I share my quilting studio with DaveTheWave, who collects there his tools for electronic music improvisation, and sometimes I enjoy piecing during his composition hours. His tunes are a perfect companion for sewing with a rhythm: not only I respond better to the emerging shapes on my design wall, but also I feel confident in changing my texture while keeping unity in the overall piece.
Music improvisation and quilting improvisation are similar: when you find a good balance between control and intuitive response, you are in the flow, you are connected with the medium, the eye switches easily from zoom detail to overview check, and repetitions with variation can proceed. Where can I learn from, if I want to practice the feeling of improvisation? Keeping a good link between body and mind reminds me of training in sports: you have learnt the basics and, during the match, you seamlessly adjust your strategy according the movements of the team.
Some months ago I was walking to the city center, and I raised my eyes upwards. There was a beautiful intense blue sky, and many perfect white clouds. It was just a small field among the houses, but it gave me sense of the beauty of our remote roof on top. I decided, then, that I wanted to make a quilt out of these colors.
I talked in this earlier blog post about the start of this work. I selected all my favorite blue fabrics, and I combined them such to obtain this same feeling impressed in my memory. I wanted to render the sense of expansion, but I realized that I needed a kilometers wide quilt… it was required a real size effect!
I finally settled for keeping just the meaning, distilled into a small detail.
Now my quilt is finished, and I can keep between both hands a tiny symbol of something located so remote. I gave it title: “The space between the clouds”.
“Beyond Borders” is a virtual quilting guild of the Modern Quilt Guild. It is virtual because many of us are not able to meet in person: the group includes members from different continents, who applied for participation to the Individual Members Coalition of the MQG. Our last virtual gathering took place on November 16th, with participants from USA, UK, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Australia, and we talked about:
•MQG highlights: keep connected! Resources and articles setting the example.
•”Inspiration corner”: From the microscope to the sky. Natural textures finding room into our quilts (this was my talk: I will describe it here below).
•Show & Tell: participants showed what they were working on, new beginnings, past finishes.
•News from the quilting world: coming quilting events, sharing plans to visit venues
“Inspiration corner” is a section we have recently introduced: we have discovered the inspiration sources of Samantha @threads_of_my_life and Ally @alsterdeeluxe, from the English countryside, to the shapes hidden in the daily shadows around us.
In my turn for the “Inspiration corner” speech, I explained how I am inspired by textures that I find in nature and during my professional experience.
I started to use microscopy during my thesis work at the University, and the pictures I gathered in that period became part of a science communication project which travelled around Italy for some years.
I am still using microscopy and other imaging techniques, such as optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, x-ray tomography and ultrasonic testing: I have a professional relationship with images and I continuously work extracting technical meaning from raw abstract pictures.
When I put my recent texture quilts aside to the images obtained at the microscope, sometimes I find they have similarities. I don’t use photos as a direct source to make a quilt as a replica of the subject, but the library of pictures filling my memory surely influence my quilting practice.
I’m a moderator of “Beyond Borders” group, together with @tarahartslief: if you want to jump onboard, feel free to contact me for questions! Consider also checking the other one of the two groups of MQG Individual Member Coalition, at their Instagram profile: @modernfusionmqg
When it was time for me to propose a palette for the month of October, I immediately thought of the pumpkin color and to the works I have done with orange fabric. I chose my quilt made for the first Quilt Improv Studio game, and I listed the colors used at that time to share its juicy palette: my favorite oranges, white and a well contrasting dark blue.
You can find the resulting fabric selection made in collaboration with Patchworkvictim, at the following page of their blog.
In this video you can see how nice prints using orange blue and white we could find, to match with the solids chosen at the start.
If you wish to see with your eyes the orange quilt which was created following this palette, you can soon come to visit the quilt+painting gallery The tales of the needle and the brush, opening on October 23rd in Trieste (Italy) and displaying not only orange quilts, but also blue quilts and black and white quilts, all stemming out from the fantasy of improv quilters who followed Quilt Improv Studio game prompts. And much more!
