Our last improv game,  Monochrome dreams, is finished. Every quilter was free to choose the single color to play with, thus, the gallery of the quilts made by game participants reflects a variety of color preferences, and it reminds us of a rainbow!

For the next improv game, on the contrary, we are preparing for the pleasure of sharing the same palette of colors for all of us, leaving open the composition features: it will be defined by a poll open to participants, whether to pick a common design element, or leave all of the composition parameters free.

The first hint for a palette choice was given by Carla: she proposed the primary colors, red, yellow and blue, and we, Giovanna and Paola, added the black and white. We also wondered whether to use a common design element (and this decision will be up to you: follow @quiltimprovstudio Instagram stories, and you will find related polls in the next few days).

Step after step, some clearly recognizable elements adjoin each other: this five color receipt makes us think of the artist Piet Mondriaan; don’t you see him too, when talking of such colors? Said this, sure we are not looking for a too homogeneous gallery, with Mondriaan as the sole inspiration source. Indeed we asked ourselves: “Where else do we find this combination of colors?” 

Here you will find our replies.

 

Giovanna is a kindergarten  teacher, she is surrounded by primary colors everyday. She uses primary colors mixing them while teaching how to get secondary colors; she finds primary colors again when the dialogue with children opens up the topic of our inner emotions (yellow, red and blue may be connected respectively with joy, anger and sadness). She observes and handles the pieces used to explain logic and geometry. Many children’s books make wide use of primary colors, for example those created by French author Hervé Tullet who guides through the pages children activities and laboratories on creativity.

Carla has been a math teacher, and on the mathematics book covers she’s often found images of Mondriaan books: such figures were used to explore concepts of parallelism and orthogonality. Primary colors and black and white are also used in home decor design objects. Today, Carla is a full time grandmother, and with her nephews she uses toys where primary colors prevail, because they have strong visual impact and they are easily recognizable by pre-school kids. A typical example is found in Lego bricks: they stimulate children’s fantasy and construction skills. Another examples are play dough and kinetic sand: they can be mixed, and lead to the discovery of secondary colors. At that age, each exploration can lead to surprise!

Paola opened her memory box, and recalled artists admired during the travel in France, at Fondation Maeght, which hosts a wide permanent collection of painting, sculpture, drawing and graphic art of the twentieth century: in that period, primary colors and black and white were used a lot, for their strong graphic result. She also thought of Bauhaus school, which found in the realm of design a connection point between art and production, and explored visual communication through symbols, such as in the exercises where color and shapes were associated: yellow triangle, red square, blue circle.

Before launching this game, we have searched for works inspired by Mondriaan style, that could be interesting for you, such as the quilt by Jackie @tinwoman48 . Let us know if you find more of them, and start planning your “Beyond Mondriaan” quilt!

Now we invite you to explore your surroundings in the next few days, checking where this five colors combination appears. You may decide to use your real experience with primary colors as your inspiration source, or let creativity flow in an improvisational process and let the result bring you in unexpected territories. We can be sure that such a creation will be uniquely yours, carrying strong visual effects!

Enjoy! Carla, Giovanna and Paola

Our fourth challenge, Monochrome Dreams, is finished, and we’ve learnt a lot from this experience.

First of all, we’ve been positively surprised by the interest of our participants to play with a purely monochromatic palette, as answered by the majority of respondents to the poll offering the alternative to use a neutral too. If we’ve got to play, let’s play seriously!

Second, we’ve observed that the gallery of participants’ works, visible on @quiltimprovstudio Instagram profile, had a contemporary feel. This was unintentional, but it was a nice discovery. This experience highlighted for us that improv is applicable to any realm of patchwork: not only modern (with its bold and contrasting colors), but also contemporary patchwork (with more delicate color effects, such as in a monochrome), or other types of look.

Finally, we reflected on the amount of intentionality that can be part of an improv process, and still allow us to call it improv. This topic was raised thanks to a question from one of our participants on whether her work was too intentional to look as improv. Thus, we asked  ourselves: “How much intentionality is part of our process? Is there a line that divides intentionality from improvisation?”
Our personal opinions are elaborated below.

