As an improvisational quilter I love making quilts where I call the shots. In fact, I have only used traditional patterns for a few of my quilts. Designing an improvisational quilt gives you so much freedom because you call the shots each step of the way!
Currently I'm working on two projects in the sewing room. One is an improvisational quilt and the other is a table mat based on a pattern I found in American Patchwork and Quilting. It is so hard for me to stick to the pattern, I keep wanting to make it my own! I've already devised some ways to tweak the design to my liking which brings my wild heart some joy.
Here are some pros and cons to improvisational quilting vs. sewing with patterns. A healthy mix of both can help you continue learning while still trusting your own instincts when designing quilts and sewn goods.
Sewing by improvisation is so much fun because you make the rules! Of course there are some teachers who love to enforce structure even into the improvisational process however if you have a wild quilter spirit you design as you go. You don't have to follow strict measurements and sometimes it's as simple as pulling over a bin of scraps to your serger and just sewing away. I love the freedom of improvisation because it gets away from the tedium that traditional quilting imposes on you. When you are following a standard quilt pattern, typically it calls for making hundreds of pieces to specific measurements, shapes and sizes. If you are creative through and through traditional quilting can feel somewhat stifling like it is holding you back. With Improvisational quilting you get to let your intuition be your guide as you combine different pieces and create lush quilts that are each totally original and one of a kind. Improvisation is not for the faint of heart though because not every quilt will turn out. Sometimes it is hard for the untrained eye to really appreciate the design that goes into an improv quilt.
I tend to work by pattern when I'm creating gifts sometimes. And even then I work in sections that are of my own design. Taming a wild quilter is like caging a bird; sometimes it is best to let that bird fly free. And so I will continue to prefer improvisational quilting as a way to tune into my creativity and relax into each moment of the sewing process. Improvisation is very zen indeed, and my Buddha loving wild quilting heart loves the process above all other sewing methods.
What are your favorite methods for making a quilt? Whether you choose to honor tradition or go the wild way, quilting is such a divine way to express your vision through needle and thread!