Hi quilters! Our current improv game dedicated to “pop” colors and effects is ongoing, and all of you are welcome to join participants who have already started challenging themselves with such a theme. You can see their progress on Instagram, in the page dedicated to the game, under the hashtag #qispopimprov.

While you are thinking what to sew next, we would like to mention quilting events that are coming soon, as a feast for the eyes, and as a possible inspiration source!

Next week the doors will open for the wide quilting festival hosted in France, Alsace: the European Patchwork Meeting (EPM).

Some Quilt Improv Studio participants will travel to Alsace, and some of their quilts, made for galleries part of EPM, will be in the exhibits! 

Paola and Giovanna are visiting the festival on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th in September 2022; their quilts “East” and “Chaos” will be part of the Wide Horizons SAQA Exhibit in ESPACE DES TISSERANDS, Place des Tisserands 68160 in Ste-Marie-aux-Mines.

Maria Paz Avalos will fly to Europe to have her work “Bordar, cantar, amar”, and her contribution within the group quilt “Faces”, included in Chile Quilting exhibit, at ESPACE RAYMOND HESTIN, 47 Rue du Général de Gaulle, 68660 Rombach-le-Franc. 

Mattea Jurin will be present in person and with her work “Big girls don’t cry”, selected for the EPM international challenge Once Upon a Thread, in PAVILLON OSMONT, 8 Rue Osmont, 68160 Ste-Marie-aux-Mines. Award ceremony for the international challenge will take place on Friday, September 16th at 2.30 P.M. 

Also Pamela Nensi, another quilter who participated to Quilt Improv Studio games in the past, will travel to France in this occasion.

And you? What are your plans?

Keep an eye on Quilt Improv Studio stories on Instagram: more details on our agenda, and the possibilities to meet us there, will follow soon! 

"East", detail

Hello quilters, here we are! Today it’s the same date when we started with our first Quilt Improv Studio game two years ago, and we celebrate it with the launch of a new challenge! 

Just a little introduction to let you know how this new game was born.

While we were googling images for the recent QIS Primary colors challenge we saw a lot of Pop Art pictures that impressed us. Some days later Paola told us she thought to an hashtag for our new challenge: #qispopimprov. We liked it right away! It sounded a bit weird since this was the first time we decided to build a challenge starting from a keyword and its concept, thus the hashtag popped out at the beginning instead of the end!

Some explanations now: what do we mean for pop improv challenge? You don’t have to do something really similar to Pop Art but just think of your quilt as an expression occasion, such as a poster, to popularize improv patchwork. Something that hits! It means that we’d like to see an explosion of colors! This time we invite you not to use a limited palette, but to use the brightest and most phantasmagoric colors you can find! Also fluorescent! Solids or printed fabric, whatever you have in your stash. We have to be daring and to create quilts with a strong impact, high contrast in a really modern improv style. So what about using only complementary colors? Or do you prefer to use primary and secondary together? Just be careful not to get a rainbow effect.

As always, in the next few days, we will launch some surveys on Instagram to decide together some elements.
So, let’s start to think about how your work will be! 

See you soon

Carla, Giovanna e Paola

When we decided to start a game based on primary colors and black and white, we knew only part of the meanings associated with such hues. 

We could not imagine how many meanings were possible and, thanks to game participants and quilting contacts, we learnt much more on the way.

We had the pleasure of receiving comments from many quilters and also fiber artist @shinheechin wrote us, revealing a fascinating story from her culture background: 

“Black and white, yellow, red and blue are famous for Mondrian’s palette, but also those five colors were called ‘obansaek’: Korean traditional colors, that are related to five elements. Blue: wood, red: fire, yellow: earth, white: metal, black: water.”

Some obvious connections and some less expected ones emerged during the game. Such as the references mentioned by our game participants below. 

@hollygrovethreads wrote: “I improvised my two compositions based on the color requirements. I studied work by artists Piet Mondrian and also Jose Pedro Costigliolo.”

@arttextiles said: “I worked towards a mid-century look without following strictly a Mondrian influence. I chose a predominantly white background, to separate the primary colours to give them space and more impact.”

@patchbri  explained: “It was since time ago that I wanted to make a quilt based on the geometries of paseo maritimo at Santa Eulalia where my daughter lives, and I found the colors perfect to realize it now.”

@quiltergardener adopted connections among colors: “I tried to group the colors into pleasing combinations to keep the quilt from looking messy. Black looked nice with yellow, blue with white. Instead of the more obvious white background I used red — and was very pleased with the result!”

We asked participants who finished their quilt early if they improvised the composition in some different way, due to the fact that the colors required for the game had a strong contrast.

@gigi.v13 wrote: “The requirement to use the strongly contrasting primary colors plus black and white was a true challenge for me. This is not my comfort zone and I had difficulty beginning. I finally started making borders, working from the outside, without a plan. Eventually it evolved into an improv log cabin design. I did incorporate some black Essex linen homespun, which softened the contrast and I felt more comfortable with my design.”