Giovanna says: “I usually mix the two (intentionality and improvisation). First of all, I select a color palette (which can also vary during the process), then I start cutting and gradually adding other fabrics to make blocks that can vary on shapes and dimensions. This is the quickest moment of improv: to cut and to sew pieces.
Then, the slow work starts, the arrangement on the design wall and the choice of the composition.
This part of the process is all intentional; well, sometimes it happens that two or more pieces go well together at first shot, but, most of the times they are moved, rotated, unstitched, removed or others are sewn and added till the work becomes interesting to my eyes, till I find a way to go and something with a precise meaning is born. Sometimes the result could be challenging, but I can always modify my quilt until I find a satisfactory solution.
The  most important thing is to have fun and to relax while doing it!
Nothing is by chance, not even improvising, everything that is created is influenced by the moment I did it. I understood this thing when I made some blocks and a few days later I wanted to continue the work by doing some more of such blocks… but they were different! While using the same technique! This is also for the quilting.
Am I an improv quilter? I think: yes, I don’t use patterns, I make my own quilts, I use a ruler to cut straight (when desired) but I don’t take measures. I could do two similar quilts, but they would never be the same.”

According to Paola, intentionality is not absent during improv. It is distributed all along the process, as a difference with respect to other methods when all the design is fixed at the beginning. Jazz music may be a lovely analogy: if key and rhythm are chosen at the start, and they are intentionally kept stable until the end, freedom remains always available during the play!
Paola loves the “emergence” of patterns: if something beautiful starts to appear, then it is worth repeating or reinforcing that part. The decision to reinforce a pattern is another type of intentional act, appearing in the middle of the path: another section of the design becomes fixed. Still, as long as there is room for changes during the work, the open-end typical of improv is preserved.

Carla says: “When I start a new quilt, usually my first focus is on the selection of the fabric to be used. If solids will prevail, I choose a full palette; if prints are included, I choose my favorite prints first, as a main character, and the the solids follow along as a proper match; then, I try to add some pieces from my bin of scraps… choosing the starting material can take me days! Rarely all my selection will be used, but surely this preparation phase contains some intentionality.
Then I start… and I focus on the rules of the game. How can I apply them? Sometimes I draft a sketch. But I usually don’t follow this sketch at all! My drawings are just a kid’s play, a faint trace. My result is always achieved through a mainly improvisational process full of changes.”

A new game is boiling in our minds… we still need some time to fix details. In the meanwhile, we pose the same question to you.
In your improvisation works, how much intentionality is allowed?

You can send us your thoughts and your feelings after the game by writing a direct message on this, or other improv-related topics, to our Instagram profile @quiltimprovstudio; or you can send an email to infoATquiltimprov.art. We would like to describe the variety of paths towards improv thanks to your opinion and the contribution of many of us.

Hear you soon!
Carla, Giovanna and Paola

A fourth improvisation game is coming soon: it was boiling in our minds for months, and now the time has arrived to share our ideas with you!

When talking about the elements to include in our new exercise, Carla proposed that, this time, each participant choose their favorite color, and, with that color, a monochromatic quilt be created. 

We immediately jumped on this idea, and we started to elaborate it. What does it mean to use a monochromatic palette? Will this be an occasion to play with value? Are we diving into a composition effect that will create… a “color splash”… a focal spot in the center of the work? 

Soon we realized that the outcome of a monochromatic improvised quilt is not so obvious: a rule that initially seems simple, quickly can become more challenging than expected. And this is making the game more interesting: even if the first image of a monochromatic quilt can quickly pop up in our mind, we are curious to see how different minds are capable of elaborating such a prompt! 

To quote the approach of the painter Johannes Itten, it’s always a good idea to stretch one’s creative muscles with the analysis of basic forms and colors. When we think out questions of design from first principles, the replies can often lead to abstract conclusions.

Now, how flexible can it be the definition of a monochromatic palette? What can stay in, what shall be left out? Will we have some other features in common, even if the selected colors will be different for all of us? As usual, to clarify the boundaries of our participative games, we will ask your opinion!

Starting from tomorrow, let’s follow our stories on the Instagram profile@quiltimprovstudio , where polls will be published. It is simple to participate: just tap your favorite answer, and the details of the game will be defined by all of us.

