Improvise a Modern Quilt

There are numerous routes we can take when designing or making a modern quilt. We can experiment with negative space, oversized blocks, or intriguing color combinations. But what happens when we go off road, away from the structure of quilt patterns and begin to improvise?

Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen are experts in the territory of improvisational quilting. Since they have extensive experience navigating this backcountry, where I am constantly struggling to find my way, I’ve decided to share the principals they use to maneuver through the process of making an improvisational modern quilt.

Improvised modern quilts by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen

The Improvisational Path

Improvisation has various interpretations, but for us it means creating in the moment and reacting to ideas and our environment to make something new. Improvisation energizes our creativity and fosters an inventive spirit.

In practice, improvising can be as simple as putting together a unique set of fabrics for your favorite quilt pattern, changing a traditional block, or putting a unique twist on a design; it can be as complex as setting out on your own with fabric and quilting tools.

In the spirit of improvisation, here are a few principles that we try to live by.

Honor the past. Take time to learn the rules of traditional quilting. The more you understand traditional methods, the easier it is to manipulate the rules to your benefit.

Release your inner artist. Even if you’ve been told, or told yourself, that you are not an artist, there is an artist in you that you can cultivate and feed so that it blossoms. Surround yourself with art. Become an observer. View the world through an artistic eye.

Mod TV Quilt by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen

Embrace serendipity. Accidents happen all the time in the studio and are opportunities to see things in a different way. Recognize those happy accidents and capitalize on them.

Fail. Improvisation is about trial and error. Cherish every mistake or misstep as a learning opportunity. Many of us don’t start out of fear that we won’t succeed. We recommend failing right from the start. Get it out of the way and move forward.

Savor the moment. Improvisation is about savoring every stitch, enjoying every moment, and making your own decisions. It’s easier to let others do it for you, but the satisfaction from doing it yourself and making it your own is unparalleled.

Make a friend. Through the process of writing Quilting Modern, we’ve learned that neither of us is as good without the other as we are together. Open your process to the eyes of a friend. Enjoy the praise, but listen to the critique.

Free yourself. We ask ourselves on a daily basis, what might happen if? Ideas are free for the taking. Grab one and take it where you want to go.
– Jacquie Gering and Katie Pedersen

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to leave the safety of the sidewalk and dive deeper into the wonder and wilderness of improvising to create a modern quilt, or a few, of my own design. Admittedly, I don’t feel confident in my ability to embrace what comes and have struggled with rolling with the quilt design as it unfolds, but that’s no reason not to keep trying.

With Katie and Jacquie as our guides through their book Quilting Modern, there’s no way we will get lost along the path towards embracing and integrating improv quilting into our modern quilting repertoire.

Enjoy the journey and happy quilting!

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