January 28, 2015: 1. My struggles with improvisation 2. Decisions on Joyful Noise


I treated myself to yet another quilting book recently:

12815 Book #1

This book features improvisational style quilts from the last half of the 20th century, most “roughly” created.  I had read several very positive reviews on blogs, but knew I was taking a chance because I struggle with accepting as “art” some of the types of quilts I figured would be featured in this book.  I saw the Gee’s Bend quilts when they were originally on view in NYC and definitely had mixed feelings about them as art.  Furthermore, I’m not a natural improvisor and improvisation is a big/hot topic in the quilt world these days.

Here are a few examples of quilts that are being promoted as “art” that I have trouble with.  I particularly have trouble accepting the “rough” workmanship and seeming lack of craftsmanship:

12815 bookpic#1

12815 bookpic#2


12815 bookpic#3

12815 bookpic#4


I really wonder if these quilts are “artifact”, not “art.”  There’s a big difference.  I think only time will tell – this is the case with judging most work in terms of whether it is “lasting” art.  My strong feeling is that this type of work will end up “artifact” not “art.”

And yet, there are a number of quilts in the book that I actually like because of their spontaneity and graphic strength, for example:

12815 Goodpic#1

12815 goodpic#2

12815 goodpic#3

12815 goodpic#4

So there is a part of me that would like to try, at least once, an improvisational approach to making a quilt.  This would be a challenge and “stretch” me and perhaps open me up to new ways of creating.  The worry is that I could end up creating an INCOHERENT MESS!  Honestly, some of the improvised quilts I see on line are incoherent!  Improvisation is by definition doing something “without preparation” however, when you think about a musician improvising, s/he must have the musical foundation totally there in order to be able to improvise – s/he must be aware of musical structures, keys, styles, etc. etc. so in a way one can’t really improvise unless one has the foundation to do so.  My natural inclination is to put everything in order; to improvise, I need to overcome this.

I recently pulled out a box of fabrics that I had collected a year or two ago from my stash, thinking of using them together in a quilt some day:

12615 Box of fabric

These are Japanese taupes, authentic Japanese woven fabrics, and pieces of kimonos in maroon-red-pink and gray to black and some tans and beiges:

12615 Japfabricsspread#1


12615 supplementalfabs#2

I decided to use this group of fabrics to start “improvising” a quilt with no plan ahead of time of what it might look like.  I decided to start by appliqueing circles on a square background and here is what I have to far:

12815 circle project 9 blocks

OK – it looks awfully “regular” and “ordered”!!  If I stick with what this currently looks like I’ll end up with another structured (not improvised!) quilt.  But by the time I’m done, perhaps I will have chopped these up or arranged them very differently and done something very different with them!  Does this count as “improvisation”?  Does any quilt that begins without a final plan and is created as one is going along count as improvised?  I don’t know the answers to these questions at this time, but I think this project will be called the “improv project” and we’ll see where it goes!

Meanwhile, I have made some decisions on “Joyful Noise.”  I was simply going along making blocks for this and realized I needed to come up with a final size for the quilt so I could determine how many blocks I really need.  I played with some options and decided that I don’t want this to be a huge quilt and I’m ready to move on with it.  I decided to limit the center of the quilt to 13 twelve inch (each consisting of 4 palm leaf blocks) blocks with some fillers on the edges.

12815 drawing of JN final size

The above is approximately 51 inches square.  I can enlarge this with a border – will consider adding a border at least 8 inches wide which would take the final size up to 67 inches square.  When I figured this out, it left me with 6 more palm leaf blocks to complete which I finished yesterday during the blizzard (we did not lose power!!!).  Here they are on the design wall (click to enlarge):

12815 JN#1 final blocks


Then I started playing a bit and added (just stuck temporarily onto the design wall) some orange squares in the center of the 4 block groupings to emphasize these:

12815 JN #2 with orange centers


I think I like these as they help define the blocks.  Then I tried adding some sashing to see how that might look:

12815 JN #3 with sashing

I do think I like the sashing as it even further defines the 4-piece blocks.  Here is a closeup:

12815 JN#4 closeup

Some time soon I will make final decisions on the block placements and start sewing the pieces together.  This will be followed by putting in the setting triangles (red to match to background fabric, I am pretty sure) on the edges and putting the blocks together with sashing (I think, unless I change my mind on the sashing) and the appliqueing the orange centers to the middle of the blocks.  Then I need to design a border!!!!

I completed block #4 for Sweet Journeys:

12615 DesignW -SJ

I have been working steadily on hand quilting Spring Sonata and have 3 1/2 borders completed!!!!!  After that I still  have to quilt the 4 corner blocks, but then I’ll be done with the quilting!  I pulled out the fabric to make the binding so will do that within the next few days.   The end is in sight!  Here is the picture I took for the Vermont Quilt Festival:

12815 Spring Sonata update

The submission for the show has to be sent out this coming Monday.  I recently discovered that, even though my quilt will hopefully be in the show, I will miss VQF for the first time in perhaps 17 years!  I think I have gone every year since 1998.  I am instead going to my nephew’s wedding that weekend in the Washington DC area.  The main consolation for missing the show is that I plan to see the wonderful exhibit of antique quilts at the DAR Museum in D.C.  I’ve read great things about it.

Thank you for reading my blog; cherish each day!   Gladi



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