Posts Tagged ‘freehand’

Gramado In September

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

I hear there are still a couple of vacancies to the introduction to improvisational patchwork class I’ll be teaching in Gramado, next month, but I’m very happy to see the advanced class is already full!

As many already know, improvisational patchwork, improv, or IP, is quite different from how traditional patchworkers make their quilt tops. IP has been widely adopted by Modern Quilters and art quilters and you’ll find some overlap, with some of the same exciting quilts turning up on each of these links. Of course, for other exciting stuff you can go to my own website and articles about me ūüôā My Colour Memories gallery includes several wall quilts that I made within a year or two of learning this technique.

I learned IP not long after learning traditional patchwork in the USA, which I still love, and it remains a huge influence in how I make quilts. I love straight, regular grids of squares or triangles inside of which are improvisational/freehand patterns:

By playing around dividing triangles and squares, the basic shapes of traditional patchwork, with straight, undulating or curved lines, you can easily make up your own unique patterns, including fabulous borders and blocks. Some favourites developed out of experimenting with a traditional block, such as this one based on the basic Drunkard’s Path block

… which I think of as sunrise or sunset, depending on where the rays are pointing …

I just happen to love regular grids, but IP squares and triangles can be as wonky and irregular as hell, you just need to know a couple of simple things about joining irregular shapes: (plus finishing the edges, too) :

Fire Danger 2, 1999, 90 x 60cm
(photographed against black background)

So to get everyone’s creativity revved up, I’ve had fun working out a combination of demonstrations+powerpoints, including some ideas I’ve always thought good but never actually tried myself ūüôā

Try Improvisational or Freehand Piecing!

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

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

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

  1. there is no correct way to do this kind of patchwork
  2. the only correct result is a flat one
  3. start out bigger than you want to end up
  4. 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?

Interesting Timing

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

As I don’t consult my horoscope daily, I must have missed portents of an interesting congruence that has emerged.

I’m a long term and distant committee member of ¬†Ozquilt¬†Network Inc.¬† an organisation for makers and followers of art quilts in Australia. ¬†I have been putting together a Power Point Presentation on art quilts for Ozquilt, designed to be shown to groups and individuals in the traditional quiltmaking community to introduce them to art quilts; and we think it may interest a wider number of other fibre artists, too. ¬† Starting with the techniques and processes all quilt makers have in common, it goes on to feature images of some of our members’ works, showing how they have used these plus just some of the potential options of techniques and material combinations available to anyone who would make art quilts. ¬†But these things of course are not what makes the ‘art’, its what you do with them that is important.

I have always seen tradition as a two sided coin, and it’s a very human thing to cling to traditions. ¬†On one hand there are some people who like things to be done they way they always have been since time began, and who go to considerable trouble to maintain traditions – these are the quilters who always make traditional designs, and perhaps others’ more modern patterns but essentially always work from a pattern, ¬†It’s safer that way – you know how its going to turn out, and they are perfectly happy quilting this way. ¬†There are others, though, in being very human in their behaviour, too, ¬†just can’t help changing things a bit, or a lot, whatever! ¬†These people start to make a variation on a traditional or an original design because they can’t find a ¬†pattern for exactly what they want. ¬†They tend to be the experimenters, people who venture beyond the boundaries of traditional quilt patterns. ¬†As they continue in this process they can find themselves learning something about design, ultimately strengthening composition skills and learning the basics at least of colour theory. ¬†In the making of art quilts such skills assume more importance because they are needed to convey the message/artist’s vision, via almost infinite choices of materials and techniques – and in that mission the choices need to be effective. ¬†It’s a less safe zone than the securely traditional, but a quite challenging and and exciting way to make quilts. ¬†¬†This¬† PPP will be available to Ozquilt members to present to groups of quilters and individuals around them, and naturally we’re hoping some will realise perhaps they already make art quilts and others become motivated to extend their quilt making boundaries.

I made a traditional quilt once, a flying geese design, back in 1988. ¬†Begun in a symposium class conducted by Blanche Young, the doyen of the flying geese pattern in the ’80’s – here it is, with apologies for being so poorly photographed – I will get it out sometime I’m back in Aus and do better!Flying Geese 1988¬†Flying Geese wallhanging, ¬† approx. 100 cm x 60¬†cm, 1988. ¬†


Which now brings me to an assignment I’m really looking forward to. ¬†Fellow art quilt maker and highly esteemed colleague, Kathy Loomis, ¬†just asked me to look at and review her recently published new book “Pattern Free Quilts”¬†which she described in her email as a¬†guide for quilters who want to break away from using other people’s patterns. ¬†A topic very dear to my heart indeed, and as soon as I’ve received and had a chance to read it, I’ll post the review – so watch this space.

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