In the meantime, we have carried out research on the Internet that talks about monochromatic palettes: you can look there for inspiration, to learn or to deepen some issues. We invite you to read them!

https://shannon-brinkley.com/blogs/shannon-brinkley-studio-1/color-confidence-for-quilters-what-is-value 

https://quiltsocial.com/3-ways-to-determine-the-color-value-of-fabric/

http://poppyprintcreates.blogspot.com/2020/04/varietals-monochromatic-improv-study.html?m=1

https://quiltsbyjen.ca/monochromatic-colours-in-quilt-design/

https://shannon-brinkley.com/blogs/shannon-brinkley-studio-1/color-confidence-for-quilters-part-2-monochromatic-color-palettes

 

For an overall and quick view, instead, we recommend a Pinterest board https://pin.it/1NEaciE always useful to get a first idea.
We are waiting for you!

Carla, Giovanna and Paola

We have now reached the final part of our improv game based on the use of black and white, and we have asked the participants of our game who have recently published their completed work, if they felt that working in black and white has been different from working with other colors, and why.

The first reply we received was the one by @emmafassio, who wrote: “I think that composing with black and white is different than doing this with other colors, because their contrast is strong and we often perceive them as opposites, also when linking them to emotions and sensations. Wearing a white dress has a different meaning than wearing a black one. Colors are perceived differently in different cultures, and this is a fascinating theme to be explored. Strong contrasts may induce reverence and fear: thus working on this project has been a stimulus to face ideas and prejudices I may have on the meaning of colors and their meaning in relation to emotions”. 

@vazquezurbez agreed with a clear “Yes!”. She explained: “Working with black and white is completely different from using other colours. With B&W there are no shadows or values that you can use, it’s just two pure colours (black and white) and that forced me to work with printed fabrics. I don’t use printed fabric very often, so when I saw that my only option was using them, I felt completely out of my comfort zone. But I think that this is the main point in challenges like this one!”

Immediately after, @mari.quilt added a different opinion: “Working on my quilt using black, white and a bit of red, didn’t seem different to me with respect to doing the same with other colors. I chose my fabric with the intention to create a composition that expressed the sense of circularity, starting from squares and letting them change shape gradually. I listened to my feelings, to decide whether I needed more white or more black while progressing on the composition, until the work was completed and titled _Circular energy_. I believe that such colors express a sense of power: black and white underline the lines, and they are colors full of strength.”

@maria_dlugosch agrees with that. She wrote: “I don’t see any difference between black and white in terms of workmanship compared to other colours.”

@annscott8888_fiber_arts explained: “I very much enjoyed making my quilt _Night Lights_ for the black and white game. Typically, I use lots of colors, so working with a black and white palette challenged me to focus solely on design elements like shape, juxtapositions, and contrast without the distraction of color. I’m a _covid quilter_, having begun my journey as an improv quilter during this pandemic, so I have lots still to learn, and this challenge stretched me in lots of new ways.”

@sakura.quilting considered the role of each graphic element involved. “Improvising with black and white will always result in something graphic and bold because of the high contrast.  But by adding b&w prints, this contrast is softened. When using other colors, contrast can be soft without even including prints. So when I use b&w, the SHAPES in the composition are the most important design element. Light differences in VALUE can only be achieved by the use of prints. So that’s the reason I wanted to add prints in the poll you previously asked.”

@alsterdeeluxe focussed on two elements only: the black, and the white: “I really enjoyed improvising in black and white, I could really focus on the composition and working in such high contrast is something I like. I experimented this time with laying out the composition on a white background (my design wall), so initially I was just playing with black and black patterned pieces, and using the design wall as my _white pieces_. This allowed me to work very quickly on the composition.”

@densyendehimmel observed the impact that black and white give to the rest: “Black and white are different because they make other colors glow.”

Maria Luisa Rosatti, who pieced the top quilted by @thecultofquilt, thus participating into our game with a two-authors quilt, said: “Working in black and white gives me a sense of depth, in particular thanks to the presence of solid black, while the white parts seem popping out in the front”.   

@zehralina_quilts concluded: “Working with the black and white color palette is liberty of creating. There is no absorption of creative energy in thinking about whether the colors match or not.
It was totally freedom and the focus on shapes, angles and delimitation. I could totally concentrate on the essence of the surface. Although improvisational quilting always provides me moments of surprise, sewing with black and white exponentiates this event. The reduction of the color palette expands the possibilities of structuring.”

