Monday, January 5, 2009

Project Improv - Won't You Join Me?

It's not to late to on!
I began quilting again after I saw the Gee's Bend exhibit. I felt joy being surrounded by quilts that expressed freedom in design, whimsy, unpredictability and at the same time utility. I love quilts that are offbeat, free-form, note-bending. At about the same time I saw the Gee's Bend quilts, I discovered the quilts of Denyse Schmidt and excitedly bought her book in my desire to make improvised log cabin blocks and to my surprise finding only patterns rather than a path to improvisation.

A few weeks ago I was reading Kim's post in the archives of her blog Dioramarama about the disconnect between Denyse Schmidt's improvisational style and the patterns in her book and even the incongruity of a coordinated fabric line and Denyse's varied and unconventional combinations of fabric choices in her quilts. Like Kim I was inspired to do "grand improvisational things" but was also "overwhelmed, paralyzed by options" and I was definitely lacking the skills, but more importantly the confidence to put ideas into action.

I struggled on my own and figured out my own way to do a wonky log cabin. Denyse's book put me on the road to striking out on my own. I'm indebted to her and the other improvisational quilters who have shared their work, their processes, their inspirations and their stories. They have helped me build my confidence to try.

Kim's words and her post echo my feelings, my desire to improvise and quilt with abandon, yet the frustration I feel not being able to take a class from the masters of improvisation Denyse Schmidt, Nancy Crow or Gwen Marston, or visit with the quilters of Gee's Bend or have the confidence to step out on my own. I've heard the words echo in my head, "I'm not an artist." But, you know what, I am. I have ideas. I can make them happen, and so can you.

There are a few avenues of support online such as Tonya, at Lazy Gal Quilting. Tonya and her friend Bonnie have supported liberated quilting with their online classes and quilt togethers. I appreciate what they are both doing and I will continue to participate and learn from them. Many of my online quilting friends do improvisational pieces and post about them. I have learned much from them as well.

Many of the quilters who visit my blog ask me questions about improvising. I'm not an expert, but I am a learner. I want to continue to support and become a part of the network that is building around improvisational quilting. That is the purpose of 'project improv', to support each other in our goal to quilt improvisationally, to quilt outside the lines and to find our own voice as quilters.

So, are you with me? I hope so. Here's what I'd like to do.
(photo used by permission of Denyse Schmidt)
"Student in Denyse's Schmidt's Improvisational Patchwork workshop."

This is a picture from a workshop at Denyse Schmidt's studio. Someday, I'll be there too. Until then, this is the kind of quilt I would like to tackle, an improvised log "cabinish" quilt. I have done several log cabin quilts, most of them improvisationally, but I have barely scratched the surface of all the possibilites for improvisation of this traditional block. These are some of the things that we could explore: variations of the construction of the block itself, the fabrics we use, how we cut our fabric (rotary, scissors, tearing), color/pattern combinations, wonkiness (of course), sizes of the logs. What other ideas do you have? If you've never pieced improvisationally I'll be here to support you and hopefully more experienced folks will join in and help too.

Each of us is at a different place in our level of comfort with improvisation. The task here is to identify your comfort zone and take one step (or more) outside of it. Find that level of challenge that is right for you. You choose your fabrics, your construction technique, size of blocks and final size of your project. Make a mini, a tablerunner, or a quilt from baby to king size. I'm making a bed quilt.

There is one other part to 'project improv'...collaboration. I would like this project to include making pieces for ourselves, but also contributing to others. I am asking each quilter who joins the project to commit to making one 12.5 inch improvised log cabinish block to donate to a charity quilt. There is no deadline for finishing your final piece, though I will be hosting periodic quilt shows to showcase finished quilts. The only deadline will be for the blocks. I'd like them to arrive by April 1st with July 1 being the deadline for finishing up the charity quilts. I will group the charity blocks together and depending on how many folks join in we can make them into quilts. I will make at least one and I hope some of you who join in will want to volunteer to finish some into quilts too.

If you would like to join in here's what you need to do:
*leave a comment on this post saying "I'm in!". Make sure I have your email address so I can contact you. I will post your name on my sidebar as a participant. (help me out folks...I need your EMAIL ADDRESS so I can contact you.) Many of you are no reply bloggers...your email doesn't show up automatically.
*choose a color scheme for your donation block: (the block doesn't have to be exclusively those colors...just include them somewhere in your block so that the donation quilts will feel cohesive.)
*let me know if you might want to work on the charity commitment, just interest.
*grab the button from my sidebar and link back here if you'd like.
*tell anyone else you think might want to participate.

I'm excited to get started. I hope you'll join me.
We're now at 127 participants. How fun is that!!!

Comments are now closed. You are still welcome to join the flickr group.


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Jessica said...

Hi! Is it too late to join in? I've been following along since the beginning, but had several dealines to meet and wasn't sure if I could get the blocks to you by the end of this month. I will have some time to work this weekend so I'd like to join in, if that's ok. My email should come up, but if not its: mauk.jessica at
I plan to make some pink/orange and maybe some red/aqua. Thanks so much!!

Bebesboutique said...

I'm In!

Autumn said...

finished my quilt, love, love it. I'm so excited to finish and bind.....hooray! Thanks for the inspiration. -Autumn

Anonymous said...

I'm in! Will put my red/aqua quilt square in the mail today.
Thanks for the encouragement, I will enjoy this adventure with everyone.

Anonymous said...

Please put me in for pink and orange! Gail
I just sent a top to the bushfire quilt project

Ellen said...

I would love to join, if it's not too late. I would rather use blue/green, but if you need another color scheme to complete it, I can definitely do it, just let me know. Sorry about the lateness, but I'm new to the blogging.

Nani Luculescu said...

I"m in...even if I'm waaaaay behind everyone!

I'll commit to the orange/pink one for sure.

Nani Luculescu said...

I'm in!

Orange & Pink fore sure...more if time permits.

Anonymous said...

I'm just the mom of a quilter who would like to contribute to the cost of materials. Please contact me to tell me how this can be done!

Elizabeth said...

I can only resist for so long. I'm in! I know April 1 is coming up soon, so I'll volunteer to make a whole quilt. I'm not a good improviser, so this will be a great exercise!


Carla said...

I'd like to play...late as it is.
Red and turquoise...I can help assemble a quilt also....I live in the KC area.
Happy quilting,

Patty said...

Hi there! Ready to mail my block, but somehow can't locate your address....... Please shoot me an email, and I'll put my block in the mail :-)

Titikaka said...

I am in !
Please! I will do green-blue block for charity quilt.
My adress is

Jordan said...

I'm in! I want to do one in the blue-green quilt.

Finn said...

Hi Jacquie, remember me? *VBS* I'm in! Just can't resist any longer. I'll do red/aqua. The email should register, but if not, it's

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