It was for several days, that a blue sky quilt idea was floating in my mind. I resisted for all those days to the temptation to start it, because I was in the middle of other projects. A completely different color occupied my sewing table, the supersaturated red of my monochrome quilt, still to be finished. I managed to work according to my real preference: one quilt at a time.
Then, my quilting table became free. I started. And I submerged for a full weekend on my new blue project, without breathing fresh air for hours. It fullly captured me. So strong was the effect of full immersion into a stage of new creation, that every other activity in the queue disappeared from my radar. I even forgot for one full day to send the announcement of the new quilt+painting gallery that was in preparation here in my hometown! (Well, the gallery announcement has just been launched – read here if you are in north east Italy, and you consider visiting this super special event soon!).
Blue and white fragments continued to get attached to one another on the design wall, when, suddenly, my composition was not working anymore. Too big. The clouds, inspired to the late summer sky visions stored in my mind, needed to become too large… maybe kilometers large… like in the real life. Not working, not working image at all.
The splash on the design wall soon turned out too busy, giant and pixellated. I remixed, I ripped sections, I abandoned the initial purpose… but there was no way out. Until, like a casual gesture, I placed my jelly roll blue strips on the design wall. Strips in series, like a color check, like a grid. And, surprise-surprise… I started to see my work clearly again. Thanks to the presence of the grid, I suddenly understood what was happening to my work.
— Alert: engineer nerd content below —
I involuntarily created an “interference grid”. Like the one I used during my optoelectronic engineering studies… when a laser beam passed through a filter, and became transformed into physically meaningful patterns… This grid acted, indeed, as a filter. It helped me to extract mosaic cell scale. To separate portions of the mosaic having different appearances. It distilled the randomness of my work into some sub-series having a meaning of their own.
Now, I have decided a possible way on: to use only some portions of my work, to simplify it. The image should become more readable. Or at least, the idea returned readable for my mind. I see again a number of possible paths for the progression of my work.
I don’t know if the above story is understandable or even interesting as a quiltmaking phase. But for me it was important. The rest, still needs to be written…
When I started discussing with my quilting friends Carla and Giovanna, about the new game to be proposed as a Quilt Improv Studio challenge, I was reading the book Abstract Art. Carla’s proposal to try quilting a monochromatic work was perfectly fitting with the chapter I was reading then: the history of American Monochrome paintings.
At the time to start my monochrome quilt, I decided to experimented a bit with extremes. I kept the shapes to a minimum (a good occasion to discover the difficulties of minimalism). As in the monochromatic painting experiments, I focused on surface texture, quilting red on red, going narrow up to matchstick style.
At a certain point, the differences introduced in my quilt started to be barely visible even for me… and this reminded me of a photo galley I made twenty years ago, participating to a science congress on nanotechnologies, dealing with objects having size sometimes too small for being resolved by visible light.
Well… red is the color at the gate of visible light wavelength. Thus, I decided that my red quilt had gained grades to be dedicated to all the above.
My monochrome quilt is titled “Threshold of the visible”. It makes me think of my experience with microscopy and surface characterization, of the American monochrome texture paintings, and of the wavelength where we start to see red: 740 nanometers!
I’ve attended an on-line quilting workshop with Brenda Gael Smith, on the composition of abstract works inspired from images of our real life. It was already since the first paper-cutting exercise, that my mind started to travel along the theme of water courses. River-like mark-making appeared plenty of times on my resulting mini quilt. Thus, I gave it the title “Stream”. I explored many rivers along the northern part of Italy, and I collected plenty of stories.
This is the story that I feel being connected with my quilt.
Last Sunday I spent all day touring by bike. I took the train, I reached the town of Cormons, and I routed to the town of San Pietro al Natisone, where a chestnuts fair was in planning. I had lunch at midway, in Cividale. After some tea and some rest, I was ready to push the pedal again.
In the afternoon I had to study my map. The street I expected to use was blocked, due to a local motorbike race. I tried to reach the limit point, hoping for the race to be finished, but they told me: “motorbikes will continue all day long”.
My route was crossing an area impossible to reach… I was tempted to show my anger to the policeman. But I managed to keep quiet. It had to be possible to find another way.
