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Measured Improv: “Up In the Air” Quilt

So, I’m still exploring what I call Measured Improv. If you’ve read some of my earlier blog entries, you will remember that this is what I termed my approach to Improvisational Piecing.

I now introduce you to “Up In the Air”, my most current exploration:

The inspiration for this quilt was a block created by Kelli for my month in the Bricolage and Butter Bee. I am in love with all of the blocks that I received for this bee, they are all BEAUTIFUL! I challenged the group to make blocks out of a interesting assortment of solid fabrics and received some of the most awesome, unusual blocks back. (Hopefully, I’ll share them all with you soon.)   But, on one of Kelli’s blocks, there was something about her use of the two greens with a pop of the pink and a smidgen of grey that inspired me to create this quilt. Actually, it was just the left two-thirds of the block that inspired me! Here it is:

This kind of Improv Piecing for me was very tedious. The piecing itself wasn’t difficult but, it was the “pause and make a decision” step that made it tedious. In an attempt to add dimension and interest in the quilt I tried not to make any two “blocks” alike. (I use the term block loosely. I think of this quilt in term of panels instead of blocks. There are six panels in this quilt. But, each panel was pieced in sections which I’m now referring to as blocks.) In any case, it became increasingly difficult to create interest and variety in each of the blocks. So each subsequent block seemed to take a bit longer mainly in just deciding what to do next.

The name “Up In The Air” came to me after hearing several people who saw this quilt say that it reminded them of looking down at fields from up in an airplane. (Plus, I think I had just seen the movie “Up In The Air” so I think the phrase was in my head. Haha!) I wavered between this name and “Window Seat” but, “Up In The Air” won out!

This quilt is 48x 67 in. The Kona Cotton colors used were: Ash, Medium Grey, Charcoal, Coal, Grass Green, Chartreuse, and Pomegranate.

Here is a detail view of the top of the quilt front:

The back was pieced with leftover fabric from the front – large big blocks of color all taken from the front. I love how the scale of color really affects the look and feel of a piece. Larger chunks of color look so much brighter or darker than little slivers of that same color. It almost doesn’t look like the same colors as the front.

I almost didn’t want to quilt this for fear that it would detract from the design of the quilt. So, I decided to quilt it lightly. The quilting lines are random semi-straight horizontal lines.

Here’s another detail view of the back of the quilt:

And another that shows a more complete view of the back:

I loved working on this quilt, and I love the final effect but, after being buried in greys I was so ready to dive into using a lot of color for my next project! Let me know what you think about it. I know it’s a little different but, I guess this is what happens when you challenge yourself outside of your norm!

Teresa - February 18, 2014 - 8:07 pm

Oh! I love this quilt. I just found your site and this quilt just kind of slammed me right between the eyes. It’s exactly what I would have created if I had talent. Just magnificent.

First, green is my favorite color. Next I love the unexpected pop of pomegranate and the abstract grays. I retire to contemplate it some more.

Jackie - July 14, 2013 - 10:44 am

One of my favorite quilts of all time!

Sondra - May 12, 2012 - 7:36 am

absolutely fabulous quilt…

Rhonda Ludwico - December 31, 2010 - 10:01 am

I love this quilt. It reminds me of rulers, pencils, and sketches laid out on a drafting table. I think “engineer” when I see it. And at the same time, the green on green makes it soft and inviting. I want to curl up in it. Beautiful. I can really relate to how hard it is to plan and implement something so that it all looks accidental. Great piece of art!

Sherri Lynn Wood - August 24, 2010 - 11:15 pm

Very nice! It reminds me of abstract drawing with tape.


Erica - August 12, 2010 - 6:08 am

This is so awesome! I love this!

