But, is it Improv?

In a recent online conversation about improv, we were discussing the difficulty people have setting their rulers aside.  I commented that I do not believe that rulers and straight lines are antithetical to improvisation.  Following a particular pattern to replicate something someone else created is not improv, but if one uses methods of one’s choice to create something spontaneous and unique, that is improvisation. So, this week, I decided to explore more about triangles, and what a triangle is, is three straight lines between three points.   I started by cutting a dozen random sized ‘core’ triangles from a piece of neutral colored cloth, and a lot of long strips from a selection of fabrics from my “stripes” box. I’ve done some other piecing with stripes and I like the way they contribute a graphic look to the patchwork. I used my ruler to keep the sides straight, but did not cut to any particular measurement. I also used the ruler to make the strips a regular width, though the widths varied from strip to strip. One by one, I bordered the triangles with three rounds each of the strips, log-cabin style, choosing the border strips more or less randomly.  Here are the twelve resultant triangles.  (I apologize for the picture quality, the lighting in my work room is not great and many of these photos were taken at night.)

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Each time I finished a new triangle I arranged, and rearranged whatever was up on the wall:

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When I had all 12 of them done, I must have rearranged them 20 times, and never was satisfied, so I printed out a photo and made “tiles” from it, and played with them some more.  IMG_0537

In the end I decided that placing them right next to each other worked better than if they were separated by areas of negative space. But I still didn’t really know what to do with them.

Finally I hit on an arrangement I liked. IMG_0588 - Version 2I assumed that since I’d cut the triangles randomly (as to angle) that there would either be a gap or an overlap at some point in the circle of points where the pieces would not fit together, but when I sewed them together, clockwise from the left side, and got all the way around, by some miracle they all fit together and laid flat (well fairly flat). I took this as a sign that this arrangement was meant to be. IMG_0589Heavy steam pressing ensued to seal the deal.

Two of the triangles ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor”.

Throwing star mockup:color schemesThen I had to decide on background.  I imported this photo into my iDraw app and auditioned various colors of backgrounds, and came up with this mockup.

I had to do a fair amount of estimating during the cutting of the background pieces, to make sure they extended outward far enough to provide a roughly rectangular border.  They were attached one at a time to the “outside” side of each triangle, and then trimmed and fitted to the next adjacent one, again working in a clockwise direction.  During this process I re-introduced some warping in my piece, so when it was all sewn together it got spritzed with water and steamed and blocked on the wall for a few days.  Yesterday, I trimmed it to its final size and started preparing it for quilting; here is a picture of the pieced top.IMG_0611

The two improv exercises I tried this month were both a lot of fun, but not without frustrations, disappointments and surprises. With the Crazy Mountains I really tried to squelch my organizational instincts and let the piece evolve.  I like the end result, I think, mostly because of the wild colors, but it is not really what I envisioned.  I noticed how I tend to want to plan things as I go along, and decided not to fight that feeling with this piece, and I think I like this one better.

I allowed myself more control over the techniques and the process, rather than consciously trying not to follow any rules.  (It is interesting how self-conscious you can get all alone in your sewing room, isn’t it?) I permitted myself to use my tools to keep straight edges, and I did a lot of playing with placement of the pieces before I was satisfied.  Also did a lot of pondering about backgrounds making it up as I went along, and making things fit together.

I can hardly wait to see what others have done!

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3 thoughts on “But, is it Improv?

  1. How clever to photograph them and then print them out to play. Your final arrangement and the two color background are inspiring! It’s so gorgeous I want to try it myself! LOL – I steam fabric into submission sometimes too.
    My view of improv quilting does not leave out the use of tools and planning. The more we have to work and play with, the more we can make our inspirations a reality.

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