts, small quilts, mini quilts, top to be finished, flying thread…

In February 2020, Giovanna took the train from Mestre, near Venice, and reached Paola in Trieste.
At Paola’s home, the quilts popping out from Giovanna’s bag seemed to be endless. It was the first chance we had to see each other in person, and to look at all the quilting work done by both of us until that day.

What kind of quilts are the ones carried by Giovanna?
We met because Improv Modern Patchwork is our common passion. We could see similar things in our works, but once we put them together, we also noticed all the differences.
The same, but different. Is this the essence of improv? For sure it is one of the things we most appreciate. To be free during working process may lead, over time, to an identifiable customization.

Reading books of reknown improv quilters, we can see that almost all of them describe what improv is. Words are almost the same, but their works are not. At a first glance, they are identifiable one from another. Different ways to use colors, shapes. layout, quilting, become a kind of signature.

As well as modern patchwork, also improv patchwork is part of a bigger movement in continuous evolution, and it is experienced as a personal creative growth.
We are at the beginning of this journey: we are studying and experimenting. We are driven by curiosity and passion. In this website we will try to create some insights, and to gather other quilters, in order to grow together.

Hello!

The path towards the construction of this site started on the verge of new year 2020, when Giovanna and Paola first met, thanks to the common interest for improv modern patchwork.

We encountered on the web: both of us attended an on-line workshop, Improv Row by Row, led by Daria Blandina and Roberta Sperandio, and the sneak peeks of our work in progress suggested we had a similar taste for color choice.

Paola decided to break the ice inviting Giovanna to start a joint project. During the first phone call, while Giovanna was on the mountain enjoiying family holidays, Paola proposed to meet in person. Even if this required to take the train, Giovanna liked the idea of travelling, and started to fill her luggage. A new year was starting: the best moment to fill our agenda with new plans!

So, let’s introduce ourselves.

Since year 1997, Paola pursued her passion with graphics by use of drawing and photography, presented in solo and group exhibits. Her project of science communication based on creative pictures taken at the microscope toured Italy for some years.

In 2017 she discovered modern patchwork as a mean for expression, and started sewing wall quilts. Her first quilt gallery, “Doppio Trasporto” (walking on fabric fields) was shown in Trieste at Atelier dell’arte; other group exhibits include participation to Abilmente fair in Vicenza.

Giovanna familiarized with patchwork for the first time in 2007 during a journey in USA. The approach with modern patchwork came in 2016, when she noticed the freedom of creative expression possible with such technique. Curiosity lead to passion, study, research and experimentation: she always strives to learn and improve.

Giovanna’s quilts have been shown in the main Italian textile fairs (in Turin, in Vicenza) and in local guild group shows (in Treviso). Her work has been featured in international blogs and magazines dedicated to modern patchwork.

In this web site we will collect our ideas on improv, we will tell stories of joint initiatives, and we will go for a wider participation to this adventure.

… to be continued!