Friday, January 11, 2019

Clearing the Old Adhoc. Improv. Projects Out of the Way

*Don't forget! There's still time to enter the Strip Quilt Secrets giveaway over at my last post!*  I really don't mind having a whole list of open-ended projects to work on. It keeps things interesting as I can feel free to work on whatever phase of a project that currently interests me, be it hand work, chain piecing, layout dilemmas, or perhaps the addition of a new border. It honestly works quite a bit better for my quilting mojo when I'm not dedicated to working on a single project until its finish.
Playing With Scale #2 a finished quilt top!
That being said, I often end up working on several different quilt 'series', throughout the length of a year or two. It's not like it's usually even on purpose, but after finishing up one quilt {or perhaps the new idea hits smack in the middle}, I'm eager to see how a certain element will look if I tweak it just a little or try a slightly different spin on things. This particular quilt came along as a companion idea to our Adhoc. Improv. playing with scale challenge. I ended up with a quilt top that was quite satisfying in terms of completing the challenge, but I just had this niggling feeling that the results had room for growth.

Improv. is something that I definitely feel more comfortable working though after this past several years of dipping my toes in the water, then trying to float, later on starting to learn how to tread water. But... {you knew there was going to be a 'but'}, I still have a long ways to go before it feels like second nature. It still stresses me just a little, and so I often drag my heels and easily allow myself to procrastinate on the follow through. And I wonder, so much of the improv. work I see online and from viewing major quilt show pictures feels a little bit cold. Maybe even a teensy bit harsh at times.
It took a couple hours worth of tinkering before
 the layout finally started coming together...
Please tell me I'm not wasting my time pursuing something that will only result in making my quilts look more 'modern or contemporary'! Don't misunderstand, some of that work is very compelling and I admire all the creativity involved in the making. A lot of it is just not my thing.  It doesn't resonate on a deep level. There's something about say, the QuiltCon style of quilts that feel especially chilly and there's sort of a implacability about them. I can't even explain. To put it bluntly, I usually like the QuiltCon rejections much better than the QuiltCon winners! Hmmm... That's an interesting thought. Oh well. I would sincerely love to go to a show someday and see if my reaction would be different in person, because it's obvious that a ton of people get very excited about these quilts! Maybe you have to be there to feel it. It's so painful that the Australian and French {Quiltmania} style of quilting are so underrepresented at shows here in the states. I have a feeling those sorts of quilts would be tremendously inspirational to someone like me!

My best inspiration overall, is in the vintage and antique style of quilts, preferably the softer, less perfect looking utility style of quilts. Those are the ones that invariably make emotion well up inside me and cause me to dream about making my own versions of what I've seen. If there are only five antique quilts mixed into the annual, regional quilt show, you better believe I've circled around to see them at least three or more times before I leave! If I see them in a book or a magazine or even online, I'm almost drooling over them. That's my lodestone if you will, and why I ever, ever even attempted to dive into the scary world of 'improv.'  Something had to give, 'cuz making straight-up traditional style quilts wasn't getting me where I ultimately needed and/or wanted to go.
The upper applique block is approximate 2" larger than
 the smaller one in the lower left corner of the quilt.
This particular quilt feels like a HUGE step in the right direction of somehow getting my quilting voice to speak louder than the fact that it's actually made in the improv. style. Yeah, yeah, I've heard you. I get it. Most of my quilting efforts do fall underneath the umbrella of  'improv.' {working in an unscripted manner and working successfully to resolve any/all issues that come up, etc. etc.}. I think you all know what I'm getting at though. If you type the words 'improv. quilts' into a search engine, there's a certain distinguishable style that immediately pops up. 

As you can see, this quilt is made up of many of the very same underlying elements today's improv. quilters rely on. Yet somehow, I ended up with a look/style that does actually resonate on a personal level! And so now I'm pondering. Is it the fabric print that makes the difference for me here? The color palette? Adding in a little bit of applique? A bit of vintage and up-cycled shirting fabric? All of these things, without a doubt, help make the quilt more appealing to me. Having those elements, alongside the improv. piecing, somehow makes it more snuggle-up lovable. I guess it's sort of a package deal in my world.
It's the best part of the quilt, those two applique additions...
So it's been a journey. If my quilts don't end up feeling cozy, whimsical, sweet, comforting, joyful, or perhaps even a little bit primitive and naive, then I feel bit lost and maybe even a lot disconnected. Feeling like I completed wasted my time and energies. Sometimes I win and yes, sometimes I lose, but I'm always, always, trying to move forward. Kaja and Ann have been a huge help with their Adhoc. Improv. linkups/blog and real efforts to support and nurture individual creativity and exploration of personal style. It's been great fun to ride along with them and see what new challenge they present next!
Although the rest of the quilt has its charms as well...
So Yay! for a complete win in the 'me quilt' category! Yay! for wrapping up another individual challenge! All that striving, practicing and sweating out the decision making part is finally starting to come together. Don't mind me. Mentally, I'm doing a little fist pump here. It's wonderful to have evidence that all the hard work in the trenches is starting to pay off.

