Friday, June 9, 2017

The Mind Bending Patchwork Doodle

So this is the Improv. project I impulsively dove into back in January. It's score #4 in Sherri Lynn Wood's 'The Improv. Handbook for Modern Quilters', something I am very slowly trying to wade my through, chapter by chapter. Sherri has a lot to say about improv. of course, and one of the things that resonates the most with me is when she says it's important to learn to 'trust our process of self discovery'.
The Patchwork Doodle is a completed quilt top!
The 'Patchwork Doodle' focuses on working with one simple shape at a time and then moving on to another, all without planning beyond the row {or shape} currently being assembled. The idea being that inevitably, we will recognize a theme starting to develop. It's a bit of a mind bender and I confess to having to take lots of breaks with this quilt. This is not a process I feel super comfortable with {understatement of the year!} and yet it's one that I'm sure will help me in my journey to make ever more unique and interesting quilts.
Letting it sit and marinate...
Eventually I got to the point of almost having a firm idea of the end result, but then got hung up on the fact that it was turning out to be square. Not my favorite shape in a quilt and so I experimented with adding more negative space, thinking that would be an easy way to make the quilt longer. I even considered adding in another row of simple shapes. Everything I played with seemed to make the quilt less 'me', more pretentious or forced looking, perhaps even cold looking. Nope! Back to the squared quilt shape and yes, probably a more traditional look. Totally fine by me.

It's a completed quilt top as of late this afternoon and I definitely have some mixed feelings about the final result. On one hand, it feels amazing to reach this point. How did I get here from that odd start on the design wall? I'm guessing the process of 'self discovery'?*wink  Making all those little design decisions along the way really did eventually develop into a theme. Finally! Tough to recognize at first and it felt like I was wandering around in the dark an awful lot. Maybe this will work? Or that? Like I said, lot of breaks and marinating time involved in this project.
Playing with some negative space.
At some point I realized that incorporating applique and even those classic, quarter log cabin blocks into the quilt made all the difference in the world to how the quilt reflects my personality and vision back at me--no matter the new and different colorway used. Letting one design decision inform the next one is not altogether new to me, as most of you know, but this was a slightly different process and one that raised a lot of insecurities. Moving from one simple block to the next one without even the slightest idea of where I was headed, was hard. I had to consciously shut my brain off and just go with the flow of basically whatever popped into my head and whatever fabric felt right in my hand. Trust that no matter the decision made, it wouldn't be a deal breaker. New units could be added to the quilt, cut up and reassembled, or even scrapped, but that decision would not be made until after the sewing was done and even after I had a chance to see how they played with the previous units made.

To be honest, I don't think it would have worked except for the stack of fabric used was something I trusted. Yeah, it was different, but I already had a relationship with it! This may be the main disadvantage to working with prints instead of solids. The fact that you can't just randomly pull some blendy prints in specific color ranges and make something compelling. It takes a interesting stack of fabric to add depth and feeling to a quilt. The adding to or taking out over a period of time {however long that may be} is what creates a mood of sorts. This is the probably the biggest lesson learned since starting to work with improv. If there is a stack of fabric that has a story to tell, then I can more easily trust the design decisions necessary to grow a quilt. This is becoming an increasingly important part of the quilting process to me {no matter the method of implementation}, though maybe not so much to you. We all have our ways!
Draped over the railing
This particular stack included a vintage floral, a recycled mans shirt, various checks and plaids, modern prints, small novelty prints and even some oldish blendy fabrics from years deep in the stash totes. I've been working on expanding my ideas about which prints might play well together, trying to open up to and be braver about partnerships that would have scared me a couple years ago. The colors in this quilt were an odd blend, really a big challenge in lots of ways too, but seemed fascinating and intriguing all the same. Have you noticed that I like challenges? They pulled at me. Made me wonder. Maybe that's why it was easy to push them into an improv. quilt and see what happened.

Being intrigued made it easier to grab fabrics and just start cutting. Oh look! Don't these two fabrics look wonderful together? I took Sherri's advice and used a single cut of fabric for the negative space. Not something you often see in a quilt of mine, but it was necessary for this exercise. It made the quilt more cohesive--put less pressure on the prints to be well behaved!
Loving the bright corners!
Seriously, someday I'm gonna get braver about working with solids, but for now I'm having a ball challenging myself to work with various printed fabrics. Those mixed feelings about my quilt top? How about the way my quilt looks so very different from all the other Patchwork Doodle quilts? They're all wonderful looking with their strong, bold slices of solid fabrics. Why do I always have to march to my own drum? Did I even follow the exercises correctly? Maybe my quilt looks stupid.
One of the Patchwork Doodle quilts in the book.
Oh who cares! Some of the greatest quilts ever made have been completely unique to the world of quilting at the time they were made. The fact that my quilt turned out to be so different looking is actually a good thing. It's personal and unique. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. It means that I'm capable of inserting personal 'style' into a fixed process and not ending up with a carbon copy. It's called creativity. hehe  Believe you me, I'm just beyond relieved that there wasn't a whole pile of fabrics ending up in the garbage.*whew!
A major accomplishment, getting to this stage!
And my daughter has already laid claim to the quilt whenever it gets sandwiched and quilted. Which at this point in time means about two years from now? Hmmm... it seems I've taken another detour from my finish-more-than-I-start goals.....

