Improv Black and White game started a few weeks ago, and some early-bird finished quilts arrived.

We aim not only to showcase the precious quilts completed by participants on @quiltimprovstudio gallery, but also to learn together by sharing comments on the experience done. Moreover, we start to see the habit by some of the participants, of returning to our games, after having tried earlier ones: we’re honored by that! This is an opportunity to know something more about quilters who love doing patchwork in improv mode! Thus, in this article, you will find some background stories from our participants, and the feelings expressed both by newcomers and returning quilters.

First of all, we asked quilters who completed their work, what were their preferred features of sewing in black and white. Graphic effect, focus on shapes, rhythm, other? See their replies below.

@quiltergardener said: “My favorite part about working with black and white was the simplicity of removing the need for choosing colors and focusing solely on shape/form and movement. The limited palette was liberating! Also, a B&W quilt looks stunning in any room decor.”

@arttextiles wrote: “In my case, the use of black and white allowed me to really study the graphic effect without being clouded or distracted by other colors and only using one other color to really enhance the balance between the black and white fabrics. Using a mid-century approach of 1960’s simplicity, I found this easy, as I was conscious of using as near as possible a 50/50 balance between the black and the white, as in the Op-Art trend of 60’s popular art.”

@patchbri found black and white scraps from earlier works of her, dated years before! These scraps became the start for her work, and she made up to two quilts for our game! Not too strange, since she really loves black and white: she feels it is a perfect combo.

Is it difficult to work with black and white, considered that everything you do pops out so strong? @silviafic8 wrote to us that she found it very easy: there is no need to think about the preferred color to be matched to the earlier block done: each piece works well with the earlier piece! After that, she enjoyed the great contrast effect.

Also @morphea80 felt at ease with such colors. She said: “When I heard about your new challenge, I wanted to take part straight away. About three years ago I sewed some mini quilts exclusively in black and white and an accent color that brought me closer to the special feature of this strong contrast between light and dark. So I was able to follow up on these experiences. My existing fabrics partly dictated the design, as some fabrics were only available in the form of strips.”

@pieladyquilts, on the contrary, was not used to such a small number of colors. She said: “My normal preference is to work with many colors. Sometimes 20 doesn’t even feel like enough! Working with only three colors was a challenge. Instead of relying on color, I focused on creating a strong graphic pattern. I began with only black and white and waited for inspiration on how to add an accent color. Once I noticed a circular secondary pattern emerging, I decided to use my one accent color to highlight it.”

As a second question, we asked participants how they approached composition.

@auroraa1714 explained: “I try to play with the position of the elements, breaking a little the rules of line or size. I love the idea of creating wall quilts as art that can be hung in the direction that you feel, that you like… and after some time you turn it 90° and it is another quilt.”
Aurora put her black shapes on the front of her cityscape, instead of using black as a background, with a purpose: “We often use black and white as a backpart color, or as a not-so-important color. That is why I love to give them more importance, more attention.”
Will this be her last black and white work? It seems not, in fact she adds: “I love working with black and white… I have another quilt in mind!”

Also @gigi.v13 gathered ideas for future works: “I started this challenge with the idea to make wedges in the colors of black, white and cool green, with no other plan. I have not worked with black and white before and it was surprising how much I enjoyed it – without the distraction of multiple colors, the process was so much more about the forms and the composition. I did like the addition of one color but at the end it felt a bit distracting and I will use less of the color next time – less is probably more in this regard. For the same reason, I will try to have more negative space next time. I need to fight my tendency to achieve balance by creating symmetry, which I think decreases movement.”

@arttextiles described her process: “I am very conscious about up cycling and often use garments from Charity/Thrift shops: this allows a unique and individual look, as these fabrics have either been discontinued or are not available by the fabric length. The flower fabric used in my quilt is an example of just such a find, and it was the original inspiration for the design of this quilt using other black and white fabrics to complement it. This is often the way I approach a design.”

@quiltergardener explained her improvisation sequence: “With this quilt I started out by making a few simple shapes: stripes, half circles, and eyes. I put them up on the wall and thought about how they might be connected: thin lines, squares, points of a triangle. It can be scary to not know what your quilt will look like (am I wasting my time making something ugly?), but after years of practice with improv you learn to trust yourself. And if you do make something you don’t like, toss it into the scrap pile! Don’t let it prevent you from trying again. You learn from making something you don’t like equally from something you do like.”

Magdi @bagarusmag considered the effect of her work, when finished and hanging on the wall: “I like the black and white color: it fits in our apartment. The composition was shaped by my mood, the visual impact was also important. For the very contrasting colors, I chose a warm color that also defined the theme.”
She continued telling something more about herself.
“I am Hungarian, I met quilts 7 years ago as a retiree. It has always been important for me to make, to knit, to sew things to my own taste. As a new life situation awaited, I thought of learning something else. That’s how I started sewing. For me, the past year has provided a wealth of experience in the challenges of @quiltimprovstudio. I met you at a lovely earlier prompt, using my favorite color in the orange game. I enjoy the work of various international artists, using improv as a technique that gives a lot of freedom and creativity. Joining such games gives inspiration, support, encouragement. It was a great idea to create this group because the studio holds together improv lovers. The world opened up to me: I found a host community during the covid-19 epidemic.”

While Magdi returned to our games several times, other newcomers joined, such as @arttextiles, who commented: “thank you all so much for the opportunity to participate in your challenge. This is the first challenge I have entered and I enjoyed it immensely!”

Thanks also from our side, to all participants who completed their quilt until now.
The black and white game continues until May 16th: there is time to join, to start, and to finish new quilts!
You can follow works in progress, and new results published while we were writing this article, at the dedicated Instagram hashtag page: #improvblackandwhite

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! Your message can prompt a conversation, and our pages are aimed to become a place for discussions to be shared!  

Here we are again! 

While waiting for our new challenge, we found that someone of you discovered our first game and decided to try it! What a wonderful idea, our games are on our site and they can always be played! 

By the way… this is the moment to present our new game!

After many shades of orange and blue, we thought to play with something drastic, with a high graphic visual impact: black and white. We know this is a combination that one may love or hate, but this is what we want to do here: to stop and to think how to go beyond our usual comfort zones, to try something new or to improve our skills.

So many are the possibilities, that there will not be rules limiting the design elements to be used: you will be free to choose your improvisation area! Sewing in black and white is a great occasion to focus on mark making, to experiment with rhythm, and to think about composition. We suggest trying many different layouts on your design wall and to take several pictures that you can post on Instagram to continue in our intent of sharing and exchange.

We want you to know that we introduced a difference compared to the other games. It concerns the size of the quilt: it will have a constraint only for the minimum (you can participate with a square mini quilt of 24”x24”), but the maximum will be open to your choice: a new feature that allows different purposes for the final work!

As for the previous game, some rules will be chosen together with quilters interested to participate. In the next days two polls will be published in the Instagram stories of @quiltimprovstudio profile: stay tuned, and express your preference soon to decide how to create your challenge!

To conclude, here below you can find some links to start looking for inspiration:

  • Giovanna has collected examples of black and white improv quilts in her Pinterest board at this link: 
  • If you don’t have a Pinterest account, some selected sources are collected here below:

We think this video-tutorial by Rebecca Bryan on improvised curves and shapes is very interesting, because she uses black and white fabric underlining the construction of the shapes:


After the polls, you will find all the related info on our dedicated challenge page .

Enjoy, stay safe and sew with us!


Giovanna, Carla and Paola


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!