Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Making Space for Improv

My AHIQ two block challenge quilt is a finished top! The initial design happened so fast that it is hard to remember exactly how it unfolded. I think my thoughts progressed something like this:
  1. Modern
  2. Asymmetrical
  3. Slashed "+" blocks
  4. with nine patches
  5. Grey
  6. and green
  7. Very minimal
  8. Lots of negative space
Then I tried to forget about it and focus on finishing Nettie. But, I was worrying about the negative space for this quilt already. What size should I make the blocks to ensure that there are enough blocks to demonstrate the two block pattern, and still have lots of empty/negative space? Without making a huge quilt?

My trusty clipboard and graph paper are never far away. I am good with computers, but I always design in pencil. I find that drawing is a more direct link with my creative side, and the ideas flow more naturally.

I started by drawing the outside edges of the quilt, and then worked my way in from there. Is it still improv if it's planned? I definitely think it can be. In this case, I already had the eight requirements listed above. On the design, I drew physical boundaries, and improvised inside them.

If you think about it, every improv quilt starts with some kind of limit or boundary -- colours, fabrics, size, technique or purpose. Usually a combination of those. I often think that people who are hesitant about trying improv are intimidated by the "blank page." So my point is that you get to decide how much improv to put in your quilt. Just make some space!

So, after all that, how does the quilt look?

9+, 55" x 70" (140 x 178 cm)

The idea for the grey pieced blocks, and the placement of the extra blocks across the bottom, both came while I was doodling with pencil and graph paper.

After the blocks were pieced, I laid them out to get the best flow of colours and shapes. On the graph paper I had a strip of solid grey between the green 9+ section and the grey one. But as soon as I had both sections finished I could see that they would be better sewn together. So that's what I did. And then I had to re-balance the borders, and I did that too.

Start to finish, about three weeks. It certainly is a welcome change to have everything flow together so quickly and smoothly! It is a big confidence builder. To me that has been the biggest benefit of incorporating improv into my quilting life -- I'm more willing to take risks, with the trust that I can fix any problems that arise. And, I'm no longer paralyzed by worry about the small details. Keep calm, and carry on!

And while you're doing that, check out all the other improv projects at AHIQ this month, right here.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Two of the participants in the April AHIQ link up, Mary and Sophie, had some very nice tone-on-tone piecing in their projects. Since my new improv project, 9+, has 5 shades of grey, I was able to use the idea right away!

Isn't that light grey print beautiful? It looks like a rich, grey wool flannel. It's one of the Faux Linens that Connecting Threads had a couple years ago. The dark corners are their Faux Burlap, which is fun too.

All the blocks are now finished. Next time...flimsy!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Two Block Construction

Moving right along, the main section of my two block improv challenge quilt is now together:

I had all the inverse nine patch blocks, with five green squares, left over. I did consider making the quilt reversible and putting them on the back. But I don't really have enough fabric for that. So, I just sewed them together:

I think it's going well!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Organic Nine Patch

Once again, just one photo today. It's the second block for the two block improv quilt challenge for AHIQ:

This is another adaptation of Sujata Shah's Cultural Fusion techniques. It's the same process as her Crossroads block, adapted to a nine patch.

When I started making them, I thought that I would be able to adjust the process and end up with just two colours in each block. But that was wrong! When you make them four at a time, you always get a different colour in the centre.

Somehow, three colours in the block was less minimal than my original plan. Should I backtrack or keep going? In improv theatre you always say "yes, and..." So, I decided to just keep moving forward.

All the blocks are made, but not all trimmed yet. My calendar is pretty full this week, but I seem to have a lot of momentum here, so maybe I'll get the two blocks sewn together fairly soon. It's a simple plan!

Oh, and now that you've seen both the blocks (the slashed blocks are here), I can tell you the name of the quilt -- 9+.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Just one photo today:

This is my start on the next AHIQ challenge for an improv, two block quilt. I've always wanted to make some of these simple slashed blocks, so I decided this was the right time!

I also have 3 or 4 metres of solid Kona cotton in steel grey that I want to use up, so that was my other starting point for this quilt. I rarely regret buying fabric, but that steel grey was not a good purchase. The centre top and centre bottom blocks are the solid Kona steel.

My plan is for an extremely modern and minimal quilt, with a lot of grey. I didn't think the solid steel would be enough for the whole top, so I added some grey textured prints. Do you see how only two of the nine blocks ended up in the solid? Yes, I am not doing a very good job of getting rid of it. But, I am very excited about the tone on tone possibilities of the different greys!

I think that'll be next.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nettie is a Top

The "wild jumble" from my design wall has been tamed:

It should be around 62" x 80" (157 cm x 203 cm), but I haven't measured it. Everything fit, so that seemed good to me! I'd forgotten how much easier it is to assemble a quilt with sashing in between the blocks. Hardly any seams to match!

To compare my layout with the inspiration quilt by Nettie Young, click here. Nettie made 15 blocks in a 3 x 5 layout. I developed my layout based on my memory of hers, rather than while looking at the photo. And every time I ended up with those two columns of dark cornerstones that she has, it seemed like a mistake. I thought it would be more balanced to have at least 3 cornerstones across the row. So that is why I increased the number of blocks to 24 in a 4 x 6 layout, and cut them down to 10" finished.

The original 12" block, with the centre seams cut out and reassembled to 10"

I made 896 hourglasses for the original, all-hourglass plan. I still have at least 500 left. But, I am going to send them to the basement for at least a year! Hopefully some new idea for them will sprout after a good long rest.

The first AHIQ challenge was for a Chinese Coins design, and I don't really consider this as a fit for that. I just liked the layout in the Nettie Young quilt. The second challenge is for a two block quilt, and I have a legitimate two block design planned. Is it improv if it's planned? I would say yes.

And I've already started it! It's going to be very modern indeed:

5 grey fabrics.

Solid fabrics in a range of turquoise and green.

So, totally different. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wide Sashing

It's time for the Kaleidoscope of Butterflies once again, and no, this is not Moth in the Window, as previously promised.  The only progress on Moth has been that I decided I didn't want to make 90 blocks after all. My original plan was for 56 blocks, and all the fabric was carefully chosen and balanced, and I feel like it will go off track if I add to it now. I think the best plan will be to skip the border, and make it throw-sized.

Right now I am full steam ahead on my improv hourglass project, "Nettie." All 24 blocks are finished, including this tricky zig zag block:

I actually sliced the hourglasses in half to make flying geese, and then re-assembled as you see here. I won't lie, it took a while. But, I love it!

Last time I theorized that wide sashing would fix all my concerns with the dense hourglass blocks. Today I cut all the sashing, including that butterfly fabric above:

And, I put it up on the wall:

Now, I debated whether to show this photo or not, because it looks like a wild jumble. But I am really, really happy with it, and for now you will just have to trust me. It works, and it will calm down when it's all sewn together.

Hopefully that won't be too much longer, because I already have a finished design for the next AHIQ challenge, a two block quilt. But I refuse to start it until Nettie here is a finished top.

Back in March I was actually worried that I didn't have any new projects in the works! But, with Moth in the Window, Aunt Millie, this new solution for the hourglasses, and the two block quilt waiting in the wings, I think things are back to normal around here!
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