Repetition, Improv, and Trance Quilt Making

Welcome to Improv Mondays, a weekly series exploring improvisation in quilt making.

Traditional quilt making involves a lot of repetition – from the cutting of shape-after-shape out of the cloth, to sewing the pieces together block-after-block, to the in-and-out of the thousands of stitches it takes to hold a quilt together.

I love the meditative quality of traditional quilt making that comes from repetition. Not surprisingly, repetition plays a fundamental role in my improv quilt making process as well.

Although repetition is only one of an infinite number of ways to approach improvisation, it can also be understood as a cause for improvisation. When I finally get bored at repeating something long enough my mind yearns for a change and I make a mistake, oops I mean improvise, or go into a trance! One way to explore repetition through improv quilt making is through a score I call Modern Block Improv:

  • Choose any traditional block pattern as the beginning score.
  • Alter the block pattern as desired through multiple repetitions.
  • Alterations may include, scale, size, order, color, value, etc.
  • Alterations may result in more complex or simplified iterations of the pattern.
  • Not every block has to be used in the finished quilt.

I improvised the piece shown above using the Hole In The Barn Door as my beginning score. Can you identify my first block? Can you follow the order of my iterations?

I heard the Mattie Bye Ensemble do live TRANCE IMPROV at a club in Oakland a couple of weeks ago. It was a fantastic! Here’s a taste of what it was like.

This entry was posted in 2011 Quilts, Modern Improv, Tools, Tips, Tutorials and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Repetition, Improv, and Trance Quilt Making

  1. Amber says:

    This is so super excellent. I’m greedily rolling through your YOSS posts and commenting for entries to win. But I have looked and drooled over your work before and am so sidetracked by reading everything it would probably be faster to just knit my own socks! I’m studying your improv bits while contemplating a quilt for a friend’s baby. Thank you so much for these posts.

  2. Amanda says:

    WANT LESSONS. Teach me, Yoda!

  3. absolutely gorgeous!

  4. nifty quilts says:

    Great quilt! I love the pattern of stitching so different from the piecing, like a whole other layer of design.

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