Ultimately, every element seemed necessary to the
success of this particular quilt. Even the vintage
and shirting fabrics play an important part!
On a different note, I decided to throw in a couple more pictures of the Maps Challenge quilt. The color in the pictures from the other day were absolutely terrible. Ughh! I was in a hurry to get the post up, but later on, realized that all my blog records would forever be warped by those lousy pictures.

Adhoc. Improv. Maps Challenge quilt
Who was it that initially raised the bar for having Pinterest worthy quilt pictures anyway? Well, these are much better than before, but they would never qualify for 'Pinterest worthy' that's for sure! This quilt top had already been stuffed in a clear zip-bag and shoved into the quilt tops drawers. Did I iron it upon taking it out of the bag? Um..., no?

Still in love with the brown/white gingham fabric...
Really? The sun was shining and I had about 15 minutes before people were charging through the living room and making demands on my time. Would you have been ironing? Don't answer that.

It's simple, but it works for me
I picked off a lot of stray threads. Surely that counts for something. And you have to admit, now that you're seeing this quilt top in better lighting, it's starting to look a lot more attractive, in spite of its rumpled appearance.  I'm telling you, it looked amazing draped over my sons bed! Couldn't take a picture of that though as there were piles of clothes on the floor. Whatever. It feels good to be starting with a clean slate for the 2019 Adhoc. Improv. challenges and inadvertent detours!  Linking to Wendy's Peacock Party!


  1. I have not been able to get into the modern quilt scene - it just isn't for me, I have made a couple that are "modern" but I don't care for them as much as my older fashion utility scrappy quilts - I love medallions and the Australian/Quiltmania quilts too

  2. You are not alone in your thinking regarding the quilt con winners v the rejects and the whole modern scene. What I love most about quilting is that there is so much room for all of us to make what speaks to our souls -- so I make what makes me happy and applaud others who do the same without regard to labels or categories. I love your work and the way you share your process!

  3. The playing with scale 2 quilt is beautifull, i like the colours and design. I have started one improv project but got stuck, I find it very difficult. Maybe I'm more of a quiltmania type. Warm greetings

  4. Love the lettering on your medallion quilt! I'm with you, I often like the non-winners better than the winners.
    Yay for making quilts that make us happy

  5. You always make me think. Here's the new thought: improv METHOD and improv STYLE are 2 different things. Yeah, obvious when you write it out, huh? I almost always work with an improv method, as you describe: "Most of my quilting efforts do fall underneath the umbrella of 'improv.' {working in an unscripted manner and working successfully to resolve any/all issues that come up, etc. etc.}." But very very little of my work is in an "improv style." Much of what we see as "modern improv" leaves me cold. It looks contrived, and/or it just isn't very good from a design standpoint. OTOH, antique quilts that were made in a make-it-work way are charming and fascinating. Oh! look, she used this funky print here instead of the plainer navy print -- did she run out? Huh, funny, this block is completely different from all the rest! THOSE quilts suggest stories, a reason to think about them more. Anyone, in any method or style of making who can make quilts that tell stories is doing something fabulous and admirable. That's why badly made quilts can be just as great as technically perfect quilts. :) More things to think about. Thanks as always.

  6. Our quilts should make us happy no matter what style or direction we take or colors we love. If not, we did something wrong.

  7. To each his own.

    To be honest with you I don't know what quilts were rejected or selected for Quiltcon. I also don't know about Quiltmania.

    Your latest quilt shouts "Spring Has Sprung". I wish. It's been snowing all day.

  8. Your style sense makes my heart sing :)

  9. Interesting piece....the one with "Turn right where the pink house burned" one.

  10. So much fun to hear your thoughts. I'm struggling with the improv process. I guess I'm a tried and true "Rule Follower". But, I'm trying to relax a little. The striped quilt top makes my eyes scan the whole area, making sure I don't miss anything

  11. What an interesting post and you have really got me thinking about what I like/don't like. Do you think that the fact lots of people work only with solids might have something to do with it? I think this often creates work with a harder edge to it. I like your Playing with Scale top a lot and it definitely feels like you.

  12. It's always good to try new things, but not everything suits everyone. I took an improv class and enjoyed it while I was there, but when I got home, I realised it's not my natural style and I would never finish the piece. I have other WIPS I"m more excited about. Thank you for linking up to the Peacock Party.

  13. Make what you love. If your heart is happy when you are stitching, then its all good. I just signed up for a six month project, and although I will be using someone elses patterns/techniques, I'm learning and loving the outcomes. But I still have my hand quilting and EPP and, and, and..... going on. You get my drift. Sew with abandon, I love your style, your finishes, your hand stitches.

  14. Oh I do love your beautiful Playing with Scale quilt, and yes, the two applique additions are the 'icing on the cake' for this quilt.

  15. This project reminds me of Anna Williams' work. Here is one, as posted by Barbara Brackman.


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