Also @therollingcat_ was not used to such hues: “At the beginning I was not sure if primary colors were available in my stash. Then, I wanted a black background to set off the primary colors. The result, with these circles having strong colors located on black and white lines, reminds me of licorice candies, hence the title”.

@auroraa1714 made a similar experience: “It was my first time using these colors… they were a little strange at the beginning, but then as I was mixing them I started to see them in a different way. Now I could do three more quilts without problems. This is one of the things that I love more of this challenge”.

@dove_ti_porta_il_filo found her way gradually: “I started piecing one color at a time, combining it with black or white. Then, after a while, I changed my route, contrasting elements found their place, and fear disappeared”.

@hollygrovethreads solved the challenge using two solutions: she made two quilts! “In my first composition, I used block shapes with white as my line element. For my second composition, I used triangular shapes, with black as my line element.”

Other participants felt quite at ease: for @stitches_and_stanzas, “the strong contrast between the colors was perfect for improvising with lines because it allowed each piece to really stand out and it allowed lots of possible ways to combine pieces with a strong visual impact.” @georgene331 added: “I liked the parameter of the primary colors and lines to create the piece. I totally just let go and had a lot of free fun creating it!”

@aquilterstable gave different roles to colors, based on their value levels: “I did intentionally use white and yellow as ‘subtle’ accents, with black being used more as a background, to let the red and blue be the focus.”

Solving color mix was part of the challenge.

But also another design feature was to be included: the line. 

Thus, we asked our quilters: “The game requirement to focus on the line element acted as a constraint or as a starting point for ideas?”


@stitches_and_stanzas admitted: “I have never really explored using lines as the primary element in my quilts so I saw this as a great chance to explore and try new ways of seeing how lines could work together in a quilt”.

For @arttextiles “The lines were a ‘gift’ both in choosing the fabrics and a conscious element when constructing the smaller components within the block construction.”

@gigi.v13 added: “The requirement to focus on ‘line’ definitely created a starting point, which I found helpful. I also think it acted as a constraint for me, as I tried to limit my design mostly to lines. Other quilters seemed more or less constrained by this and maybe this can be explained by personality and experience.”

@aquilterstable started from lines too: “Line was definitely a starter point for my design. I created several striped slabs before ever knowing how I would eventually use them.”

@karen_quilts_and_makes confirmed: “My starting point was the long red check line in the middle. This became a long rectangle within a rectangle. I liked this shape, colour, contrast and effect and decided to continue in this vein using all five colours in equal measure.”

@dove_ti_porta_il_filo said “I like lines. Constraints may act as stimuli to initiate a work”.

So, has anybody found lines as a constraint too strong? “No, the line element requirement was not a constraint for me. I prefer to create lines in patchwork, find them, and follow them where they lead me!”, insisted @quiltergardener.

Moreover, @morphea80 explained how the line was helpful for her: “I wanted to soften the hard contrast of the primary colors. Therefore I went for lots of white and a curvy quilting design. To me, the required element ‘line’ was a highly welcome antidote to the bold colors.” 

And if lines are difficult to match, you still can find some solution, as @therollingcat_ said: “The pesky line that I hated at the beginning became literally the connection and the starting point for the whole quilt: only when I knew how to deal with the line did I find inspiration to get started!”

@NisaMckMaker explained how lines and stripes were at the core of her process: “I randomly cut strips of differing thicknesses and used paper to stabilize them as some were very narrow. The theme of lines acted as the starting point and continued to inspire me, driving my ideas forward moment by moment”.

@hollygrovethreads made prominent use of lines: “The use of lines was an inspiration for me. Not a challenge or a constraint. This encouraged me to explore the use of lines. I enjoyed studying different methods of inserting skinny strips into a composition. I’ll certainly incorporate this in future work”. This resulted in her “Mod Mondrian” quilt made for the current game to be selected to hang at Quiltfest Greenville SC, April 28-30. Congratulations Kim!

We extend congratulations also to other quilters who had their works, created in the occasion of earlier @quiltimprovstudio games, selected for QuiltCon2022 and aired last February in Phoenix, Arizona, such as @aquilterstable, @quiltcreation and @kathycookquilts; while @sakuraquilting was awarded at Gramado Brasil quilt festival with her quilt created during our first challenge (an early bird player, we may say!). We are learning from each other. We are honored by the attention you dedicate to exploring improvisational constructions, using design principles shared with us… with great results!

We wish to thank all our game participants, so active within a thriving quilting community we humbly try to contribute to: merit to you, for all the great fun during our games! We invite you to review all work in progress at #qisprimarycolors Instagram page, and the improv quilts completed by the participants in the @quiltimprovstudio gallery.

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