Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Building an Improvised Quilt

Last month, when I finally got to see the quilts of Gee's Bend up close and in person, I was most delighted and energized to see how freely the quilts had been built. The Gee's Bend Ladies sometimes compare constructing a quilt to building a house. Lots of the quilts began with a square or rectangular piece of fabric. This would be the base, or foundation of the house. Strips, (like walls) are added to all of the sides. And from there more is added... a bit of this and a bit of that... building the quilt up... no pattern... everything improvised.


This made perfect sense to me, because I never work from a pattern, they completely confuse, and I admit, bore me! (At times, when working with different publishers, I have had to create patterns for pieces that I have already made, drawing up diagrams and writing step by step directions on how to make one of my pieces. This always makes me feel a bit awkward because it is so contrary to how my mind actually works.)


Keeping those Gee's Bend quilts in mind, (specifically the one's which started with a basic squarish shape) I began to construct this Flower Garden Art Quilt. I decided to only use scraps of fabric which were left over from some previous projects, and made a pact with myself that once the scraps were used up, I would stop... and that's just what I did!


I started with the center square, next added on the strips, and just kept building and adding until my scraps were used up.


I also noticed upon observing the Gee's Bend quilts, that the hand quilting on the pieces were often done in arcs. I decided to also quilt this piece in arc shapes, but used machine quilting, as that's what I perfer.


This is the back of the quilt. You can really see the quilting here. I just use my regular sewing machine and a walking foot, (a special foot that helps all of the layers feed evenly through the feed dogs.)

*********************************************

I would absolutely love to see the creativity that could come from every sewer if patterns were thrown out! Just imagine the wonderful array of originality in design and construction that would be unleashed on the world!

*********************************************

NOTE: As I was writing up this blog post, Jacquie over at TallGrass Prairie Studio was on a similar train of thought and had already posted the day before about her great idea Project Improv, a quilting collaboration that shares in and supports the efforts, process and results of those wanting to make improvised quilts of any size! Each participant is encouraged to make a project for themselves and to also make and send in a 12.5" improvised log cabin block from one of 3 selected color combos. The individual blocks are to be sewn into quilts and donated to charity. I think this project is a great idea, and I will be participating in the challenge and donating a block in Orange and Pink. I encourage anyone else who is interested to go to Jacquie's blog and join in on the fun! (Last I checked I believe she already had over 70 people respond to her post!)

27 comments:

Alissa said...

I couldn't agree with you more about how improvised quilting is so inspiring and interesting. Did you see Jacquie's post (http://tallgrassprairiestudio.blogspot.com/2009/01/project-improv-wont-you-join-me.html) about idea for Project Improv? It's a great idea!

Alissa said...

Oh and P.S. Of course I LOVE the quilt!! As usual with your amazing work!

nicolette said...

Love your quilt and the quilting is amazing!! You must have a lot of patience to quilt all those fans!

I joined Jacquies project improv to learn more about improvised quilts.

bettyninja said...

The quilting looks great! Love this one

karen said...

this is a beautiful quilt victoria. I also love the 'arc' quilting.

High Desert Diva said...

Really getting back to what quilting is all about.

I like thinking of all the little scraps of fabric meticulously saved by those women, and the magic created when the pieces were sewn together.

Your (machine) quilting is incredible.

Victoria said...

Alissa and Nicolette, I have gone ahead and added a note at the bottom of this post about Jacquie's wonderful project!

Frogdancer said...

Well, I'm glad Jacquie started her project because I never would have found your blog otherwise!
I love the quilt. I'm off now to have a bit more of a look around...

please sir said...

So amazing how you found inspiration - and the results are just as amazing! The back is totally rocking too!

kangaroo said...

thank you for this...i'll be trying my hand during project improv and am so excited!

Mrs.French said...

you make magic with your quilts my dear...xo t

Hey Harriet said...

Beautiful quilt! The look of the arc stitching is great, even the reverse looks lovely! Project Improv sounds fun to participate in. I'd love to see some of the completed quilts from the project!

You're off to such a wonderfully creative start to the new year! You go girl!

