Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Seam Line Variations in Improv and AHIQ #3 Link Up

A frequent comment about improvisational quilting is whether or not rulers to use rulers. Tami and I discussed freehand cutting at a book study. Offhand I can think of four ways to seam; each is a different combination of cutting and sewing.

1. Ruler cut; matched edges.
This is traditional quilting. Do you think it isn't improv? Think again. Many well-respected improv quilters use this technique in some part of their work. (Admittedly, most frequently to square up a freehand block.) Gwen Marston and Sujata Shah come to mind.
  • Cut pieces with a ruler
  • Match the cut edges
  • Sew a quarter-inch seam
2. Free cut; matched edges.
Offhand, this may be what most people call improv.
  • Cut pieces without a ruler
  • Match the cut edges no matter how they wiggle
  • Sew a quarter-inch seam
3. Ruler cut; unmatched edges.
This is a possibility but I don't think I've ever seen it done. The seams can move like matched edges of free cut strips.
  • Cut pieces with a ruler
  • Do not match the cut edges
  • Sew at least a quarter-inch seam
4. Free cut; unmatched edges.
What is this? Just because it's cut a certain way, doesn't mean that's what is wanted. This method smooths out the irregularities. A seam can appear to have been ruler cut if done carefully.
  • Cut pieces without a ruler
  • Arrange the pieces to smooth out wiggles on the edges
  • Sew at least a quarter-inch seam; it may be wider in some areas
Here they are 1-4, left to right, from the back. Look carefully to see where the edges match or not. Because seams are pressed to the dark, the uneven edges don't show well on the last one. I pinned them back to give you a better view.

Back views. Left to right: 1) Ruler cut, matched edges. 2) Free cut, matched edges. 3) Ruler cut, unmatched edges. 4) Free cut, unmatched edges.

And here's what they look like on the front. Notice how the seam line of #3 ruler cut, unmatched edges mimics the look of #2 free cut, matched edges. Similarly, #4 mimics #1. These are only one example of each. I emphasized the waviness to illustrate the seams; there are many different ways to cut them.

Front views. Left to right: 1) Ruler cut, matched edges. 2) Free cut, matched edges. 3) Ruler cut, unmatched edges. 4) Free cut, unmatched edges.
Improv is about choice. Frankly quilting is (or should be) about choice. Cutting and sewing decisions affect the appearance of your quilt. I believe we should follow our own inclinations rather than rules imposed by others. It's one thing to read and discuss; you are still responsible for your own choices. Blindly following dictates from others lessens our confidence and creativity.

Most of us quilt for pleasure. Are you having enough fun? This Subaru commercial expresses the joy we should feel when we quilt. (Google 'Subaru painting easel' to find it on your own.) Don't you wish we all experienced as much drive to create, excitement during the process, and contentment with our results as this man enjoys?


18 comments:

  1. Ann, I'm loving your demonstration of seam line variations for improv quilting! I had not even thought of examples 3 and 4, although I sometimes sew like that inadvertently... ha, ha! Your posts get my mind revving with new possibilities!
    The Subaru commercial was so funny. Sometimes we're all like that with our quilting, I think.

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    1. How kind of you, Lara. Tami's remark sparked this post. It's interesting how cutting and sewing can emphasize or minimize each other, isn't it. And yes, I sew like that, too. I enjoyed the Subaru commercial every time it played. (Some of them are only entertaining once, you know.)

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  2. This is a great study, Ann! I had not really thought about exploring the variations like this. All of my letters used #3, the back is wild! But it's nice to make a concious choice about it.

    I'll be back later with my link. :D

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    1. Well, now I know. That would be a useful way to use #3. It would be much harder to create these if the cutting line wobbled.

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  3. So interesting to see your examples! I love that you continue to open our minds to new possibilities and also to consider things that make sense to our unique ways of quilting. Thank you for having this series. It's definitely pushing me to step out of my comfort zone and explore things that have been intriguing to me for quite awhile!

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    1. Thanks, Audrey. I know what you mean. I can only move out of my comfort zone in baby steps. But it keeps me interested to try new things.

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  4. I totally agree that quilting should be FUN and that we should be free to make our own choices on any given day/project.

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    1. Thanks, Julie. Good point - our choices can and do change daily. There are so many aspects of our lives where we must be consistent and predictable. Hopefully, quilting can be part of our down time.

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  5. I wouldn't be quilting at all if I wasn't always having fun. I'm not a free-cut kind of gal unless it comes to strings. Those are usually free cut (or chopped?) from the sides and bottoms of quilt backs. Some of my first quilts were free cuts...that was before rotary cutters and mats! I like my ruler cut quilts a whole, whole, whole lot better! (Cutting pieces is NOT my favorite part of quilting).

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    1. You're right. My first quilt used cardboard templates that I created myself. Then cut template and fabric with scissors. I enjoy the rotary tools but there are some ideas that don't utilize them well. Your quilts are so you; I always enjoy looking at them.

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  6. It's really interesting to see all the variations lined up like this, and logically explained!

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    1. Thanks, Kaja. There even more ways once you get started. It is interesting to consider how we can create various seam lines.

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  7. What a good explanation of different seaming techniques to use in quilt making, it's interesting to see the variations in the link-up too. So many new ideas to try out!

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    1. The links are the best part, in my opinion. I love seeing the different ways quilters handle their ideas and issues.

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  8. This is a great post Ann! I don't think it makes any difference if you use rulers or not - it depends entirely on the effect you want to create. For me improv quilting is about working without a pattern and seeing what happens, who says you can't use a ruler to do that?! Another way to create a curved seam that matches is to lay the edge of one piece of fabric over a piece below (near where you want the seam to be) and cut through both at the same time. This way you'll have two curved edges that match perfectly. Stitching them together will be a bit like stitching any curved seam - and you'll find it lays flat too :)

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    1. Another great way to create a seam line! Thanks, Stephie.

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