Friday, March 30, 2018

Two ways to do Improvisational design... First Curvy then boxy...

I sewed some this week. Sewed like a dervish. Even Milo's antics were ignored.

All sewing was improv.

For me, there are two ways to sew as you go... one involves sewing free cut curves with oddly shaped pieces. I did that with the green scraps.

 The other is fitting in hard edge shapes, like squares, rectangles and triangles together, and I used that technique with my ocean scraps. To me, that's more like putting a puzzle together.

 Both ways are fun.

With curves I use all the odd shapes so it's a bit more like a mosaic. And the curves lend themselves to organic work, like flowers and landscapes.

I start both styles the same way, by sorting through my small scraps. Seems easier to start with little pieces.This time I found some pre-sewn sections to start with and began by laying the bits out, sorting by tone, seeing what might work together. Moving things around... sew a little, regroup...
I wanted to do a green landscape, so I decided to do strips at the top like trees or grasses, and small odd pieces at the bottom like forest floor. This time I stayed with light greens for some reason. It could have benefited from some darker pieces in the bottom, and the image is washed out so it does have more variation than it looks.
You can see I am sorting it to fit together eventually. I do not plan beyond that. I keep the wrinkled little odd shapes to one side and pull them out if they might fit in somewhere.
I love how lines can join up, like the curve near the right bottom continued into the next insert. Random surprises.

Color and texture.
considering how it might eventually be squared off, I like forming it on my grid mat.
sewing a line, then moving groups around to balance the color. The strips were smaller on that left side, so I put together two sections to make them longer.

That line becomes a hard design element, and eventually I ended up inverting the whole section so the hard line was closer to the strong  horizontal line joining the forest floor to the trees.

 Still, the process is the same. sew a few pieces, lay them back in the puzzle, sew some more.

While I was doing that, I also made three small squares... and thought to join them in another work.

Recognize the top left piece I started with some days ago?? it has now been turned on it's side since I added in a tiny grouping that looked like mountains. The tree I was building became more like shadow, and I am going to insert a trunk to the side. I have to integrate the three tones, I saw emerge, probably with some little raw edge applique pieces just sewn to the top and allowed to fray.

I'll do that during the quilting process.
Do you like the avocado green strip along the top of the forest scene? I love the tone, but am not sure about it, so it's not sewn in yet.

I also made another dresden, with dark green.

I turned to a bag of ocean fabric scraps leftover from making two ocean quilts. I have so many pretty and some whimsical ocean prints of every color. This was all in a little bag inside the turquoise scrap bin.
The pieces were mostly hard straight edged. So I started fitting them together on the mat... til they formed a large rectangle, wider than long. Then I start sewing one to another, and seeing if it fits in with another section... keep going, move them around, sew some triangles around a little fish block...

triangles to triangles, polar bears to crabs to turtles to fish...
 It's so different from sewing the weird shaped ones to each other. It's still fun, putting the puzzle together, building sections to find they fit almost perfectly to the other sections. Big pieces like the top right turtle, next to little shards of others.

I loved putting a triangle onto a strip, just to blunt the edge a little, seeing if I could merge some colors. To me it looks like a glass kaleidoscope when the little pieces fall into place.
I have very few pieces left now, it's all sewn into something about 24" X 30"
It is ready to quilt, and I think it could use a focus so maybe some thread lace fan coral??? Maybe one fish tail applique swimming off? Or a seahorse??
I was happy to see flamingos in here, and the mermaids fit along two sides. I had only a 2 1/2 " strip of them. I like the crazy frogs, and dolphins and fish wearing snorkels. That big whale near the center.
 I know it's a mish mash of color and print but I kind of like it.
I usually do a whimsical portrait or statement quilt. Recognizable images. Working in an abstract, improvisational way is very different for me, and I find it really engages my design sense.

You have to close the door to the inner censor.
Ignore her knocking and whispers that it's of no use, and possibly ugly.
Keep going through the moments when it has no focus or meaning.
Remember angles are interesting in a finished piece.
Stand back and look at it after a little trip to the kitchen for a glass of water.
Don't be afraid to move a section around or discard it.
Enjoy the rotary cutter. Embrace the unknown. Form a tight bond with your sewing machine.

linking to
Esther's blog Wednesdays  
Let's be social Wednesdays 
Midweek makers wednesdays
 Free motion by the River Tuesdays to do Tuesday (where you'll find others working improvisationally)
design wall Mondays at smallquiltsanddollquilts
Main Crush Monday
the mop link party mondays
sew can do mondays


  1. LeeAnna, these are both wonderful. What great explanations your wrote of your process. I'm inspired to try this again myself... when I'm home with my scraps.
    Since you asked: I like the avocado color but don't like the placement. It cuts the forest off too abruptly. Would it fit along a side? {My opinion is worth what you're paying for it. Haha.}

  2. Lovely! This is the kind of work that excites me.
    Thanks for sharing your process. You're free to
    run when you let go of fear.

  3. I enjoy watching your projects take shape. Love the green, but your ocean stuff is fun, too!

  4. Wow...what a riot of color! Nicely done.

  5. I love the contrast of greens in the forest piece. It looks like the dazzling sunlight shining through a gap in the trees in dense woods. I agree with Ann: I like the avocado green but not at the top.

  6. " Ah, the greens of the forest and blues of the sea,
    in scraps pf fabric resides a world of possibilities!" you inspire us to play and this type of play is therapy for me!

  7. Thanks for linking these up to AHIQ, there's so much food for thought in the post. Maybe the trick with the avocado colour is to use it in smaller bits? You make me want to pull my scraps out of their box and have a play.

  8. I have trouble trying to do improv. My OCD gets in the way, but then it also gets in the way of traditional piecing, too. I'm working on it. I like that you've used triangles with the other shapes. I have a lot of triangle cutoffs and oddly shaped pieces. I've been making some crumb blocks, but have no plan for how to use them.

  9. Wow, I was attracted to your green pieces in the picture @ RSC, it's lovely to see them here and read about your process, enjoying each new piece as I read. The oceans quilt is very appealing as well. Nice work.

  10. Both are fabulous. Thank you for sharing the process, too.

  11. Such pretty greens - I enjoy seeing and reading about your process! Glad you've been inspired to sew this week!

  12. This is very impressive. 1. You are stretching yourself.
    2. The colors work so well together. 3. I can see the mountains and trees and forest floor in the green one. 4. You shared it with us! Happy Sunday to you!

  13. WOW, you have been busy!! I love reading about your improvisational piecing process! Although sewing like a dervish scared me; I imagine you spinning around your sewing room like a Tasmanian devil with rotary cutters in hand, and I worry for your safety!! Thanks for linking up with TGIFF!

  14. ...I will be hosting Willy-Nilly.
    The Willy-Nilly meme opens at 12:00 AM eastern time each Friday and closes at 11:55 on Monday. Please stop by!

  15. Sewing like a dervish? That is an endearing image, LeeAnna :-D Love those green scraps - looks like springtime in your studio. I have yet to try curved improv. The straight line jigsaw puzzle piecing resulting in scrap vortex quilts - well, that I do often. Hope you are doing well and not miss the east coast to much.

  16. oh my!
    love your tips and pieces...
    I am working on something similar...

    thanks for linking up!

  17. Love the forest floor and trees! Those scraps came together so nicely for it. And you certainly have quite the selection of fish/ocean scraps for a fun I-Spy quilt. Nice work!

  18. Wow, I was attracted to your green pieces in the picture @ RSC, it's lovely to see them here and read about your process, enjoying each new piece as I read. The oceans quilt is very appealing as well. Nice work.


  19. Wow, your improv piecing is just amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your process!