Letting loose

May 30, 2010

So, as I said yesterday, I am in the middle of an improv quilt. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this style, see Denyse Schmidt’s website here and the quilts of Gee’s Bend here for some good examples. It is going well, though much slower than one would think…improv quilts are not inherently faster to make than their traditional counterparts. Mine is actually progressing slower than anything I’ve made before.

When I started this, I knew I wanted an improvised design, but I didn’t sketch it out or anything. I only formed a few guidelines before beginning. My “must-haves” for this quilt were:

1. A bright and bold, infrequently used color combination

2. Extremely scrappy

Easy enough, right? I had actually settled on red, yellow, and blue before I went fabric shopping because I have a lot of red scraps from various quilt and garment projects. I ended up at a fabric store that carries very traditional fabrics (by chance, not intention), began matching whatever I could find, had it cut, and ran home to add fabrics from my stash. I call this quilt “Piece of Me” because that’s what it has become–it contains scraps from many different projects, some handkerchiefs I bought at a thrift store, some chunks of muslin from old blouse muslins, and even pieces of the cloth bag you get when you buy jewelry from anthropologie.

I employed Denyse’s paper bag technique (although mine is actually the cardboard box technique), which involves dumping all of your fabrics in a container, pulling them out without looking, and forcing yourself to use whatever you pull out. I know some people have trouble with this, but I don’t…it’s very freeing and I almost always like the results.

Sorry for the grainy photos! The natural light in my apartment is almost nonexistent.

I happened upon a recorded lecture of Denyse’s recently, and I learned that while her blocks are randomly composed, their placement is well analyzed. I know my placement is not great right now, but I am working toward something I like better. My square measures about 47″ by 65″, which is a little more than halfway to a finished twin-sized quilt. But I’m at a standstill. I’m considering a new layout. Instead of a full 65″ by 85″ (twin size), I’m wondering if I should finish it to 65″ square, create a small red outline of the square, add a huge muslin/ivory border to make it queen-sized, piece the back, and bind it in red.

What do you think? Keep going and finish it off as one huge improv design, or make it look like a “framed” design?


5 Responses to “Letting loose”

  1. Edith Says:

    I like the idea of framing. Or you could add a frame and then another layer of improv maybe? I think it would be nice to have something solid to anchor onto somehow.

  2. CGCouture Says:

    I really like the “framed” look, but I think either way would be fine. Even if you don’t do the border I’d still make it Queen-sized, that makes it more usable. It’s a cool looking quilt so far, maybe I’ll have to try my hand at the “carboard box” method. 🙂

  3. AlewivesGirl Says:

    I say keep going: the bigger those types of designs get, the better they look.

    One of the gals in my La La Log Cabin class put sashing between her squares: at first I wasn’t so sure about the idea, but when I saw it all done up it looked great and it made the quilt much larger, too.

    That might be something fun to try with your quilt.



  4. wow. Ok, so you are my hero right now. I tried the paper bag method & realized I am WAY too OCD for it. I need more balance and more design which drives me nuts because I LOVE love LOVE the look of quilts like this, if I were to buy a quilt, I’d buy something like this for sure! I honestly think whatever you chose is going to be fantastic!

    I got your email and I’m slowly writing you back!!!!

  5. yahaira Says:

    I’m gone for a few days and you and amanda post amazing things! I love the scrappiness of it and how you mixed traditional with very modern fabrics! I always love quilts like this when I see them in magazines, books, or movies so I’m torn if you should keep building it as is OR if you should frame it. actually, my gut says frame it! and yes on the red binding!

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