Improv Circles Quilt Top

So, while I was in a frenzy machine quilting the quilt in my last post, I got tired of burying threads and went to look up Quilt As You Go tutorials on the blog of @mariquilts, a talented quilter I follow on Instagram and admired back when Flickr’s interface wasn’t crappy. She’s been doing some really great stuff lately and posting pictures, so I wanted to see if she had more photos showing the process so I could try it myself. It was late at night when I started reading, and suddenly it was almost 2am and I had been browsing her site for over an hour (maybe two?), landing on this wonky curves tutorial.

I forced myself to go to bed, but I don’t think I really slept. Here I was, all keyed up already because of the piece I had made less than 48 hours before in a nonverbal artistic haze, and I had already found the next big project. 

So I did what any normal artist would do first thing the next morning.

I ignored the project in process, household chores, and other things on my to-do list, and started a new quilt. Of course I did!

I didn’t look at her instructions again that day, choosing instead to learn the process as I went along and thus not be quite as influenced. 

Needing to start with 20″ squares limited my fabric choices to stash dating to before the fire, since most of the fabric I’ve accumulated since then has been fat quarters (which measure 18″x22″). I did want the blocks to be able to be big, since I know that piecing gentle curves is much easier than quilting tight ones (learned that with the quilt pictured in this post from 2010

So, what’s a girl to do? I raided my hand-dyed fabrics (that Jerry and I dyed back in 2002 and then again in 2008 or so) and a few other treasured pieces. 15 pieces of fabrics = 15 blocks, which was a good number for an experiment. 

And then I cleared off the design wall because this was obviously going to need a design wall.   
After a few rounds of stacking, cutting, shuffling, sewing, starching, and pressing, this is what I had. 


The children were pretty much on their own that day. I was a slave to the process. Thank goodness they are independent and can feed themselves these days.

When I decided I was finished I trimmed the blocks to 15″ square, which was the largest size I could trim them because of how the improv piecing had skewed the sizes.   

And then rearranging began.   

I played for a while, trying to get color balance without having too redundant a pattern of closed circles.   

Finally I started harassing my friend Celia, who is my go-to person for these sorts of things. We finally found this layout, that kept the oranges from taking over. 


At some point, she asked to see the black and white fabrics because she couldn’t really zoom well enough on her phone. Here they both are. I cut two more 20″ squares of different black and white fabrics but apparently never cut them up. So they’ve been reassimilated into my stash for future use. 


And here are the two prints. One of them is a seaweedy fabric that I based another quilt around, and I liked it so much that I went back and bought yardage after that quilt was done. The orangey fabric was the very first fabric I bought, about 3 years before I really started quilting. I bought 2 yards of it in Stitcher’s Garden in Franklin, Tennessee in April of 1996, on the way home from the wedding of my first love. I have used bits of this fabric in a lot of quilts, and have less than a yard left of it. It’s a Hoffman fabric, with metallic accents, and I love it as much now as I did the day I bought it. Geometric, mosaic-looking, and rainbows. And that trip home was the day I decided that I deserved to be treated well by a man rather than the way I was being treated by my then-boyfriend, so I’m sure that a lot of my attachment to it is symbolic. Don’t care. Bought the fabric, eventually dumped the guy, and Jerry and I were dreamily planning our own wedding within 6 months.   

Anyway. I digress. 

I finished the quilt top that night. It doesn’t photograph well inside, because the fabrics are so vibrant. So fence photos happened the next morning before the light got too bright. 
I absolutely love this piece, and it’s already layered and ready to quilt. I don’t think I’ll be able to get to it before I leave my quilting machine for five days, but it’ll be here waiting for me when I get back. Ideas are already percolating!