24 comments:

  1. what a great quilt you have made here and a one off congratulations, so interesting reading about it too. Think I might just have to check the book out

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  2. I like the way you have gone with this quilt, it is still you and not a copy of one in the book. I find improv very hard, started with the first chapter of the book you have used but not finished and a little stuck. I think of adding something else to get some progress. But then it goes away from the first chapter.. Have to think a little more and maybe get inspired by your improv quilts! I really like how they end up and your stories how they grow and develop.

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  3. I also find improv hard--even the choice of fabrics ahead of time seems to push me into the "unknown". I am prone to picking two or three fabrics and then stash diving for the rest as I go...not always a good thing (see my "drawer of shame" lol).
    I am reading Sherri's book, too and have begun a few things--BRAVO to you for seeing one through and improving this piece...since I also use mostly print fabrics, I find these quilt "maps" difficult to follow--will keep on "keeping on" though...
    I think your piece came out amazingly well--I especially like that row of appliqued flowers --they say "Audrey" to me ;)))
    hugs, Julierose

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  4. I wouldn't do improv it is not for me, I need to know what a quilt will look like - that is why I do not do mystery's either - good luck to you!

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  5. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Given that you already have a 'taker' for the finished quilt, I'd say your improv adventure is a great success.

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  6. This improv thing is really working! I must admit when I first saw the row of green and yellow on your design wall (way back when) I thought Audrey has gone off the deep end. Where did this come from? But, once again you have amazed me at how you have created a masterpiece! I'm going to go pull some fabrics and play! Thanks!

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  7. Turned out beautiful, and interesting. I love this improv. quilts. So much more character!!

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  8. First I must say that it definitely does NOT look stupid, so forget that idea! And second, it wasn't supposed to look like the quilt in the book. That was the whole point of the exercise, wasn't it? So put away the self doubt and just embrace it as a success! I think it screams 'Audrey' and that's a win in my opinion. Love how you share the whole sordid journey though, thanks for that. :)

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  9. I applaud you for following your creative thoughts. I don't know that the improv is for me. Well, maybe a tiny bit of it but I am so drawn to what is already ou there in applique patterns. I am more traditional with a swing to the prim side of it.

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  10. I think it takes a sixth sense to do true improve, which I clearly dont have.
    Its nice to see you are having sucess with this, Audrey!

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  11. That top turned out great. What an interesting and OOAK top that has your personality. And to think it started out as such an ugly duckling. Good for you, to stick with it. I must check out this book. We only grow as artists by putting ourselves out there. I agree with Diane, above, thanks for sharing your journey.

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  12. I am very much enjoying your reflections on your quilting at the moment as you try pushing your boundaries a bit. I love that in the middle of all the experiment and moments of doubt you still manage to produce quilts that only you could make, proper Audrey quilts. I am also interested in what you say about working with prints; I agree to some extent but tend to think it is an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

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  13. It looks wonderful, Audrey! I like everything about this quilt, including the story of its coming about and your process. The colors are lovely, and I especially like that outer border of log cabin blocks. Beautiful!

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  14. "finish more than I start goal" I've tried to do that in the past and so far this year I'm winning. You're quilt top turned out great! It's always fun to hear about the creative process. What a bonus that someone else likes it beside you. My kids usually crinkle their noses and force a smile at my creations. They just don't get what I'm trying to do - sigh~

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  15. I enjoyed reading this post, it's so interesting following along with you on your improv journey! And a great result! I still struggle with improv, can't seem to get past simple 'coin' layouts really, and I too stay away from the all-solids look!

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  16. Love the happy colours, so bright and cheery. The colours and the flowers in the center make it so inviting. Loved reading about your process including your fears. Beautiful finish!! Congrats!

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  17. Not sure why, but I always tend to first look for the 'picture' in your quilt tops, and this one is no exception. In fact the central flowers in a windowbox literally jumps out of especially that first photo in the sunlight. And the other commenters are right, this one has that unique Audrey stamp on it! It is so bright and cheerful no wonder your daughter has laid claim to it.

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  18. Brilliant writing about the process! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and letting us know we are not alone in dealing with the insecurities and struggles.
    Personal + unique = creativity!

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  19. If you like the quilt top that you made, then all is right with the universe. Just because the photos in the book look a certain way doesn't mean your work has to look like those photos. Good for you for understanding your own style.

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  20. Nice top, and how great your daughter wants it! Might have to move it up in the quilting queue.

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  21. It's a great improv quilt, Audrey and testament to its success is that your daughter has laid claim to it! Congratulation!

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  22. I admit it took me a while to get my head around this quilt, and the original process. I've realized that's because I was being too serious, and really, this quilt is about play. It feels lighthearted, so no wonder your daughter has claimed it! Great finish, and very inspiring!

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  23. I have to say...if I saw that book exercise I would skip doodling! I like nothing about it. Now...yours...at first when I saw the rectangles and four patches on your design wall I thought ewwwwww, yuck. But as I kept looking at the picture I was drawn to that yellow fabric. Now when I see your final doodling I have to say I like your doodling far better than the books! Now just to doodle quilt it!

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