Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Why don't you try this?

Welcome to the first of the AHIQ 'why don't you try this' posts.  The aim of these posts is to offer anyone new to improv the chance to explore different ways of starting and hopefully also to provide some new challenges and ideas to people already happily working improvisationally. (There are definitely going to be some areas that I will be tackling for the first time too.)

My challenge to you this month is to take a shape, any simple shape, and see where it leads you.  

I thought to kick off I'd use the piece I've been working on recently as an example of the sort of choices you might make. This started in my head with two ideas: firstly it had to be based on squares and secondly I had an idea to work with a traditional 9 patch arrangement. Maybe something like this:

One square - then what else?  Use two fabrics and you get this.

You can see I was laying them out in as 9 patches. Then I rotated some by 90 degrees...

then decided to make some bigger and some smaller...

I still like how it looks at this stage, and have it in my head that I may revisit this, but ended up adding a border to each square - including the little strip in most.
Still the 9 patch format and you can see that to start with I using the borders to bring every piece out at the same size.  But it felt a bit static, so I started mixing up the sizes, which let me to using little strips to fill in the gaps.  

This was one solution, but as always there would have been others (like using filler strips or being more deliberate in the sizes I made things so that they would fit into rows or columns, or using an additional fabric - one that stood out more...)

The stage I am at now is interesting as shortage of fabric has led me to piece the outer borders out of even the tiniest scraps, but this has unexpected benefits, the principal one for me being that it allows me to break down the clear lines between individual units like this...

What I'm trying to illustrate is that at every stage of a project you can say 'this is fine, I'll stick with this' but that sometimes more interesting things happen if you think 'what can I change, what can I try now?'  If you try something and don't like it, go back to where you were, if you feel it's working, keep going forwards.   

(For a completely different take on a quilt based on squares, hop over to Ann's blog and take a look at her latest work.)

So go and play, pick a shape, start cutting, see where it gets you. Start with one colour, or two, or more, make them from crumbs, from strips, slice into them or leave them whole, border them, float them in space, arrange them in orderly lines, offset them, mix them up randomly.  Ask yourself  'what if', follow your instincts and have fun.  

I'll post again next Tuesday, this time sharing some playing along these lines that I have been doing specifically for AHIQ.


  1. Ad Hoc Improv Quilters....AHIQ! It took me a little while, but I followed your links and Ann's links and eventually got there. And I'm loving the ideas! I've been wanting to try a bit more improv designing. Not using the tiny pieces that you all seem to love, but more your techniques. Thanks for the links and the ideas and all the fun techniques that push me outside of my comfort zone and help me to grow and learn.

  2. very intriguing, I don't know if I can think like you do, it's so distinctive. I would like to do more with squares set apart. I love the setting of the rows to offset, and the little arm of neutral connecting the squares in places. I think I might try this tomorrow when stuck inside the house while all the neighbors spray mosquito poison in the air. Do people do that in England? On the bright side, it will force me into studio time and off the back porch. LeeAnna

  3. Okay Kaja! I'm ready to start playing and having fun! I am going to step out of my comfort zone and join you and Ann in this journey of discovery. AHIQ is going to help us grow as quilters, I am sure. I've been following everything you do for over a year now and am hoping some of your brilliance will have rubbed off on me, LOL

  4. Love the idea of just picking a shape and playing like that! I'm usually a planner so this will be a challenge for me!

  5. Fun play, great results, mustn't forget loads of inspiration too.

  6. I'm in! I'm ready, too. I read about you/this on Ann's blog and it's just the ticket for me, good timing, and right up my alley. Heading off into the back room to shop my stash for some suitable goods, and off I go!

  7. Thanks for an interesting read! I'm still mulling over the next improv. idea for me.:)

  8. Great to see your process Kaja and how your ideas for 'walls' developed. I'm really looking forward to making my next improv piece (gotta get this darn Norfolk Bricks done first, aaargh!), following along and sharing ideas with you all :)

  9. Hi Kaja: I'm just finishing up a plus quilt runner in which I kind of used this process. Started with a few fabrics went to the scrap bin tried out a few more rejected some , tried some more. It's a fun way to work...so I'm looking forward to going a step further with this process. Unchain my heart!


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