Cheryl Arkison - August 10, 2010 - 9:39 am

It is fascinating to read about other people’s struggles with improv. I struggle with precision and planned out pieces! Your eye is incredible, regardless of the process.

yahaira - August 10, 2010 - 6:05 am

I have loved all your quilts in this series and this one is no exception. it makes me swoon

Lynne - August 9, 2010 - 10:32 pm

Unbelievably fabulous and amazing and stunning and different – I hopped over here from flickr and really have to add you into my bloglist because your things never cease to amaze me – you seem to work completely differently from the rest of us – are you an artist by training?

Amy - Amy's Creative Side - August 9, 2010 - 6:13 pm

Beautiful! I love those colors, and the composition is fantastic!!

Chancy - August 9, 2010 - 3:09 pm

I love it!

adnohr - August 9, 2010 - 1:37 pm

I think for me, improv goes against my frugal nature (scottish roots!) because if something needs to get a chunk trimmed off to make it fit I would have a hard time doing it. But I will try something like this one day, I really love the way it turned out, and the name is perfect.

britt - August 9, 2010 - 1:29 pm

I love this! Your design shows such restraint. The green tone-on-tone work is really nice… this quilt really inspires me to dig into my stash of solids!

Latifah - August 9, 2010 - 1:09 pm

Thanks for the comment! I too am a planner by nature and Improv has been very difficult for me. You should try it though – it’s been quite the experience. It’s nothing like stretching yourself in a direction quite different from the norm.

I’m glad you like it though. I’m always a little hesitant to share when I make things so different from everything that’s out there!

kylydia - August 9, 2010 - 12:54 pm

I have a lot of trouble just making wonky blocks. I know that improvisationaly piecing would be very challenging and tedious to me, too. I’m a planner, by nature.

I think this is SO fantastic, though. I love it. At first, I thought “minimalist” but I looked again and saw that it is very complex in areas. The colors you chose are just great.

House Softies and a Quilt to Match

What do you do when you find awesome Ikea House Fabric?

You make little houses of course!

As soon as I saw this “Britten Hus” fabric I was inspired to make little houses and after I sewed these little guys up – I was in love! They are the cutest squishiest little houses. I wanted to select a fabric for this first version that was a soft girly fabric that would balance out the stark dark lines in the house drawings. I was able to find 5 or 6 prints in Robert Kaufman’s  “London Calling” line and they were perfect. This line was obviously inspired by Liberty of London and was perfect for my needs. It was soft in pinks, purples, and blues and was very girly. I also found two additional prints that I thought really went with this London Calling including a really adorable plaid that went surprisingly well. (You’ll see it on the roof of the house to the left above.)

Usually, I make the baby quilt and then make the softies to go along with it but, in this case I made the softies and had to make a quilt to match. I got the idea to make a quilt that could be used to play with the houses on. But, I didn’t want it to obviously scream “play mat”. I wanted it to be a nice graphical design that with a little imagination could be a road that you would of course put houses on the sides of. So, this is my first take on this. It’s just the quilt top but, I think I like it. For some reason I keep thinking of the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz so I am thinking about naming this the “Not So Yellow Brick Road”. OK, that may be a little cheesy. Anyhow, here are a few extra shots, let me know what you think!

Jen - August 15, 2010 - 7:13 pm

I got some of this house fabric as well but wasn’t sure what to do with it. Your house softies are BRILLIANT!

Kate - August 12, 2010 - 9:55 pm

I have been wondering what to do with my house fabric. Great idea.

Cheryl Arkison - August 6, 2010 - 10:52 am

So awesome! I especially like the quilt. Oh the quilting possibilities.

Jodi - August 6, 2010 - 8:17 am

What I think is it’s perfect and very creative!

izzy inspired - August 6, 2010 - 8:12 am

the quilt is perfect…it bounces off the houses perfectly. together they look like one of those beautiful streets u drive down and instantly know that you want want to live there!

kelly - August 6, 2010 - 7:33 am

love, love, LOVE it! i was thinking of doing something diagonal for the back of the orange quilt i’m working on. still undecided, but i really like what you did with yours.

kylydia - August 6, 2010 - 3:49 am

Those softies are really adorable. Great idea!

