#30DaysofimprovQAL – Week 2 Polygons

‘Polygon’ has a very broad definition:

  • 1.a plane figure with at least three straight sides and angles, and typically five or more.

So basically a straight sided shape with at least three sides.

On Sunday I received the explanatory email with the Week 2 prompts from Amanda and Shannon. I watched their reels on IG taking note that the initial shapes they were exploring were freehand squares and rectangles. That was a relief! Not too complicated – when I saw ‘polygon’ I was immediately thinking hexagons, parallelograms (get me and my GCSE maths!) and all manor of many-sided shapes!

Here’s the photo record of my second week of improv (I’ve copied the daily prompts in red).

  • Monday – pick the first polygon shape that captures your interest (don’t overthink it!). Get comfortable cutting and piecing those gentle angles.

No deep thought process involved, I just decided five sided pentagons would be my polygon of choice (for Day 1 at least!).

In avoiding Y-Seams I ended up surrounding my freehand pentagon Log Cabin style.
  • Tuesday – try working on a smaller scale to see how cutting and piecing feels when working with smaller pieces. Tip – use a leader and ender (aka sew a scrap first before sewing your pieces) to help avoid your machine ‘eating’ your fabric!
I was a bit fearful of going too small after my trials with bulky seams in Wk 1… But I managed it on a second attempt…
I cut my little turquoise pentagon in half and stitched it back together with a strip of white between. The centre pentagon measures 1-3/8ths inch at it’s widest.

I wasn’t enjoying the process or the results until I took a look at the close-up photo above. I like the way the dissected turquoise pentagon was reformed by the white strip to re-create the original shape and two new turquoise shapes – one four sided and the other actually five-sided (just).

  • Wednesday – embrace the wonk by exaggerating the angles of your polygons. See how different your blocks look and feel when you avoid keeping things on the straight and narrow.
I cut ‘pointy’ pentagons through all five fabrics at once. I liked the shapes but didn’t feel moved to do anything with them or to them!
  • Thursday – once you have a block stitched up or parts of a block pieced, try slicing it up and reassembling it in a different layout. What shapes emerge?
I sliced each pentagon in half through different angles and stitched a strip between them. Surprised to find a hexagon emerge from one of them.
  • Friday – details are fun, but too much of a good thing isn’t always good. Try incorporating some breathing space into your composition. What element do you want the focus to be on?
My blocks and left over shapes. I concentrated on drawing attention to the polygons but realise I’m fighting against too many prints.

End of Week 2 Conclusion: The short version – I really have no idea what I’m doing or what Improv Patchwork is! The longer version – I feel very uncomfortable trying to be artistic – I’m a crafter NOT an artist – so this whole improv thing is making me feel a fraud. I’m sure I’m barely touching on the art of improv. I still seem to be chopping up fabric to make Crazy Patchwork blocks rather than contemplating elements of my ‘design’ before auditioning, adding, chopping or rearranging.

Hmm! The blocks are on my design wall. They may grow on me or, come the end of the 30 Days, I may be relieved to throw them all in the bin and go fondle my rulers!

Can you recommend any books or improv patch-workers to follow on social media? Maybe I will begin to understand what it’s all about and how to ease into imrpov?


#30DaysofimprovQAL – Week 1 Stripes

Yikes! Instagram has a lot to answer for! After reading a post by Shannon of @shannonfraserdesigns I decided to join in with the 30 Day Improv QAL. Shannon along with Amanda of @broadclothstudio are hosting the QAL and providing weekly prompts (via email), ideas and short videos. If you ‘do’ Instagram then follow #30DaysimprovQAL to see the numerous ways the prompts are being interpreted.

Ah! Interpretation! That’s the rub for me! Improv patchwork is way outside of my comfort zone: no pattern, no cutting instructions and lots of room for interpretation 😱

Anyways, I followed the advice given, chose five fabrics and cut each piece into quarters, one quarter for each week of the QAL. I decided to set aside 20-30 minutes every morning to act on the prompts.

And here’s the photo record of my first week of improv (I’ve copied the daily prompts in red).

  • Monday – keep it simple by just exploring cutting and piecing your strips. See how alternating the direction you piece your strips in helps limit (or exaggerates) the wonk.
I cut through all five fabrics using a rotary cutter without a ruler.
Strips stitched together all in the same direction. Feeling quite proud that some do have a bit of a wonk!
  • Tuesday – play with scale and see how piecing skinny strips feels different to super wide strips and how it can add complex detail to your block.
Stitching together the skinny strips was tricky. The seams didn’t want to go under the machine foot and kept shifting. Even, quarter inch seams they are not!
  • Wednesday – lean into the wonk by combining your free hand cutting while piecing your strips all in the same direction. See how much ‘wonk’ you can build into your piece!
Look at me! Cutting fabric freehand with scissors!
Strips not so wonky but the block has certainly got a wonk!
  • Thursday – pull out that rotary cutter and give your strip sets a fun slice and sew it back together. Then dice it up again!
Before the slicing, stitching and dicing.
After, slicing, stitching and dicing. I have to confess to not giving any thought to this process – treating it like making a quilt from random scraps rather than contemplating ‘stripes’!
  • Friday – incorporate some negative space in your block composition to see what effect that has on your stripe motifs (this is a great opportunity to put your trimmings from earlier in the week to good use!).

I hoped throwing in some negative space fabric would create improv blocks. I quickly realised that’s not how it works! I decided to try ‘interpreting’ traditional patchwork blocks.

The top two blocks are based on the ‘Blocks In A Box’ block. The block on the bottom left is based on a Four Patch and the one bottom right… Well! That one got made and then chopped and stitched some more and I have no idea what it might be based on! This all took me at least 1½hours – way more time than the 20-30 minutes of the previous four days.

End of Week 1 Conclusion: The short version – I really have no idea what I’m doing or what Improv Patchwork is! The longer version – I think the two blocks on the bottom row provide some sort of exploration of ‘stripes’. From a practical point of view I realise I cut my fabric strips way too narrow. My blocks are a mass of bulky seams that will be a nightmare to quilt! Maybe I didn’t need to use all five of my fabrics? Maybe choosing multi-print fabrics is going to make this QAL quite problematic?

I’ll be glad to have the weekend off from improv! Hoping to return to the challenges of Week 2 in a positive frame of mind!