I’ve written before about freehand pieced work, including this article working from the scrap bag This morning, looking around in my photos for something else, I was diverted by a sequence of photos I took last year while making this small piece for my friend Suzie. I formed this collage to take some of mystery out of this kind of piecing known as ‘improvisational piecing’. It’s a construction technique widely used by makers of ‘art quilts’ and Modern Quilts, too.
Suzie’s Quilt 30cm x 30cm.
Top left, centre and lower right – cut and remove an approx 1-2cm swathe. Lower left – finished quilt; upper right shows pencil diagram and a strip insert pinned into place. The tighter the curve, the more pins I use – just my way – there’s no ‘correct’ way.
Do a very basic pencil diagram if necessary (upper right), audition some fabrics, start cutting and begin sewing. No templates, no exacting measurements, and the result is a very organic look. Improvisational piecing begins with simple steps, and the basics can be found here If you want to try it at home sometime, thoroughly read through my 2 page notes first, then follow the easy instructions. If you need any help or advice, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Working without pattern pieces is very liberating; it’s a worry-free way to construct quilt tops. In my Memories and Ebb&Flow galleries you’ll find many examples of works pieced this way; and I often use freehand piecing with grids constructed using rulers and different size quilters’ squares and triangles. Honestly, anything goes, as it’s up to you how you use this technique. By all means, pay good money and go to a workshop run by someone teaching this technique, which is fun, but if geographical isolation or financial challenges get in your way, you really can learn it by yourself at home. You’ll find it in books and magazines, as well as online, but I don’t advise starting out by watching online demos. There are so many out there with different emphases, often by people more focused on selling you their book, that you may well become confused in a very short time. I just looked at some, and found them all rather fussy, very precise and careful. This is not what it’s about – it’s carefree, organic looking and meant to be very non-traditional in every way. Using my basic illustrated notes, try working through the suggested few samples, while remembering that
- there is no correct way to do this kind of patchwork
- the only correct result is a flat one
- start out bigger than you want to end up
- resist the urges to trim as you go – save it till all piecing is done.
Feel free to use pins, marker pen or pencil reference points right on the cut edges which will be enclosed in the seam anyway – use whatever you find that works for you. When you’ve worked out how to do it and can repeat good results with practice, then if you will, spend a bit of time browsing some demos, but I think you’ll find you don’t need them. Improvisational piecing has become a contemporary tradition, something to be shared in the time honoured way that traditions are passed along from one generation to the next. So, what are you waiting for?