I bought some Ikea bird fabric and am still waiting for the inspiration to strike.

Measured Improv: Lavender Big Log Baby Quilt

Before I even finished The Big Log in the original colors of Black and White, I started to think about what variations could be made to make the look and feel of the quilt completely different. Though I love black and white quilts for babies I thought that in this case the Black and White was too stark of a contrast for a baby. It just wasn’t playful enough. I’ve also been thinking a lot about monotone quilts as well so I decided to try my hand at a monotone lavender quilt. Once again, these are Kona Cottons in the shades of Pansy and Petunia.

The backing once again is a contrasting Kona Cotton this time in Coral. To unify the front and the back, I decided to include a small piece of the Coral backing fabric in the binding. I really like the random yet cohesive affect it has on the quilt. It is just a small touch but it makes the front of the quilt a lot more interesting, I think. The free motion quilting is a simple large meandering.

Amanda Elizabeth - August 11, 2010 - 11:20 am

this is seriously awesome!

kathy - August 6, 2010 - 11:29 am

“Measured Improv”…love it and love your work.

Emily - July 31, 2010 - 9:27 pm

This is really great. I love the style and the freedom of this quilt. Would you ever consider taking us through a couple steps of how you create the blocks? Is it all random… where do you start? I love it anyway. Would love to be able to give it a try. Also, how much fabric do you buy for a project like this. I don’t usually keep much solids on hand.

aunt spicy - July 31, 2010 - 5:33 pm

Ohhhh, really what a fabulous quilt, love the variation from the earlier white and black! Beautiful!

Sarah - July 27, 2010 - 9:18 am

cool quilt! Love how there is that one red piece on the binding, really draws the eye.

Freda P - July 10, 2010 - 8:19 am

Thanks Latifah for the reply, which with your original script is actually quite clear.. the fog is at this end I think!
I am all for the playful side not being excluded and am often pleased to hear when my quilts are flipped over as the recipient prefers the knitting cats on the back now! I still look for a patterened back ..hides more mistakes. I do like your quilting showing on on the reverse tho giving a reflection of the design on the front. Will giv it a try .. sometime!
freda, in soggy Edinburgh
16.18 GMT

Lauren - July 2, 2010 - 9:24 am

So beautiful, Latifah! I love the lavender.

Latifah - June 23, 2010 - 10:24 am

Freda – thanks for the comments! I’m so glad you came from the 6600 Yahoo group – I love that group! I guess I should’ve been clearer in my comment about black and white. I am actually a big proponent of using black and white in baby quilts. Though not always with white but, I use black in about 75 percent of my baby quilts. I too have heard about the research about colors and babies and their early recognition of the contrast of black and white. What I meant about stark was that with this pattern the black and white seemed to be mature and not ‘baby-ish’ at all. Hope that explains it better!

Freda P - June 23, 2010 - 6:38 am

Yummy – what an origonal style.. I was led here by the 6600group..bless …source of great e adventures. Interesting comment tho re black and white being too stark for a baby, my new grandson was given pressies by other new mums-in-the-know of op-art style mobiles in black white and red..which he zoomed in on about three to four weeks! Apparently psychologists have found out that these are the first colours wee ones respond to!!
My own reaction was the same of ..oh yeh till I saw it .
Just a thought to share! Maybe in baby shapes of stars and moons??
Cheers from Edinburgh

Abi - June 18, 2010 - 1:44 pm

Oh, sorry. I skipped the words and went straight for the full-screen sized eye candy. Now I see that you’ve thoughtfully listed all the colors you used. You’re awesome. And I dig Kona Coral.

Abi - June 18, 2010 - 1:42 pm

I love it! Especially the little piece of the backing fabric – what color is that? I also especially love the photos – the houses, the pier? Awesomeness. Great work – as usual, Quilt Engineer! I think the block on the back looks like it might spell Latifah!

American Quilter's Society - June 17, 2010 - 12:21 pm

Cheerful is the perfect description! Great work. Can’t wait to read more from you!

