Saturday, December 27, 2014

Questions about Improv Quilt

I thought I'd take the time to answer some questions about the quilt you hadn't thought to ask.

Sherri asked a question on her blog about our quilt making process.  She asked

What blocks and supports your improvisational flow?

This is the first improv quilt I have ever made.  The biggest challenge I had in making this quilt is the lack of guidance.  I am used to hand holding with quilt patterns, and then sometimes I will veer off into my own direction.  This means that I can pretty much know what the finished product will look like.  With fewer directions, I was left on my own to make my own decisions from the very beginning.  While this is freeing, it is also very scary, especially since I was making the quilt for a book.  I wanted to please the author and make a quilt she would be proud to have in her book. It felt like she had specific ideas about what she wanted but she wasn't going to tell us!

Eventually I decided to let go of the idea that it was a quilt for Sherri.  I was going to make a quilt for me, since it would stay in my house.  Once I stopped trying to please someone else, the flow worked much easier for me.

The other thing that blocks me - the reason that this is my first improv quilt - is that improv quilts aren't conventionally beautiful.  This means that when I hang it up in my living room, my guests ignore it or glance at it without making a comment. I 'm sure they were wondering, "What was she thinking?!"  I enjoyed the process of making it, and I love the quirkiness of it, but I don't particularly like the aesthetics of it.  Sherri Lynn has featured some antique quilts on her blog and has tape recorded some conversations as she studies the quilt.  I like the idea of really studying a quilt instead of just looking at it and saying "pretty".  I think improv quilts tend to lend themselves more to this kind of in-depth study than traditional quilts do.

Both of the quilts shown on this post were made without a pattern. One has straight lines made with a ruler. The other one is cut free form.  They both let me be free and play.  I used lots of colors on the rail fence quilt. Lots of leftover fabric. But I also added some color as I went along, as some days I wanted to add a different flavor based on my mood. The one on the right has a more limited palette, but the play was in the design choice.  They both held my attention long enough to get to the finish stage, which says a lot to me.  They are both complex quilts - the rail fence with the variety of scrap fabrics used and the interplay of the different fabrics, and improv quilt with the interplay of the lines coming in at different angles.

I have a feeling that the quilt that will go down the generations to represent me will be something that many people found ugly and tucked in the back of a closet or the attic.  Centuries from now, people will wonder about the person who made this ugly quilt.  Would I want one of these quilts to be my legacy? I don't think so, because they don't completely represent me. But then, neither do the ones that are more conventionally pretty.

Neither one is traditionally beautiful.  This means that most people will glance at them and walk away.  Not worth their time.  Both of the quilts require more study and analysis before the beauty becomes apparent.  I think the people who walk away at first glance are missing out.


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