I tend to gather like a magpie on the computer, words in a notebook and have some ideas in the back of my mind, not yet made, that pop up when I'm not looking, like a comfortable habit that plays out subconsciously. Improv on the other hand could be considered the opposite of all that. Oxford English Dictionary has two things to define Improvise; the first being: "creating spontaneously without preparation".
Is there really such a thing as without preparation though? Could it mean the absence of a pattern? Definitely. Absence of a sketch? Not sure. Absence of an idea? Don't think so. When does an idea cross over from inspiration to preparation? No clue!
My first thought that popped into my brain was a peacock with an improv made tail. Wonky freeform curves that would be glorious in their vibrancy of colours - teal, gold, green and blues. My minds image had it looking like this:
Large and fabulous in a bed sized quilt. (Bigger curves are easier after all!) The tail being the improv part and the birds head not so much so it's at least recognisable as a peacock! As in the last few challenges, I've discovered my first idea is grand, big and involved and time-consuming and something I really want to make. With 3 months to complete though completely unachievable. There is the day job, committee work and family to look after too!
So onto plan B. Oxford English second thing about improvising is: "Produce or make (something) from whatever is available", McGyver style. Now I have a large stash so limiting myself from diving in could be a challenge. Luckily enough, our branch of the Irish Patchwork Society, had booked Catherine Lawes (a UK based Textile artist) to give a workshop, on layered landscapes, using any fabric but quilting cottons. That I thought could be fun and not bringing any non-cotton fabric with me at all, I had to use what was available in the shared pile.
I was inspired by Kaja@ Sew Slowly who is an improv quilter I admire. She had made a lighthouse quilt and it was really cool so I thought a lighthouse like the Fastnet Rock would be something I'd like to hang on the wall. It is a lonely lighthouse built on a rock off the coast of Cork that people like to race around in sailboats and it can be really dangerous especially in our wild, windy, winter weather. So I made a dark themed lighthouse out of all sorts of materials, it is handstitched and glued through three layers so still a quilt.
The thing with an improv piece is how to know when it's finished? I've added machine quilting in the waves and the outline of the lighthouse. I'm thinking about adding in some bit of a sunset with thread. The nice thing about a piece like this is if I want to do a bit more I can just take it out of the frame, remove the mat and take it back to the machine.
So have I come to a conclusion on improv, not really but I have discovered these challenges are stretching my brain and giving me plenty of ideas for quilts to come!