So, this is installment number two of my “Making an Improv Quilt” series. You can find part one here, documenting the beginning of my first quilt and some of my personal inspirations for this project.
I really wanted to be finished with all of the piecing before this post, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve got six blocks and I need at least twelve more! I’m not totally sure how big the finished quilt will be. And I don’t have to know. That’s what I love about improvisation. However, I am developing my own loose patterns and style, more or less creating my own formula. After all, improvisation is not about having a total free-for-all. Whether in music, visual arts or theater, improv works best when you have a skeleton structure that you kind of fall away from and come back to in a playful way. It’s about play and collaboration. You throw something out, and then you collaborate or respond to that element. It really gives me a thrill and the process is only getting more exciting as I get a little more comfortable and skilled at the technical aspects of quilting.
So far, most of my quilt blocks follow a loose log cabin pattern, with a square center and rectangular pieces stacked around the center square. Aesthetically, I don’t feel that the quilt is looking too burdened by any one influence (Maybe I’m wrong about that?). Considering my lack of experience with quilting, this is both a surprise and a relief.
Speaking of aesthetic influences, I think, without dispute, the G.O.A.Ts (greatest of all time) of improv quilting are the Gee’s Bend quilters. Gee’s Bend is a remote, African-American community in Alabama where generations of women have created improvisational, patchwork masterpieces going back to the mid-nineteenth century. You can find a wealth of information and images of more Gee’s Bend quilts here. These quilts have all the complexity of composition and color as any great work of Modern art. And I love looking at the work of different Gee’s Bend quilters and seeing how each woman has a personal style. I definitely want to be like them I grow up.
I’ve know about the legacy of the these ladies for years, but I never imagined I would actually make a quilt, Before, I looked at images of Gee’s Bend quilts as two-dimensional entities like paintings or drawings. Now, as a quilter, I have a newfound appreciation for the technical difficulty involved in improvisational quilting.
For Part Three, I’ll be bringing you the finished improv quilt tips for each part of the process. I’ve got work to do!