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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.

Welcome to My New Blog – The Quilt Engineer!

Hey Bloggie Friends,

I have a new blog! Yay! I’m so excited! For better or worse, I will still dream of quilts” :-), but, I will no longer blog at Frankly, when I put up my blog at the end of last year, I knew I Dream of Quilts wasn’t the perfect name for me but, sometimes you just have to just go with it and you can always change later. Don’t get me wrong, I DO dream of quilts. But, I realized that the name wasn’t an accurate representation of me or of my work. I’ve been working on re-branding my blog for a little while and I’m so excited to finally introduce this to you.

So, why “The Quilt Engineer“? Well, I wanted to pick something that really reflected not only me but, also my quilting personality. For starters, I am an engineer by training. I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering. I’ve always been very creative but, my approach to creativity has also always been very deliberate and calculated. (As a matter of fact, I’ve had to concede that some of my more recent attempts at “random” designs aren’t very random at all.:-() So, “The Quilt Engineer” reflects not only my background but, my approach to quilting and creativity in general.

I was initially a little worried that “The Quilt Engineer” would be a little too masculine of a name but, I got confirmation that it was the perfect name from a few friends at the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild. They’ve seen me and my work over the last couple months and I was very happy when I got a thumbs up from most of them. I’ve never been the super cute and crafty type and to try and fit into that mold would mean compromising my integrity. So, for better or worse, here I am!:-)The Quilt Engineer!

I have a lot of things planned for the new blog too. For starters, each month I’ll have a theme and I’ll introduce quilts in that theme. Since it’s the first of June, that means a new month and a new theme: “Measured Improv”. I’ll tell more about that in the next post.

Anyhow, I’ll be posting more often, waaaaaay more often, (which of course is not that difficult to do being that I didn’t post that much at all on my last blog). If you like what you see be sure to subscribe and come back and visit with me often! And, I LOVE feedback, so be sure to comment or drop me a line.

If you need to email me, then drop me a line at latifah at thequiltengineer dot com!

So much fun!


angela maynes - March 13, 2012 - 11:14 pm

Ahh, i came to your blog, and found it free of the quilt police!!!!
Sounds great for me!!!

Valerie Miller - February 20, 2012 - 1:25 pm

Loved the piece on you in Ladies Home Journal! My kind of quilting!

Claudia - August 12, 2010 - 8:39 am

Great quilts!!
I’m an engineer too, I know what are you talking about the fake “random” thing!

Congrats, you have a great blog and amazing quilts!!

Latifah - June 2, 2010 - 5:13 am

Thanks Holly! You’re the first official post on my new blog! :-

And Melissa, yes, it’s crazy. ;-) But, for better or worse, it’s me – all me! :-) Glad you like it though! (And thanks for letting me know about the comments not working in the other post. I’m still getting the hang of the new blog!)

Melissa - June 1, 2010 - 10:59 pm

(NB: I wanted to post this comment on “The Big Log” post, but couldn’t find the link??)
I love your Log Cabin Revisited quilt, but all I can think is how crazy it is! Not in a “crazy quilt” kind of way, but in a “Man, that woman is CCCrazy!” kind of way. :o) It’s really awesome. I look forward to seeing the next episode of Measured Improv according to Latifah.

Holly - June 1, 2010 - 10:57 pm

Looking forward to reading posts from “The Quilt Engineer”!

The Madelyn: A Girly Modern Baby Quilt Gift Set

So, I just completed a quilt gift set for a coworker. He and his wife were the first friends that I had in the last couple years that have had a baby girl. I love baby gifts and I love little boys but, it’s just something about being able to create a truly girly baby gift. So, I saw the Frolic line by Wendy Slotboom in the fabric store and just knew I had to use this fabric as the inspiration for the quilt. What is cuter than fabric with a collection of owls, possums, squirrels, and woodpeckers on it? And it’s paired with pinks and yellows and greens? So cute. Then I picked a bunch of Kona solids and other fabrics to coordinate and I went to town. I knew exactly what pattern that I was going to use. I had sketched this out for a very colorful quilt a while ago (made with solids of course) but, I was excited to try it with prints. I do love how it turned out. It’s so delicate and girly. And so out of my comfort zone with the colors. I love it! I even got a chance to use one of my decorative stitches on my machine that I never use. The decorative stitch added such an extra dimension of girliness too! Let me know what you think about it!

