Thinking About The Process Of Improv Patchwork

Hello there! Well, what a day. Momentous, whatever your perspective.  A billionaire reality tv host becomes president of the US. Some people in my social media feeds say they’re staying inside today, retreating from that reality! I’m happy to be inside: it’s been chilly here in the UK over the last few days and I’m finally beginning to feel at home in our new home.

We’re mostly unpacked and things have found their natural place, which means the sewing machine’s set up and the floor’s clear enough for some piecing.

Worrying About Time

Fete‘ is at the top of my list of piecing priorities and when it’s finished it’ll head straight to the top of my hand quilting list too. In short, I need to get my skates on because it’s a gift for my sister. Her 40th birthday is on the 2nd January and with all the unexpected setbacks, I’m seriously behind. Months behind. I don’t know if I can get it done by then but I’m going to focus all my energy on it – and keep my fingers crossed too!

Considering My Improv Process

I’ve managed to add another couple of rows over the last two days: it’s a slow process. The design is entirely improv and each triangle is individually cut (with scissors) and pieced to the next one. I work on it laid out on the kitchen floor so that I can see shape of the next piece and determine the curve. There’s a lot of backwards and forwarding to the sewing machine and I’ve found it’s much more productive to stand up to sew the pieces together.

Fete - an improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Fete…so far

Experimenting With Design And Technique

I’ve begun to add some new colours and prints to the rows. Initially I thought I’d graduate from one colour to another, but I’ve got something else up my sleeve that I want to try out. Tonight’s the night for experimenting. I love this part of the process, the ‘what if’ part. The decision making. This is the part where I become completely engrossed and lose track of time. And usually forget to eat.

Fete - an improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Introducing some new colours and prints into the mix. The purple is from Makower and there’s a new grey Lewis and Irene print called Bumbleberry – and a few others I can’t recall.

When I look more closely I realise the piecing is surprisingly intricate in places. It’s funny how that happens without you noticing. When you’re sewing it’s just a matter of figuring out how one piece will connect to the next. And how to get rid of ‘bubbles’ and any bias stretching along the way (there are a couple of small, barely noticeable darts to overcome this effect). A lot of the fabrics are from my scrap stash which aren’t necessarily cut along the grain; the curves would negate this anyway.

Fete - an improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Evoking the sky with raindrops and bird prints adds to the fun of this quilt

What’s Your Process Like?

Trying to articulate the process is difficult and amounts to a lot of rambling, it’s like an automatic writing session here today. The question though is does it encourage you to have a go at improv and experimentation, or does it put you off all together? What’s your thought process like when you give yourself licence to play with technique and composition? Or do you prefer to have some direction? Let us know below – rambling accepted!

I’m linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social today, come and see what the party’s about.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

25 replies
  1. Karen Goad
    Karen Goad says:

    I don’t think people here have retreated to inside their houses – don’t know what you are hearing over there. The elections did not go as we all thought it would and there is disappointment but I think most roll with the punches – and lets see what he does now and if we have to can we vote him out in four years. I have heard of no violence but then I have not had the tv on other than a little while this morning – I don’t want to listen to it!! I’m in the sewing room instead when I haven’t been outside working!! Fall is here and the leaves are dropping like crazy!! glad you are settling into your new home.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Haha! Karen – there’s so much to be said for not publishing things straight away! I’ve read some lighthearted comments made by people here in the UK – I think we’ve had enough shock to last us a life-time this year 😀 (I’ve amended the text a bit, hopefully it doesn’t sound like such a serious comment anymore?). I’m like you, I listened to very little of it. My new garden is quite small and hasn’t got much in it, certainly not enough leaves to worry about. There’s only one border and I’ve weeded it over a couple of times and discovered there’s nothing planted in it at all – absolutely nothing, not even a rogue daffodil bulb! How sad is that? So I’m on bulb planting duty when I’ve not been emptying boxes or quilting, I’ve got to have something colourful to look forward to in spring! Hope you’re enjoying your time outside, is it warm enough?