A second question was the following one: once you have finished an improv quilt, what do you look at, to analyse your result? 

@emmafassio explained: “When I complete an improv work, I stop and I try to listen to the perceptions and emotions that the work suggests to me. At that moment, I check if the received feelings are in line with the message or the interpretation that I wanted to convey since the beginning.”

@mari.quilt, now, fully agrees: “When I complete my work, I look at the overall effect: is it executed well? Does it express what I had in mind? but, most of all, which are the feelings that it gives to me?”

This time, a different view comes from @maria_dlugosch: “I don’t analyse my results, I like it or not. My quilts don’t have a story, I work from my intuition, I don’t think about why I make something. I patch and quilt just for the pleasure of doing it.” 

@sakura.quilting checks both design and experience done: “When I finish an improv quilt, I look at different aspects: first, if I like the overall impact and result;  second, if I experienced or learnt something new by making the quilt;  third, if it reminds me of something or if I can relate to something when I look at it (in other words, if it speaks to me);  and fourth, if I really followed the rules that I (or someone else) imposed.
There’s another aspect that’s interesting when analyzing an improv quilt. I feel an improv quilt has more _value_ when I have made mistakes while making it. I need to be conscious if I corrected it or decided to leave it as it is. Those mistakes help me to learn.”

Also @alsterdeeluxe asks herself some questions about process rules: “I evaluate how closely the piece approximates my initial vision, which probably goes against all fundamentals of improvisation! I do feel like I achieved what I had in mind though: a clean, geometric inspired piece.” 

@vazquezurbez makes sure that an overall check is done already before the end: “When I finish a quilt (it doesn’t matter if it’s an improv quilt or not) I look for balance, balance in the colours, in the shapes, in the whole quilt. Of course this balance has to be clear when I finish the top, before the quilting. If not, I keep working and changing things, until I get a balanced top.”

If you still don’t know what to look at, on a finished quilt, you can find plenty of suggestions in @annscott8888_fiber_arts list of checks: “I love the problem-solving aspect of quilting. I spend lots of time looking at a quilt on the design wall as it’s being constructed.  These are some of the questions I ask myself – both as I’m making a quilt and after it’s completed: Is the design balanced? Are there repeated motifs that refer to each other? Does the quilt design have an internal logic? Is it cohesive? Does the scale of the design work? Where does my eye go first?  Is that where I want my eye to go first? Is it pleasantly wonky or too clunky and amateurish? What design surprises are there? Have I left enough breathing room/negative space (that’s the hardest one for me)? What does the quilting add: Does it complement the piecing? Does it transform the quilt?”

For @densyendehimmel, checking her work is a jump into the future: “I always look at a finished quilt to find out if I can improve my next one.”

@zehralina_quilts agrees: “Looking at the finished work for a while, I found some very inspiring and surprising shapes, which I´d like to use in my next pieces.”

The challenge is now completed. @alsterdeeluxe revealed: “The deadline pressure helped: I finished at 23:00 on the final day of the challenge!!”
During this game, some participants ventured into piecing large quilts. We thank all the quilters who appreciated our black and white prompt, such as to use it into big projects! Some of these projects are approaching completion a bit after the deadline, and are worth being checked. We mention here a few of them: @therollingcat pieced a 60” quilt (150 cm) and @susanjgrant ended up going bigger than originally planned. You can review all the work in progress from participants at the Instagram hashtag page #improvblackandwhite, and the gallery of finalists on @quiltimprovstudio profile. 

Thank you all, it was a great learning opportunity, and we are already working on the next one: stay tuned!

 

Did you imagine that, while playing with black and white for our improv game, we would talk about color?

We asked our participants, who published their finished quilts during the second month of the challenge period, how they selected their accent color to be placed aside the black and white fabric. Quite interesting background stories emerged. So different experiences are tied to a little bit of accent! Read here below.

 @hollygrovethreads explained why her work is titled “Stella’s Green”.
“Stella was my grandmother’s name and the shade of green I used reminds me of the color in her kitchen.  I spent much time with her as a child and she was one of the women in my family who sparked my interest in sewing and quilting.”