Fer said...

It's such a stunning quilt, I love your philosophy.

I learnt to quilt years ago using patterns as my guide, this makes it so difficult for me to 'break the mould' and improvise freely. I love to look at your quilts for inspiration (along with the Gees Bend ones!).

Keep leading me astray....

Two Dogs and a Quilt said...

Oh, I love the colors and improvised design of this quilt. And your "Study in Blues and Red" is gorgeous! Glad I found your blog!

pattihaskins said...

I love this quilt, but I think I love all of your quilts that I have seen. If you ever want to trade for a crocheted critter, let me know. And the Gee's Bend Quilts, I've seen the books, websites etc. but never the quilts in person. Someday. I'm still waiting for my new year inspiration to kick in, I think this post and quilt may help me get there.
Now if I could only make the day job disappear.

amandajean said...

your quilt is stunning! i'm so inspired. i want to try that challenge some day too, stop when the scraps are used up. thanks for the great idea!!!

Beth said...

That is an amazing quilt.

Leah/ Texas/ United States said...

wow you have such beautiful evenly spaced lines. how do you do that? do you chalk it first? it inspires me to try it. thanks!

Gunnels blog said...

This quilt is so beautiful !! I also like to sew without patterns, and this way to use up scraps is a very good idea !!

And I like your quilt in your other post as well !

I wish you a good creative year !!

Fog and Thistle said...

This is gorgeous and I absolutely love the arched quilting...reminds me of waves.
Well done!

Victoria said...

Thanks everyone!

Leah, to answer your question about how I spaced the quilting lines... I started by drawing one very small quarter circle at the bottom corner of the quilt, with pencil. Then I just stitched around that quarter circle, and from there only used the width of my presser foot as a guide. I simply kept butting the edge of my presser foot against each arc and followed the previously quilted line in order to form the next quilted line.

After I had completed one fan shape, (about 15 rows each, give or take a row) I then would draw another tiny quarter, or half circle, depending on the angle of the curve/fan, and then I again just used the width of my presser foot as a guide for all of the following rows, and curves,

I hope this makes sense!

Anina said...

This is officially my new favorite blog! Wonderful! (And thanks for telling us how you did the quilting. I was wondering if you used a longarm.)

Cheryl A said...

To have to draw a pattern after the fact? Almost a worse torture than using a pattern!

We need more shops to also teach design fundamentals and encourage people to break free rather than buy kits. We improv types tend to buy lots of fabric afterall!

blazedanielle said...

Beautiful quilting job!! I love the jewel colors!! And cute new profile pic!! :) I like your haircut!

syko kajsa said...

It took years for me to understand that I was allowed to create without using a pattern, I blame school for this. I hope schools today are better at encouraging kids to be creative, instead of being brilliant at following instructiosn (I used t be one of those). Today I design as I go and have also written patterns afterwards for books, which feels very strange. It is very nice to hear that you and Jaquie took up this topic, thank you!

LOve the quilt too!

Victoria said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Syko,
I agree schools need to encourage independent creativity and thinking outside of the box. Based on my children's experience things have improved a little bit from when I was a kid, but not much.

I also think that parents have to be very careful in not passing on these rigid art rules to their kids. (I actually use to teach a workshop to moms on this subject.)

My dear father, a true art lover, was sadly the first to tell me I was wrong in the way I was coloring. He showed me the "proper" way, to color inside of the lines, and to always go in one direction. I was 3 at the time, and the memory of his lesson is still very vivid in my mind. I know he meant well, and the lesson stuck... I still to this day color very, very neatly! (I am afraid not too.)

For a long time I was interested in illustrating, but grew increasingly frustrated as I was so stuck in perfection... all of my work was too realistic... I couldn't let go, and it wore me out. I think because I never had any formal training with fiber, and because I have a hard time reading and understanding patterns, I have been able to express myself in a much freer way through fabric, (thank goodness!)

Amy @ Park City Girl said...

It's beautiful! I love your quilting and the fabrics that you used. I haven't made a quilt from a pattern but I do love to draft my own :) I'm working on getting out of my self-constructed box!