Tuesday 1 September 2015

AHIQ - here we go!

Welcome to the first post for AHIQ (Ad Hoc Improv Quilters).  Ann and I have spent a fair amount of time over the summer planning this, and talking over what we want it to do/be; now it’s your turn to get involved. We hope this will be an opportunity for lots of fun, as well as a chance to share and to learn new stuff from each other. 

There will be two parts to this: the AHIQ linky party on the last Tuesday of every month - anyone working in an improvisational way is welcome to post their work. 

There will also be a series of “why don’t you try this” posts aimed at providing starting points/ideas and at opening discussion about the different ways we work, both in terms of technique and creativity.  The first of these will come next  Tuesday (8th) and will challenge you to see what happens if you start with one simple shape.

But first things first: what do we mean by “improv”?  Well, the dictionary defines it in two ways “to create or perform spontaneously and without preparation” and “to produce or make something from whatever is available.”  I guess for me quilt improv falls somewhere between these two ideas. So there is an element of jumping in and seeing where you go, and of making do with the choices you have at hand, even if these limits are self-imposed.

BUT we recognise that not everyone's improv is the same: ie lots of people will never feel comfortable just jumping in and chopping away with no idea at all of where they're going.  If it suits you then this feels liberating but if you are uncomfortable you are possibly not going to produce your best work.  So, just to be clear, we are NOT the improv quilt police – throw away your rulers or use them every time you work, it’s fine either way.  Use solids and prints or mix them up, work with traditional elements or not, impose lots of boundaries on yourself or keep them to a minimum, none of this dictates whether you are an improv quilter or not.  Doing your own thing, whatever that may be, is what it’s all about.

When the first AHIQ post went up, this was one of the comments:
“I struggle with different labels for quilts. Beyond 3 layers held together with some sort of quilting I'm never quite sure what kind of quilt I'm making. Add improv as a label and I'm lost. Improv to me means improvise...make do with what you have. So if I use used clothing in a quilt (like grandma did) because I can't afford fabric is that improv quilting? If I make crumb blocks (aka made fabric) but then use it in a traditional star block is that improv? If I use a tea towel as a center of a quilt and add traditional as well as free form blocks around it is that improv? If I sew scraps into blocks and then add beads, embroidery, etc. is that improv?????”

I would say all of this could fit under the improv quilting umbrella and if you are doing any of this, I hope you will feel you fit here.

Why work in this way at all?  I think the appeal of the idea, and the satisfaction when it works, are about feeling that you have found a different way of expressing something.  I came across a great quote from Joe Cunningham that sums it up for me:

 “What I am trying to do is to make quilts that anyone could make, but that only I would make – quilts that are the result of everything I have seen, everything I have experienced, and everything I love to do.”  

(Joe Cunningham, in his book Men and the Art of Quiltmaking, AQS Publishing, 2010 p.18)


audrey said...

What a great quote. It sums it all up so wonderfully! I am so excited about this. Improv. is very attractive to me, but scary too--totally out of my comfort zone in many ways. LOVE that you're making it very welcoming and open to individual interpretation.:)

Mystic Quilter said...

Wonderful - the start of a new adventure in quilting and I am so looking forward to being a par of this. Your interpretation of improv quilting makes me very happy in that we do not have to work with "set in concrete" methods. This gives more scope for the imagination. Roll on the 8th of the month and congratulations to both yourself and Ann!

Cathy said...

Hah! Then I guess I fit here better than I fit in my own clothes these days!

Lara B. said...

The one thing that made me nervous is that I mostly thought of improv as quite unplanned. I'm a bit of a control freak and didn't know if I could loosen up enough to fit in. So this post is quite reassuring to me Kaja! I'll definitely be following along and trying things out. I might even use a long stashed FQ bundle and play with it.

Stephie said...

Great start Kaja, looking forward to it very much :) Improv for me is about letting your imagination wander and setting your own rules. But then I was always being told off for not doing what I was told!!

Janie said...

Aha! This sounds like loads of fun. Thanks for getting this up and running!

Julie said...

This feels so comforting to find other quilters willing to let go of predetermined ideas and rules. I am deep into an improv quilt at the moment, and have been asking myself some of the same questions you've addressed in this post. If my center is totally improv, must I continue this with wild abandon for the rest of the quilt and not expect it to look like 'scrap vomit'? Or can I step back and make some deliniations that will provide boundaries for a continuing theme? Is it okay if I use a template to speed cut in some areas? I am think, YES! to all these things, but am looking forward to having discussions here about improv process. Thank you so much for moving into this little discussed area.

Julie @ Pink Doxies

liz said...

I am loving your blog. i have been quilting (slowly!) for 8 years or so and i never use patterns. I work improvisationally and love the journey. I am far from prolific but i generally like the things i end up with. while I admire the skill of precision piecing of complex blocks, paper piecing etc., those are stress inducers for me. Improv frees me to have fun!