So, I started to explore the surroundings. There was a tiny lane, just behind the house, that seemed to head for a backyard… A small wooden signal appeared: “To Purgesimo, 1 mile”. Great: this was my direction. Dear cars, if the street is forbidden for you to pass, this doesn’t mean that for us, bike runners, there are no alternatives!
The most beautiful part of my tour started there. A red pathway between the fields. The beauty of the river, along the side. A sunny sky with yummy clouds. I spotted a layer of acorns under my wheels; some purple flowers of the specie “aster dumosus”; the dotted decoration on the body of a fleeting snake; two white horses running in the wood, and the sound of water stream audible only by me, cycling alone. Plenty of fruit types where shown at the chestnut fair. I headed back home, with four different chestnut packs, ready for a tasting exercise.
Sometimes people say that engineers have a squared mind (intended as: they are not really flexible, because their mind is closed inside a squared box…).
Well, since I’m an engineer, I like to think of methods for making nice squares. So, I tried different ways to square up my quilts, especially when they are big. I share my process here.
When my quilt is finished, I don’t use any marker to define its contour, nor I cut excess material. Both methods are irreversible. On the contrary, I define the edges with masking tape.
My references can be straight lines in the piecing or in the quilting: thanks to them, I line up the ruler (which is transparent, and can be aligned with such references), and the cutting mat just after the ruler (since the ruler length usually is not sufficient), to simulate the position of the edge. Looking at such guide, I will cover excess material with a line of masking tape.
The corner of the cutting mat indicates the 90 degrees angle, so I can proceed in this way for the next side, completing all the four sides.
After having masked all excess material, I can look at the simulated quilt contour, and I can adjust it, based on the following needs: do I want to exclude or to include some other peripheral elements of the picture? Are the opposite sides really parallel to each other? To check parallelism, I measure the length of opposite sides. Usually corrections up to one inch are still needed in this phase… and I appreciate having the possibility to change my masking tape position.
When I’m satisfied of the contour placement, I start the facing procedure. I love Audrey’s tutorial on cottonandbourbon web site: from the first time I’ve tried it, I’ve never left it anymore. Still, I apply it, but with a small difference: I don’t cut the excess fabric before starting the facing. I think it’s better to sew on a wide, flat area (all material of same thickness still existing on both sides of the walking foot), rather than sewing quite near to an edge (which creates a step). So, I first complete all the machine sewing operations on each couple of parallel sides (up to step 8, and later, up to step 10 of Audrey’s tutorial). Then, I cut and press. Final hand sewing of such a clear quilt back becomes a piece of cake!
To me, this has clearly the effect pf prompting visions.
I started with some leftovers from previous works, and soon I saw a Liberty style décor.
I added some colours to the curves, and quickly I had the impression of seeing two persons looking to each other, ready to start to dance together. Or maybe it was only a single woman body, imprinted in blue onto the canvas, like during the performances of the painter Yves Klein?
I almost decided for the title “A tango with Klein”, when I rotated a bit the pieces… and suddenly a sea appeared, with people swimming among golden waves in the sunset.
Final version of my work resulted different again, but I wonder where the earlier visions have gone now: are they embedded in the quilt as multi-layer meanings, or they rather have taken an independent imaginary life of their own?
I save all the smallest scraps from my quilting work. Half an inch is enough for me.
I’ve made sample textures with this starting material: column and row grids, log cabins… In my first video talk about improv I show some of them.
I recently took out this starting material. I noticed that the yellow and the purple patches had some colours in common. Good starting point to join them with a few transition lines!
It was a nice occasion to experiment with walking foot channel quilting, having needle positioned at variable distances.
When I had almost completed my work, I changed my mind: no more landscape rectangular orientation, but rather a square with a twist. It felt like adjusting the composition with a move of the photo camera… a cropping zoom. A good occasion to face fear of cutting an already made work… and to feel it can improve.
Good that mini quilts are completed in short time. I gave it the title “transition”: like the two starting blocks that blended, in a transition from purple to yellow with different piecing shape.