Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Struggling With a Different Process

I need to approach what I'm doing from another angle occasionally. Have a different starting point and look at things from a fresh viewpoint. I guess that's why Kaja and Ann's AHIQ series is so interesting to me.
My starting squares
I really thought this improv. attempt would be about strings, but no. I took my long narrow strips of leftover cream backing fabric and started cutting them into random sized squares--large and small. Then I took some older pieces of blue fabric and did the same. All my cutting was made without rulers so the square sizes are all over the place.

Then, feeling faintly guilty {because this did not feel like true improv.}, I sewed them into half square triangles the efficient way. I did NOT mark the center lines though. It was all sort of eyeballed and so yes, some hst's are a bit more on the rectangular side than square. When I cut them apart between the sewing lines, I used my scissors and roughly cut off the extra fabric if one or two sides needed trimmed.
Doing what makes sense...
Then I ironed the hst's open and started lining them up on the wall. I played with them going in different directions and then went to bed. I was feeling sort of let down and yes, confused about how to go forward.

For clarity, I want you to know that these are the 'rules' I started out with:

  • Only use fabric on hand, the older the better
  • Cut entirely without rulers
  • Start with one basic shape
  • Only use 1-2 colors of fabric to begin with
  • No 'finished quilt' planning allowed
  • What if, What if, What if?

A starting point
Today I decided to play with the idea of an old fashioned 'utility' style sawtooth quilt. It wasn't doing it for me though.
Where my brain takes me....
I went back to my basic mass-of-wonky-triangles and changed up the row by fabric print. Much too subtle to make any significant difference.
A subtle change....
Then I introduced some brown strips. Thought about using red, but ughh! This does not need to be a red/white and blue quilt in order for me to appreciate it.
Adding strips
 I rather liked where it was going with less strips....
Maybe less?
But still... What exactly am I trying to achieve here? What is improv. exactly? Sherri Lynn Wood has this to say about the subject 'improv is a process of discovery. More specifically self discovery.

Then she mentions that 'It's a practice of being present'. So I'm thinking, what is it exactly that makes me feel connected to these wonky hst's? Those feel like me somehow. But it doesn't look, smell or act like what I've seen called improv. The fabrics are old fashioned and non-improvvy looking. You and I both know it's not the least bit bold, bright and splashy looking! I'm pretty sure this is exactly the kind of structure that will help me with my quilting and yet I'm struggling to find a true connection between what I do now and what I {vaguely} know needs to happen to some of my future quilting. I really feel that my {quilting} voice needs some of this whimsy occasionally, this old fashioned utility quilt style of I-don't-care-about-the-rules. Why oh why is so hard to go back to this style of sewing, when you've proved you can match up all your points and keep everything square and plumb?
Just seeing hst's, that's all....
I kept thinking of what Kaja said about taking a simple shape and seeing where it leads you. And so I kept playing. Until I came up with this: using the wonky hst's to frame a vintage basket block. Doesn't this look more like me already? I'm starting to feel present already.
A personal connection....
Will I keep it? Sew it together and call it my own? I'm not sure. These hst's may just be for playing and waking up my brain, saying what if? Right now the plan is to leave it up on the wall and keep looking at it. I feel like I jumped a major hurdle today and melded some different ideas together in a way that yes, I feel very connected to. Is it truly improv.? You tell me. It definitely feels more like a self discovery than a copykat improv. session! Linking up to AHIQ today. How about you?


  1. Wow. I like your old-fashioned HSTs. And they are improv. That's a new word for an old style of utility quilting/making do. Of course, it can mean other things now. Because everything metamorphoses. I like the blue and brown combination but once you put your basket in the center it looks like you. Love the handle!
    You are smart to remember these can just be for playing around; they don't have to be made into something.
    Thanks for linking up with AHIQ. I'm so pleased you want to try this.

  2. It's interesting watching you try this! The squares do look like you doing improv, which I think is the point, right? I don't think it's supposed to look like other people's. I have not been following along with the exercises, but I've been sewing bits that I would have thrown away into "made fabric". That's been interesting, in that I don't feel comfortable sewing just anything together, so I limited myself to making same color blocks. It's also "me" in that it uses up every last scrap, and I love that! My favorites are actually when I get to sew little wonky hsts. sarah@forrussia.org

  3. Great process post. We have those hesitations in common. I like how you brought in something of yourself in the vintage block, and I like how it looks with the HSTs. Great juxtaposition of styles and colors. I don't know if it "looks like you" but now I have discovered your site, I'll begin to learn about that! Thank you!

  4. I like it, I was going to suggest turning some of the triangles around but I see you have done that in the last photo and I think it adds that extra "something" to it and I do think it is improv - you are not following a patten, you are making it up as you go.