      Reply
  2. aine
    aine says:

    Oh gosh, I live in a very mixed ethnic and multiracial neighborhood, and people went to work, kids went to school, and my retired neighbors are out working in their yards. Absolutely no rioting, no retreating that I can see, and we Americans go about the business of a new course set by President Trump. It went exactly as I had hoped so no sad faces here.

    Loving the colors in your quilt, but I have to say each of your pictures is a treasure. I find so many things to concentrate on and exclaim over. Your new home is lovely.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Hi Aine, was rioting predicted? I hope not, glad to hear there’s none to report ? As I said to Karen, it’s just some lighthearted comments I’ve seen here in the UK about hiding away until it’s all over! We must be exhausted from so much debate over the last few months! Thank you for your lovely comments about this quilt it made me really smile. I’m working on it this minute (well I was until I heard my phone go ping) and I’m having a lot of fun. I feel like I can see sn end in sight for this top sooner than I imagined. What sort of quilting do you do/enjoy?

      Reply
  3. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    I am in Canada and we are all shocked here and I think a lot of us have definitely retreated into our sewing rooms today!

    Your Fete is one of my favourite quilts ever! There is such movement and gaiety!!! I love every time you show it’s progress and can’t wait to see you quilting it.

    As for Improv quilting….I am tempted but have no idea about how to about even starting. Maybe I’ll have a grand idea one day.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      At least we quilters have somewhere comforting to retreat to when we need it!

      Your comment brought tears to my eyes. I’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive response to this quilt, thank you so much. At the moment I’m planning a random zig-zag quilt pattern in perle threads. I’d like to use different coloured threads, but I had a bit of a disaster with a cushion I made and the colour of the red thread run. Maybe a variegated thread is a safer bet?

      If you fancy a go at Improv I can recommend Sherri Lynn Wood’s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. She suggests really great ways for getting started, like setting yourself some rules to follow so that you don’t have to ‘think’ too much or get stuck. Within those rules there’s room for chance and serendipity. It’s really good fun 🙂 x

      Reply
  4. Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow
    Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow says:

    You have one lucky sister and just keep at it 🙂 Here in the USA politics can get a little crazy and this year was the worst ever but aside from a few college students deciding to protest here and there ( most likely after a drinking binge or something ) all is normal and all of the contestants in the political game have given speeches about transitioning in a peaceful manner

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Thanks Deb – she’s so lucky to have me as her sister, hahaha!! She knows I’m making a quilt for her birthday and she gave me carte blanche, so I just got on and had some fun. Since I’m so far behind now I’ll let her in on it and send her progress photos. At least that way she knows it’s on the way 🙂 Glad to hear things are settling down for you all. I’ve heard a couple of speeches from Clinton, Obama and Trump since the election and the talk of a peaceful transition is reassuring for everyone. Have a great weekend Deb.

      Reply
  5. Bossymamma
    Bossymamma says:

    This quilt top is so beautifully bright and cheerful, Stephie. I’m pleased for you that the piecing is proceeding so well. However, I am a little concerned about how you will manage to hand quilt it with your fingers permanently crossed! ???

    Reply
  6. Kaja
    Kaja says:

    This is looking fabulous! Funny you sew standing up – I find that the best way too. I think articulating the thought process is really, really hard: it’s mostly just ‘try this…try that…’ until something looks right.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Ah great minds – standing up is so much easier. I think ‘try this, try that’ about sums it up! I’m usually aiming for something, whether it’s balance or discordance, movement or whatever, and it’s about shifting things around until it captures those thoughts and feelings. And there’s usually some amount of swearing involved 😀

      Reply
  7. venividivicky
    venividivicky says:

    What a mesmerizing composition. I would never have thought of piecing rows of triangles in improv curves, but it looks so stunning and adds a lot of interest. As a planner, improv doesn’t come natural to me, but I recently sewed some blocks improv style for a bee member and I found it pretty cathartic.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Thanks Vicky. Sometimes I think it does us good to get out of our comfort zone for a bit – it’s way out of my zone to plan anything!! It doesn’t come naturally to me at all, I tend to get stuck at the start because I know I’m likely to change my mind half way through. I generally get the original idea, let it percolate in my mind for a while then try out some small samples to see if my sewing technique is up to what I have in my head. Then I just make a start and fudge it as I go along – very technical term that, haha! Will you have a go at some more improv blocks? I think random strings are a really easy place to start. Ann at Fret Not Yourself has made some great string quilts 🙂

      Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Hi Pam, thanks for popping in and saying hello, lovely to meet you! I can understand it being a hot topic in your neck of the woods. Here on the other side of the pond I think there are strong feelings of disbelief, but you don’t get the nuances there must be in the US and Canada. Let’s see what happens next…

      Reply
  8. Ann
    Ann says:

    Your quilt looks so festive. Perfect name, especially for a birthday quilt. It reminds me a bit of my baseball quilt, although my triangle represent people in the stands. I need to get busy on that again. A good place to retreat while I mull over my thoughts and plans.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      It would be great to see you ‘getting busy’ with that one again Ann. You’ve got so many wonderful quilts on the go it must be exciting to wake up each morning! x

      Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      It’s been bliss Maureen 🙂 As well as this little table for the machine I have a large farmhouse table to work on, another round table I can put a table top ironing board on – AND the kitchen floor! I’ve not been so spoilt for space since I used to rent art studios and workshops to make art in. I wish I could still do that, but so many old warehouses have been sold for development that everywhere else seems way too expensive for the poor starving artist, haha!! x

      Reply
  9. Pat in WNY
    Pat in WNY says:

    Good to see that you’re settling in and finding time to quilt again. Your improv triangles are coming along beautifully, so cheerful and bright, the perfect thing for cold, wet November days!
    I have to say I’ve never in my 70+ years witnessed such a demonstration of childish tantrum-like behavior after an election. You would not have seen the same reaction from those on the other side if the other candidate had won. There is always disappointment if the candidate of one’s choice doesn’t win, but real people pick up the pieces and get back to the business of living their lives, going to work, and improving their lot, not engaging in destructive rioting and threatening murder of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I am sorry the rest of the world has to witness this disgraceful reaction, but the majority of Americans are quietly resuming life as usual and are willing to give our President-elect a chance, just as we did the last person to win this coveted office.

    Reply
  10. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Hi Steph, just watching a British mystery this evening and part of it takes place at a fete, with streamers just like your quilt. Here, we would pronounce it “fet” and I hear them pronouncing it “fayt”. I think I was thinking it meant more of a party, here we would consider it a carnival. I dropped a broad hint to my husband about the improv book you suggested, and it should be on it’s way from Amazon for my Christmas! So, a new adventure in improv quilting for me in the coming year!

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Sandra that’s so exciting! What a new year you’re going to have, woohoo! I think you’ll love the book, it’s packed full of inspiring pictures even if you don’t warm to improv working – but I’ve a feeling you will 🙂

      I think you say fete ‘correctly’ – obviously it’s of French origin and the French have the accent over the vowel to flatten it. Somewhere along the line we dropped the accent and the French pronunciation – there’s a resistance here to anything French sounding, haha! (I blame the Norman Conquest :D) In this country a fete is an outdoor event with stalls selling things like homemade cakes, and games like ‘guess how many sweets are in the jar’, there’s generally a raffle too. It’s a real family atmosphere and there are often traditional entertainments on offer like Morris dancing, or Maypole dancing in spring. They’re a traditional feature of British summers and put on as local fund raising events, so you’ll get church fetes, school fetes, village fetes and so on. What we consider a carnival, I think you call a parade! A parade here is often more ‘institutional’, like a veterans parade, although not always. It can be really confusing…the nuances of language eh?! We all tend to think English is English, but it really isn’t when you get down to the detail is it? Here endeth the lesson in British English!!!

      Reply

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