Here’s the quilt with the ball on it.

Here’s a detail shot of the quilt. The squares are 1.5″ square. And there are two lines of decorate stitching in each of the two white panels. Oh, and you can see a peek of the back with that striped pink and white minky on it.

I usually make “Bibs, Burps, and Balls” to go with baby gifts. I made three bibs and three burp cloths.

Here are the bibs by themselves.

Bib detail. On the gray bib i just added a few straight line stitches.

On the bib with white, I put a line of the same decorative stitch that was on the quilt.

Here’s a little detail from the ball. It’s not as round as I would like it but, it’s still cute!

And, what’s a gift without a card? I also used the decorative stitch here!

Here’s the inside of the card.

And, here it the gift all wrapped up!

Now I’m ready to make this quilt in a colorway that more reflects me!:-)Here I come solids!

kylydia - June 8, 2010 - 4:40 am

I am thoroughly impressed! This is my first visit to your blog (I came by way of Handmade by Alissa for a glimpse of the mini-quilt you made for the LAMQG). Anyway! I love all the pieces of this gift and the presentation, especially.

Do you use stiff interfacing for the bibs?

Munaiba - April 28, 2010 - 5:32 pm

Those baby gifts are really cool. This is my first visit to your blog and I’m adding it to my RSS page so I can see when you update. I’d love to see you over at my blog some day.

Abi - April 27, 2010 - 11:27 pm

So cute, it makes me want another baby!

Dopako - April 22, 2010 - 11:59 am

OMG, simply wonderful!!!!

Liz Harvatine - April 20, 2010 - 8:19 pm

It’s great Latifah! What beautiful work!

Patty Simmons - April 20, 2010 - 1:24 pm

Wonderful! And what baby wouldn’t love it all! You’ll have to give us a tutorial on making the bibs and burps! Or a link to the pattern? Great work.

MegVS - April 18, 2010 - 6:41 pm

Beautiful! What a lovely gift!

Chrissy - April 17, 2010 - 8:46 pm

WOW. I absolutely looove the quilt, and all of your extras are just wonderful. What a beautiful gift!

Danielle - April 16, 2010 - 4:42 pm

Wow, that is such a beautiful gift! Well done!

Sara - April 16, 2010 - 3:56 pm

Wow, your presentation is amazing! I usually throw my quilt into a gift bag with some tissue paper. I’ll have to use your inspiration next time! Can’t wait to see your next quilt.

Kelly B. - April 16, 2010 - 11:08 am

Just saw your quilt pic posted on Flickr and clicked to your blog to see a bit more detail and OH MY GOSH! That is the most fantastic gift EVER! So thoughtful and totally beautiful–every single piece!

Laurel - April 16, 2010 - 10:45 am

Wow; this is a fantastic baby gift; absolutely beautiful. Geez, I just give a quilt!

Melissa P - April 16, 2010 - 9:16 am

Oh. My. Gosh. This is so beautiful, Latifah. I am sure the new parents and baby will LOVE it.

Em' - April 16, 2010 - 9:00 am

Oh My GOSH! WHAT a GIFT! Such great presentation and thought went into this! Love it! Great job!

A Really Awesome Giveaway: Congrats R0ssie!

So, if any of you are into modern quilting and DON’T know about the flickr group Fresh Modern Quilts, then you don’t know what you’re missing. But, I suspect it’s not that many of you because the group has just surpassed 2,000 members! In celebration of this R0ssie is having an amazing giveaway with 29 – yes, that’s right 29 – awesome giveaway items. These giveaways items are from some of the most amazing contributors to the Modern Quilting world. Check it out and sign up to win here.

Just a sneak peek at some of the amazing giveaways:

Signed Copy of Denyse Schmidt Quilts! (Photo courtesy of R0ssie)

Fabric Pack from the Awesome Malka at Stitch in Dye & a Pillow Pattern (Photo courtesy of R0ssie)

Fabric from Lucie Summers (Photo courtesy of R0ssie)

And, yes, there are 26 more. You have to check it out.

pegeth - April 5, 2012 - 11:47 am

Wow, I saw the article in LHJ. Wow a group who just might understand my crazy mixed up mind. I teach traditional quilts and I am forced to do them. Do not get me wrong, I live quilting as it has been my sanity keeper for years. But I love playing with the fabrics, No one gets me. Thanks for being!
I will return.

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