Chancy - June 15, 2010 - 3:53 pm

Again, I really love this. Such great inspiration!

Melissa - June 14, 2010 - 9:58 pm

It’s a beautiful, fun baby quilt. :-). I’m curious, is your name spelled out in your label on the back? If so, that’s really cool! :-)

June Theme: “Measured Improv”

Each month on The Quilt Engineer blog we’ll explore quilt designs within a certain theme. I so often get overwhelmed with the designs that float around in my head that I figured if I picked a theme for the month that I could stay more focused. I know I’ll still keep wanting to skip ahead a month or so but, I’m determined to stay focused on the theme. Occasion will warrant that I go off theme every once in a while but, I’ll try to stay as focused as I can within the theme of the month.

The theme for the first month will be “Measured Improv”. (Check out the first “Measured Improv” quilt posted yesterday called “The Big Log”) I’m sure some of you are thinking what does “Measured Improv” mean? Well, in light of my finally accepting and coming to terms with the fact that my innate design style is very deliberate, calculated and planned, I’ve challenged myself to look at Improvisational (Improv) Piecing and Quilting in a new light. Instead of trying to fit into someone else’s definition of Improv, I’ve decided to make Improv my own. When I was thinking about what my style of Improv would be for some reason, the term “Measured Improv” popped into my head and it kinda stuck. I think that it perfectly describes my Improv style. This is how I define it:

Measured Improv \ˈmezh-ərd ˈim-ˌpräv\- allowing for improvisation within specified constraints or parameters

Those parameters can be anything that you decide. For me, I might measure, I might use rulers for straight lines. I might have one consistent element, such as the same width strip as you saw in  The Big Log that was posted yesterday. But, what I wont do is  have all of the components of the quilt planned out before I even cut into the fabric. I’ll have a general idea of the desired outcome but, I’ll constantly be making decisions along the way that will affect the finer points of the quilt.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the biggest difference between my standard “follow a specific pattern/plan quilting” is that when I’m using the “Measured Improv” process for piecing and quilting is that I allow myself to relax, trust the process, and I flow more. This has been rewarding so far but, I have found out that for me the process of Improv is much more time consuming than a planned deliberate quilt. Instead of following a specific design, you have to cut, sew, iron, make a decision, and then repeat. Sometime the “make a decision” step takes a lot longer than I anticipate.

Anyhow, so far it’s been fun and I’m liking the results. I posted the first “Measured Improv” quilt this yesterday - The Big Log . . . Here’s a sneak peak at something else you’ll see later in the month:

So, what’s your “Improv” quilting style? Comment and let me know.

Back to quilting!
- Latifah

Latifah - June 23, 2010 - 10:38 am

You are so right Cheryl! In a way I think most Improv is like this but, I’ve found that a lot of people who’ve never tried Improv don’t understand this. This approach to Improv is very apparent in many of your quilts for instance your “Wednesday Night Races” quilt. Love it! :-) To be honest though, the Improv style was a challenge for me. I’d much rather have a plan and just barrel through the sewing to get it completed. Improv is a much more intuitive process and it is about feeling your way through it and making decisions along the way. This makes Improv quilts more time consuming for me. It has been a lot of fun though.

Cheryl Arkison - June 22, 2010 - 8:48 pm

Interesting term. I am mostly improv, but I don’t necessarily believe that this means all wonkiness and completely random piecing. I often start a project without a drafted plan, but maybe a sketch or a concept. I may do very precise piecing, but I usually leave it up to whim and what I’m left with as I put the top together. I still consider this improv, because it isn’t a pattern.

patty - June 4, 2010 - 8:57 am

I am not much of a planner or a measurer. I like to just get going with an idea and see how it turns out. I use this approach mostly making small quilts that can be given as baby quilts. I found you when I saw you The Big Log was posted on Flicker.

Debbie-Esch House Quilts - June 4, 2010 - 4:47 am

Hhmm, measured improv. Sounds interesting. Since I also tend to be a quilt planner, I look forward to seeing what you do with this topic.

