I serendipitously came across this embroidery in the bathroom of the Bed & Breakfast I stayed at while traveling through southern Illinois on my way from Cincinnati to Lincoln.
I’ve taught the workshop, Improvising From A Score, six times since introducing it at QuiltCon in February, including A Gathering of Stitches, LAMQG, San Diego MQG, and the Triangle MQG and Front Range MQG while on the road tour.
This workshop begins with brainstorming the limits of patchwork –size, fabric amounts, time, shapes, colors, tools, techniques, procedures, scale, complexity, etc. The idea is to pick any combination of limits to create a “score” for flexible patterning. You might decide to make a baby quilt for a friend, with triangles and strips out of pastel fabrics. That’s the starting place. The set of limits you begin with are size (crib) shapes (triangle & strips), colors (pastels) and then you go from there. BUT oh you say, don’t I need a plan?
Many people feel restricted by having to stick to a plan yet they are scared or anxious without one. A plan gives us a sense – a false sense perhaps – of security and control. With pure improv there is no plan. There may be a loose seed of an idea or image in our minds, but it’s important not to hold on to this seed or to control it’s growth.
Improvising From A Score workshop with Front Range MQG
The limits we set for flexible patterning, replace the plans we depend on for fixed patterns. Setting limits “between too little and not enough” so that we are not overwhelmed by too many choices or restricted by not enough choices is the key to finding flow or “happiness.” Flow replaces the security that we cling to when following a plan. FLOW is sweet and restorative, free and surprising. Whereas security may be comforting it can also be restrictive, tedious and rife with judgement if we dare to deviate from the plan that guarantees it.
When I outline the limits for the first score featured in The Improv Handbook, the Score for Floating Squares, participants are always welcome to push beyond the limits introduced – and many do. The point is to first clearly see the container for the improv in order to clearly see our choices, preferences, and habits in relationship to the container.
Improvising From A Score workshop with LAMQG
The challenge is to TRUST the limits we set, even as we question and push beyond them. There are many obstacles to overcome; learning to be more restrictive with fabrics – most of us suffer in our over abundant culture from too many choices than not enough; yes butting – many of us prefer to judge and doubt rather than affirm and build – I include myself.
Once I begin trusting to the limits I set by affirming and building on all that I choose, the sweet surrender of being in the flow restores and delivers me to new territory almost effortlessly.
Seeing my students struggle and find their flow reminds me to seek this place between to much and too little in my life and my relationships with others. I’m reminded to trust and affirm the decisions I make for myself each day, and allow life to unfold as it happens.