Friday, August 1, 2014

Modern Quilt Month: Improvisational quilting

Today's post features improvisational quilts. Much as a painter would use a brush, improvisational piecing is a creative approach to generating a work of art without the rules imposed by a traditional quilt block.  Still, "improvisational" does not mean "random".  If a pleasing composition is the goal, there has to be inspiration, a focal point, and some repetition of color, line, shape or texture.  We were intrigued by these improvisational quilts.

Spring Fever, 57 x 50", by Jan Soules (Elk Grove, California)

Spring Fever was exhibited at the 2014 AQS Quilt Week in Phoenix, Arizona.  The quilt reminds us of spring flowers, green grass, blue sky, and white fences.  The description says, "Jan Soules made this quilt as a celebration of spring.  The colors are fresh, clean and vibrant.  It was free-form pieced in individual blocks."  In our eyes, the x-shaped gate in the picket fence marks the focal point just to the right of center.

close up, Spring Fever by Jan Soules

As shown in this close-up photo, many different types of fabrics were used to add interest. The quilting was done in a flowing fashion with some circles, pebbles, maze, zig zag and wavy lines.

Through the Screen Door by Linda Cote

Through the Screen Door won first prize in the One Person-Art Quilt category at the 2014 Tucson Quilters Guild show.  The "screen door" is clearly the focal point of this piece.  The solid colors nicely complement the floral print fabric.  Linda Cote says that she was inspired by the work of Sally Carruth and Jean Wells : "[I] loved the experience of piecing and quilting from the right wide of the brain. I will do more!”

Fields of Color by Ruan Robertson (Bethesda, Maryland)

We spotted Fields of Color at the 2014 Road to California show. Ruan Robertson says, “This quilt is based on a detail of a paper collage, which was a study for an earlier quilt. All the piecing in the “fields” was improvised for variety in color and texture." The quilt was made of hand dyed and commercial cottons.

close up, Fields of Color by Ruan Robertson

In the close-up photo you can see that what appears to be fields of color are actually made up of pieces of fabrics of similar hues/values but different textures.  This adds a subtle variation of texture when viewed from a distance.  Ruan Robertson is a member of SAQA and you can see her 2014 SAQA auction quilt (scroll down).

Modern Family by Kenci Lewis (Tucson, Arizona)

Kenci Lewis says, "The abstract piecing [was] inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture in Wisconsin and Picasso’s art in Spain after two amazing trips this year. This piece began as a landscape then, turned on its side, became a family group."   The wood-grain-like fabric added a warm, earthy texture to this original work of art. Some very expressive quilting was used in different sections of the quilt.

Ripple Effect II, 50 x 68", by Marianne Haak (St. Albert, Alberta, Canada)

Ripple Effect II won the Piecing Award in the 2013 Modern Quilt Challenge sponsored by the American Quilters Society. On her blog at The Quilting Edge, Marianne says, "I started playing with some wonky, curved piecing. The quilt seemed to make itself as I tapped into the melancholy side of my temperament... a little over three weeks later the quilt was done."  To learn more, check out Marianne's wonky curves how-to and her wonderful quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) tutorials.

Resonance by Heather Pregger (Fort Worth, Texas)

Resonance won second place in the Art-Abstract category at the 2014 Road to California show.  The open white triangle, which reminds us of the shape of a harp, forms the focal point of this beautiful art quilt.  Heather Pregger says, "Resonance is my attempt to capture the rhythm of music in a pieced quilt." You can see and/or purchase her award-winning quilts at her website,

Color Addict by Frances Moore (Los Angeles, California)

We spotted Color Addict at the 2014 Road to California show. Frances Moore says, "My intent was to make a neutral/tan colored quilt that would highlight my machine quilting, but I just could not do it. My husband said, “That’s because you’re a color addict." He is so right.” The colorful pieced strips and circles really stand out against the neutral grays.

close up, Color Addict by Frances Moore

Frances Moore has been quilting for 16 years and teaching machine quilting for the last 9 years, and we admired her overall quilting design.  You can see many more examples at her blog, frantastic-stitchwitchery.

If you want to try improvisational piecing, there are many great books on the subject, including books by Jean Wells, Rayna Gillman and Gwen Marston:

Image credits:  Quilt photos were taken by Quilt Inspiration.

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