Alison Marie - June 3, 2010 - 9:54 am

Latifah, your new blog looks awesome!

Melissa - June 3, 2010 - 1:54 am

I love your new blog, it’s perfect. Can’t wait to see what you have in store.

Liz Harvatine - June 2, 2010 - 9:42 am

Hi Latifah!
The new blog looks great! It’s definitely much more “you”. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Lauren - June 2, 2010 - 9:06 am

Latifah, the new blog looks GREAT! It feels very “you” and I love your idea for monthly themes. Congratulations!

Log Cabin Revisited: “The Big Log”

I saw a picture of a rug online awhile ago and was inspired to make this quilt. I wish I could find a picture of the inspiration rug. When I first looked at it I fell in love with the new take on the basic log cabin. I love log cabin blocks in modern quilts but, I look at them a little like I look at roses. They’re beautiful but, sometimes overused. I just knew I had to do a quilty version of this take on a log cabin. So, here it is. I hope you like it.

As a “Measured Improv” quilt it was a lot of fun to piece though the further that I got into the piecing, the harder it was to come up with unique variations for the “logs”. The consistent element is that all of the black fabric is in 1″ wide strips. I actually cut a whole pile of 1″ strips before I even got started. The second consistent element was that this was done in a log cabin format. So, I created panels or logs to build the larger log cabin pattern. So, it starts with a center “block” or log and it builds out on all sides. The quilting lines on this were fun too. They are free motion wonky “straight” lines that are only in the white spaces. This creates a very cool effect as you can see when you look at the back of the quilt. For this quilt, I really wanted the front to stand out so I chose to have a solid piece as the quilt back. I used one of my favorite Kona Cottons, Grass Green. It creates perfect contrast to the black and white front.

Lynda M Otvos - May 23, 2014 - 8:11 am

This is the most phenomenal quilt I have seen in AGES !~! I love what you did w the Log Cabin block which is my Go-To. Congrats !~!

Ann - August 6, 2010 - 8:13 pm

I’m gobsmacked and I’m not even Irish. I felt compelled to comment on your quilts..awestruck , inspired, okay my thesarus is worn out. I am not worthy, I am not worthy. Looks good on ya’ girl. Thanks so much for sharing. Ann

Cheryl Arkison - June 22, 2010 - 8:50 pm

Wow, this is incredible.

Cheryl Arkison - June 22, 2010 - 8:50 pm

This is incredible!

[...] I even finished The Big Log in the original colors of Black and White, I started to think about what variations could be made [...]

KimT - June 13, 2010 - 5:35 pm

Great meeting you and this quilt in person on Saturday. You are a true artist!

Val - June 4, 2010 - 2:44 pm

So, so awesome! I love that you put green on the back! I also love how the quilting adds another dimension to the incredible front! Great work, Latifah!

Chancy - June 2, 2010 - 12:04 pm

This is amazing! I love this quilt. I have a stalker-ish crush on it.

Quilted Cupcake Jean - June 2, 2010 - 12:03 pm

Wow – what a great piece. Very clever construction, and visually stunning. Well done!

Quilted Cupcake Jean - June 2, 2010 - 12:02 pm

Wowza! That is amazing work. What a great idea – so creative and visually stunning.

Abi - June 2, 2010 - 11:13 am

Holy guacamole! First of all – how awesome are you in Quilters Home?! I was telling my husband, “I was THERE when she was making that quilt being featured in a magazine!” It makes me cool by association :) (In my mind, at least.) And now, your awesome new blog – I love it. I clicked on the photos of this gorgeous quilt on Flickr and was surprised to see your little smiling face next to it. My friend Latifah is the now the Quilt Engineer? I guess she is! Now, about this quilt – did you just keep building out and out with the pieces of white and black? Is that what you meant by ‘log cabin style’? I love that little cross and the x. It really has the look of a cool city scape. Awesome work.

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