Posts Tagged ‘improv’

Freehand or Improv Piecing Basics

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

I periodically post this set of basic instructions on piecing organic looking patchwork without drafting a pattern. Though it is possible to hand sew here, more complex constructions require cutting and re-piecing, making it a machine piecing technique for most purposes. Writing elsewhere this morning of Nancy Crow, America’s foremost art quilt maker and teacher who assembles her designs by improvisational piecing, I had reason to mention the innovative Canadian quilter Marilyn Stothers who first devised it nearly 35 years ago. Looking for information about it, I found this video: https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/the-best-of-both-worlds At the time, the rotary cutter was still a very new tool in quiltmaking, so Marilyn is pictured cutting her fabrics with scissors.

At the start of a 1992 4-day workshop on improvisational design in art quilt making, Nancy Crow taught these basics as a fast piecing technique to help us work through the many design exercises for that class. Nancy taught so many quilters how to do this, that for a few years at least it became known as ‘Nancy Crow’s piecing technique’ though now it’s universally known as improvisational or improv.

Freehand or improvisational piecing has become a modern convention which you’ll see everywhere. Some designs may look complicated, but they all involve the same basic steps, and with practice you too will be able to achieve more complex constructions.

The main things to remember are:

  • before cutting, place both fabrics with right sides facing up – yes, that feels counter-intuitive, I know.
  • with no built-in seam allowances, as you cut and sew the area of fabric becomes progressively smaller – so start out larger in anticipation, and add in more if needed.

There are video tutorials available; for example, Alicia Merrett ‘s YouTube videos, are good in a very precise, controlled way, but they were pitched to careful traditional quilters.  Down the years I’ve found my own way of working includes pinning along curves; but there is no ‘correct’ way to do this, and if your result is flat -you’ve got it right. Beyond this, experience will teach you whatever you want to know – think it, try it.  And, if you ever need my advice or help, feel free to contact me directly.

Sweat Of The Sun,Tears Of The Moon

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

In the 80’s several friends tried to get me involved in quilting, but I resisted, saying I didn’t have time, which was true at that time – creative embroidery, stitch, was more important to me. I’d had attended several fabulous workshops by inspiring teachers, and was using stitch (hand and fme) with paint and found objects to express my interests in landscape. I was invited to have my first solo exhibition, Sunburnt Textures in 1987; and at the end of that year we relocated to USA for a while. Through a new neighbour, Carol, I finally met traditional American geometric patchwork, an intense affair that dominated a large part of my life for a couple of years. However, that ended amicably enough when I was introduced to improvisational piecing, IP, and I haven’t looked looked back since.

I still carry several enduring marks I’d call influences rather than scars, the most obvious being use of repeated units of surface decoration (traditional ‘blocks’) in an overall design of rows. Other artists who share my love of grids include a favourite, Agnes Martin, Guillermo Kitka, James Sienna, Sol Lewitt, Sean Scully and Chung-Im Kim, about whom I wrote http://www.alisonschwabe.com/weblog/?p=4419

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The first sample, on the left was a quick demo to show artist friend Lillian how easy IP is. Excited by this little sample, after she left I made a few more. However, a particular technique doesn’t necessarily translate to ‘a work of art’, and those samples sat on my wall for nearly a year. I gave them regular, thoughtful attention, but nothing clicked until after I’d watched the 2017 eclipse of the sun in Colorado.

Staying with our daughter Anna in Greeley CO at the time, in an area expecting to be in about 80% partial darkness, and with UNC classes cancelled for the day, the obvious thing to do was organise an eclipse party with fellow UNC grad students.

All food and drinks had sun-related labelling, and my personal favourite were the eclipse eggs. Later a pizza was served with a partial eclipse of black olives on a cheese background …

Even in the C21 in a modern civilisation, that silence of birds and animals which descends as light disappears or fades at the wrong time of day feels strange, eerie, truly awesome. To the ancients on all continents, eclipses of the sun and the moon, and the transit of comets and planets across the sky, and their regular appearances on different cycles, were mysterious and sometimes fearsome events, often a pretty handy tie-in to primitive religious beliefs. I remembered a TV documentary Sweat of The Sun,Tears Of The Moon seen 30+ years ago, and this brain activity led to my 125cm x 60cm diptych by that name. It will be at the 2019 Quilt Festival in Gramado Brasil in the masters(teachers) exhibition: because of course, that is where I will be teaching in 3 weeks’ time.

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Sweat Of The Sun, Tears Of The Moon diptych, 125cm x 60cm
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