@blabshandgemacht had some constraints: “First I planned to take bright orange as the accent colour; but, due to lockdown I had to take what I had. And now I am very happy with the light green! It seems much less aggressive but still strong enough to stay in balance with black and white.”

When only one color has to be selected, there is time to pay attention to its choice. @piecefulwendy did so: “First I auditioned different colors with my black and white fabrics, to see what color appealed to me. I really wanted to do something different, but the lime green just couldn’t be ignored. I had planned to just add slivers of green, or possibly just one pop of it, but once I started the curved pieces, the green earned more of a place in the quilt.” 

 @kathycookquilts thought of the overall match: “I auditioned many colors to go with the black and white for this challenge. Blues are a favorite of mine so I concentrated on them. The blue I chose had a mid value that worked well with the two extremes of black and white.”

@mariurbezg tried colour presence at a minimum. She wrote: “The small accent of colour was a very good idea. Even if, in my work, it is just a few pieces of fabric with a bit of colour on it. It is enough to give to the quilt more life and light.”

For @margaret_stamford the choice of accent color was an occasion to experiment. She wrote: “Had I not given my color choice much thought, I would have chosen a saturated bright. Instead I challenged myself to choose a subtle color that one might think wouldn’t pair well with edgy black and white.  Mostly I used a pale pastel, Sea Glass by Kona, which I think works because of the high-contrast. Glad I took the risk!”


With clear black and white shapes popping out, the quilting phase may need to follow accordingly. @margaret_stamford proceeded in this way: “The quilting on this piece was totally improv, with the intention of emphasizing the design. I could foresee that all straight lines would stop the movement in the center part of the quilt so I opted for some central curves that would run off of the edges to add movement. The rest is linear and complements the title, _Constraints_.”

Secondly, we asked if there was any source of inspiration concerning improv quilting, that our participants wanted to share.

@kathycookquilts replied:For me, inspiration is usually the result of play. I’ve been experimenting with cutting shapes up and inserting negative space while trying to maintain some semblance of the original form. After trying and rejecting a barrel shape, I used the scraps from it to make the quilt for this challenge! I get good ideas from scraps! A lot of my experiments don’t result in a finished product, but I really enjoy the journey!”

The source for the geometries chosen by @blabshandgemacht was in her surroundings. She told: “The inspiration for my black and white plus one color quilt came from the old wooden floor in the apartment I grew up.”

 @hollygrovethreads focussed on shapes: “I have been enjoying experimenting with improv curves piecing and chose to use it for this wall hanging. I find curved piecing to be easy. I think that may come from my previous experience with garment sewing, as it is much like sewing in a sleeve on a garment.

Even in my improv work I enjoy incorporating some structure and pattern in the layout.  In this work, although the curves are improvisational, there is an underlying structure and pattern that ties each block together.”

@mariurbezg looks around for quilting ideas: “It’s always nice to see other works for inspiration. Now I’m trying to incorporate into my quilts more free-motion quilting… This kind of quilting pairs very well with improv piecing, in my opinion.” 

For @piecefulwendy there are several artists who have had an impact on her shift to improv. She lists: “Debbie Jeske (@aquilterstable) has inspired me with her creative flow, and I would credit her kindness with giving me the push to explore and play a bit more. Nicholas Ball‘s book Inspiring Improv has also been helpful and given me some new techniques. I’ll be taking some classes from Carole Lyles Shaw this month, and I’m excited about that.” 

We are happy that our games continue to be an opportunity for newcomers to improv: this time, it was the turn of @karinaquilts .
She wrote: “This was my first improv piece and I used this as a way to start and learn about improv quilting.
I jumped in very quickly to this challenge and gave very little thought to how my quilt would progress. I just started sewing with the only three black and white fabrics that I had in my stash and went with the flow. I made some shapes and continued from there. My first few pieces were stark black and white solids together. I liked the effect of the big graphic black and white solid shapes and stripes together. So I continued on that theme. I liked how the bright yellow popped against the black and white.
Overall, this has been a huge learning curve for me. It was very challenging at times! I jumped in, learnt a lot and will be a lot wiser for my next improv challenge.”

There is still one week to go, until our game deadline: for the black and white works completed within May 16th, we make available the possibility of being published on @quiltimprovstudio gallery. We invite you to follow it, and to appreciate the new quilts that continue to arrive these days!