Last week I mentioned the influence Jan Mullen’s book Cut-Loose Quilts (C&T Publishing, 2000) had on my early quilting adventures. Then I started thinking about the quilts I had made, using her cut-loose (stack and slash) method, and remembered the fun I had. It all started 20 years ago (gulp) with the making of a Jan Mullen sampler quilt in the convivial company of our local group, Quilters of Grahamstown (Quogs). We worked our way through the book and made skewed (improv?) versions of traditional blocks, like she had done.
This quilt was made for a child’s bed and is so old that I do not have a digital photograph of it on file. It also does not have a hanging sleeve, so had to be photographed sideways. (I did try to crop and rotate it, but that didn’t work.)
The quilt was made from polycotton dotty fabric. I bought all the colours available at our local fabric store and brashly stacked and slashed the different blocks in various combinations of the brightly dotted fabrics. Perhaps it is just as well that the quilt has faded over the years!
After this I toned down my colour palette a little and made four quilts, following the patterns that Jan Mullen called Roman Stripez (p. 24), Log Flowerz (p. 65) Squarez-in-Squarez (p. 67), and Grannies’z Fanz (p.80). Her pattern of flowers using the log cabin method (Log Flowerz) resulted in my favourite quilt, which appears on the opening page of my blog and which I named A Full Bed of Roses (I previously posted a poem about the making of this quilt.)
Paging through Cut-Loose Quilts has stimulated new ideas for quilts and I am now playing with making rings and circles, which might turn into an improv Drunkard’s Path. As noted last week, it was learning how to make Diana Vandeyer’s Improv Wedding Ring that led me back to Jan Mullen’s book. Just for fun, here are examples of their take on the traditional wedding ring block.
Should I confess that I am a little perplexed about the term “improv”? I had noticed it out of the corner of my eye and was aware that it is connected to the modern quilting movement, but had not paid it much attention until recently. To fill in the gaps in my knowledge I did a bit of research and came across a very good article, “The Beautiful Chaos of Improvisation”, by Lisa Hix that conclusively attributes improvisation to the Afro American quilting tradition.
I was surprised that the word “improv” is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, as slang for “an improvisation in performance”. Although the dictionary does not say this, it would be nice to think that verb improvise is closely connected to the word improve. Improvisation is described as “something done on the spur of the moment” (OED).