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!







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!

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