  5. I really liked your thought processes and how you wrote this. Have you ever thought of putting a strip right through the middle or corner of something? Will keep up with the progress, I am loving this! People like different colors so make what feels good to you.

  6. Love your rules. Love your triangles. Have fun!!!

  7. Great post Audrey. I too like your HST's a lot. It was interesting to follow your early attempts and to learn what you were thinking, and I love that you found a way to something that felt like 'you'. For me that's what improv is about, having your own voice, learning about yourself as you go, and not worrying too much about the rest.

  8. That's just the thing about improv, you're making something that's like you, not bound by what others are doing or what you think in advance what it should look like. You "play" until your happy. It's great to see the process!

  9. Looks like a lot of fun and yes that basket really makes it you! Love your ruler rule Your so brave!. The results are fantastic.

  10. Adding my voice to the chorus - adding the basket really lets the 'you' shine through. Thank you for sharing your thoughts - I'm always fascinated by others' processes and thinking. So much to learn and so many ways to see.

  11. I l-o-v-e to read posts about a quilter's process - this is one of the best. I truly saw you come through at the end, and I look forward to seeing what'd down the road. I'm s-o-o happy to see you working with blue!

  12. Oh I like where this journey is taking you--easy for me to say just peeking in, right? I made some weird snakeys using Sherri's method two years ago and they are still hanging (literally) in my spare closet hissing at me --every once in a while I look at them and say, "Now what?" So I empathize; they were fun to make...so I am hoping for an "ah ha " moment to hit...keep at it, hugs, Julierose

  13. It is hard to move away from your comfort zone, but I'd say you have hit the mark on this one so far! I'm not one for precision piecing so maybe I need to practice a little improv too. Thanks for the inspiration.

  14. Hi Audrey.. I had a similar situation as you..I was making a wonky quilt for youngest used selvages in blocks (was way out of my comfort zone) if you look at my blog March 17 and April 12 of 2013 u will see what I mean. ...yours will turn out adorable,!! Mary-myneedlethread.blogspot. com

  15. You are very brave - I don't think I could do it. I love the hst's with the big basket! It looks like you to me too :0)

  16. That sure fits what I think of as improv Audrey. At first, because you poured so much thought into it and created an all--your-own construction process. Then even further because in the end, you felt connected to what you were doing. I like where you're heading with framing the basket. It feels a little scary, but then quite good to exercise our creative muscles!

  17. I was scrolling down your blog entry, looking at each step, reading about how uncomfortable you were. About halfway down, I suddenly thought, "Audrey needs a basket somewhere." And, a little further down as I was scrolling, you found the basket! And what a perfect basket it is for this project. Isn't it amazing that someone (me) can get to know someone else (a little at least) through a blog? I am probably the last person on earth to realize this can be done. Anyway, keep it up. I like the suggestions about using the oldest fabric, and about using just two colors to begin with. This bit of structure helps balance the out-of-control feelings connected to improvisation. Oh, and thank you for showing the details of your process, it is really interesting.

  18. For me, working without a pattern or a pre-set plan qualifies as improvisation. I love that you chose older fabrics and a traditional HST block made in a free form manner. I find that I have more fun when there are self-imposed limits involved - like the limits you set out at the beginning of your post. Enjoyed reading your process notes.

  19. When you added the basket with the pink blocks, I was sold. No worries about improvising, do what makes you happy!

  20. Yes, I hear your voice loud and clear in what you ended up with on the design wall! Even with "improv" I still like to have rules too.

  21. That feels like too much work (for me!) But if you are having fun and loving it, than it is fantastic!

  22. I love this. The simplest HST version is the best, so beautiful and simple and honest.

  23. Well, I tend to think of jazz when I think of improv, and that is about knowing the rules and seeing what happens when you stretch them. Or fracture them a little bit. So, I think you are on the right track! It is up to you how far to take it. :D

  24. We definitely have to go with instinct and what the pieces/fabrics/colours are telling us and I too am finding it not too easy to work in a totally improv way! Love what you're doing here and the basket in the middle!

  25. Well done you! You're a braver woman than I am.

  26. I think that the fact that you're 'struggling' is a really good thing!!! When we struggle like this, that's when we really begin to ask ourselves the questions that matter - like 'what is it that makes this quilt 'me'?'. I also think the fact that you're using such lovely subdued colours makes it much more unique, much more you! I love what you've done so far and really look forward to seeing how you develop it :)

  27. You are so right about it being hard to let go once you've been matching points and keeping things square. Your improv, and it is, is looking good. I love the HST's and your explanation of your process. You should link up with Nancy's Quilty Inspiration. Your post is a perfect match for it.


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