Is that an oxymoron? Can a triangle be equilateral and improvisational at the same time? Such questions to ponder...
The modern quilt guild that I belong to is doing an interesting quilt along (QAL) this year. Generally speaking, a QAL is where everyone works on the same project at the same time, sharing techniques and progress along the way. South Florida MQG’s version of that is an improv round robin. Each participant chooses the fabrics for their quilts and puts them in a shoebox. Each month we make a different improv block, and we swap boxes. At the end of 8 months, the shoebox returns to the original owner, full of improv blocks made by other people. Each person adds a little piece of their own “signature” fabric to each block, as a way of signing the one they made. It’s super fun. And at the end we should each have a bunch of blocks which look good together (same fabrics), that we like (we chose those fabrics), but have the unique input of each block’s maker. I’m not sure if she is the originator, but Sherri Lynn Wood outlines a very similar exercise in her wonderful Improv Handbook.
This month we were tasked with doing triangle shapes. I do love triangle shapes, me. The problem I often face when opening a round robin box is what I like to call “buffet syndrome”. So many choices…I want some of each…I take to much…whoops, I feel sick. And boy, what a feast there was in my shoebox this month. There must have been 30 different prints in that box! I decided to limit myself to just four fabrics. Whew! What a relief.
The next challenge was how to attack this. Our instructions were quite loose: make some triangles, sew them together into rows. Stop when you are happy, etc. Well - this is improv! Time to create a process.
I cut four rectangular pieces of fabric with scissors - starting with one of my fabrics which was a rectangle scrap, and just making three more pieces in the same shape. I stacked all four on top of each other (right side up) and then used my rotary cutter to slice them into triangle shapes. Then I shuffled the stacks a little and started piecing together four rows.
As I finished my four rows, I realized that I hadn’t added any of my signature fabric (a black and white stripe). I chose the signature fabric because I thought it would go with most people’s fabric choices… black and white, blending in, not being too clashy etc. Well, I just couldn’t see that fabric in this block at all. Ah well. Must do what’s best for the block. No signature fabric.
I’m quite pleased with the result. What surprises me is how improv it DOESN’T look. Does that mean I failed, I wonder? I did everything I should have. No rulers. I guess my freehand rotary cutting is too straight. I think that’s okay, because I don’t believe that I should have done anything differently. I could have intentionally tried to make the triangles wonkier. But isn’t that just faking it? What do you think?
My only frustration was my momentary quandary over the missing signature fabric. But that didn’t last long!
My great discovery is how easy this was, and how I can now sew triangles using this method, which is so lovely and relaxed.