Monday, February 24, 2014

What's the Difference Between a Modern Quilt and an Improv Quilt?

Nancy Kerrigan. 
Photo by Gianluca Plantana CC BY 2.0 via Flickr
Yesterday, I finished the binding on the improv quilt I am making for possible consideration for Sherri Lynn at Dainty to use in her upcoming book.  I still have to make some minor adjustments, but for the most part it is done.  This now leaves me free to work on other quilts.  Right now, my plan is to use the scraps from the last several quilts (and other cleanup projects) that are still in the living room.  If I use them up, I don't have to figure out a place to put them away!

Anyway, I discovered that there is a modern quilt guild on Facebook, and I joined it.  One of the posts was asking for volunteers to do a demonstration at an upcoming meeting.  She said it would be an improv demo.  I'm sure she meant that the demonstrator could just improvise and do a quick demonstration on whatever she wanted, but it made me think of my latest improv quilt.

The thing is, I have thought of modern quilts and improv quilts to be on opposite sides of the spectrum.  On a modern quilt, there is a lot of attention spent on artistry and execution.  Sure the shapes are simple, but careful consideration is given to color placement, and balance, and precision and all those kinds of things. They are deceptively simple because they look easier than they are. Sure I could make one, but will it look as good as one made by a modern quilter?

On the other hand, improv is more spent on bold design and more winging it.  You may not know what you are going to get at the end, but you take a chance to see if it will be good or not.  I suspected but now know that an improv quilt is not easier to make than a modern quilt is.  Sure, you (okay, like I did) can take the lazy way out and not bother to square up your blocks before sewing them together, but then you have to figure out how to work your way out of your "mistake" when the quilt doesn't lie flat.

Having just watched the Olympics, and particularly the story of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, it makes me think of ice skating, like Nancy's artistry is compared to Tonya's big jumps and bold moves.

In skating, it is possible to have both artistry and physical technique, and I am sure the same is true for quilting.  I could have spent more time squaring up the blocks, or arranging them on a design wall. But then you lose some of the free spirit of the improv quilt.

What do you think, can you have both? Is there such a thing as a modern improv quilt?

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