Tuesday, January 24, 2017

AHIQ 2017 Invitational Begins and Linkup 17

Kaja and I plan some changes to AHIQ this year to help newer quilters embrace this movement. Even experienced quilters have written of their diffidence with improvisation so we hope you'll enjoy our Invitational, too.

We invite you join us as we start a new quilt idea {or kernel} each quarter. The first month will introduce our quarterly theme. We'll share our progress the second month as well as our improvisational ideas. There could be finished tops to share by the third month. We hope you will write and link posts on your progress monthly.

Participation in our AHIQ 2017 Invitational is entirely optional. Continue to post your current improvisational or utility quilting, too. It wouldn't be improv otherwise.


I'm starting this party with a Chinese Coins strippy quilt. While making one last year, several more ideas occurred to me, always a good sign. This design can easily combine scrap quilting and improvisation. It's friendly to both traditional and artistic styles, beginners and experienced quilters, and has more variation than you might expect.

Chinese Coins or Roman Coins probably refers to the fact that these highly developed civilizations created standard coins quite early. At its most basic, rectangular scraps sewn together like stacks of coins form columns. These are sashed with lengths of a single fabric... or not.

There are few exact instructions. The strips can be any width or height as can the sashing and these can vary from one column to the next. You can even omit the sashing. Columns can be turned vertically or horizontally. I've seen strip columns made of crazy piecing, UFO blocks, and selvedges. {Some people would classify these types as strippy quilts but let's be more general.} Repeating the sashing fabric in some of the strips gives an open grid design.

Traditional Example

This is a philanthropy quilt I made years ago. The sashing was cut from a single striped Halloween fabric. Six-inch-wide coins of various heights were sewn together randomly until they matched the length of the Halloween fabric. Everything was cut with rotary tools. Notice the same fabrics appear in each column.

Striped Halloween fabric forms sashing between columns of colorful coins to create this happy quilt.
Halloween Chinese Coins scrap quilt
Improvisational Example

Next is a more improvisational version of Chinese Coins. Each column contains only one of three sets of fabric. Many of these came from my scrap bag but there are also remnants and yardage in it. I used both rotary tools and scissors to cut the strips. Once the columns were sewn, I butted them together to trim overlap and determine where vertical strips were needed to fill empty spaces. More notes about this quilt on posts listed here.

Stacked Coins, Chinese Coins or Roman Coins in reds, pinks, blues, and greens.
Chinese Coin Improv string quilt
More Examples Across the Internet

Here are a variety of quilts that push the boundaries of Chinese Coins classification. Some are more improvisational than others. Most of them have additional aspects so their makers may not consider them Chinese Coins. I group them because they have a basic design of stacked strips in columns (or rows).

Sometimes the simplest construction highlights the most masterful quilting. These are listed first because of their straightforward {basic} construction. But make no mistake. Each of these is a masterwork of fabric, layout, and style.

Chinese Coins by Freddy Moran, used with permission. Photo by M Beach
  1. Freddy Moran made this Chinese Coins with her signature colorful fabric.
  2. Gina Abayan of the Philippines created her quilt from solid fabrics only. She rotated her work 90 degrees so the coins are vertical. Her columns (now rows) appear to be hand-cut but about equal width.
  3. Wanda at Exuberant Color also rotated hers. She organized her printed fabrics by value so well that you can almost see the sun highlighting this quilt.
  4. Cassandra Ellis lists the variety of "found fabrics" used in Katie's Quilt in her post. It's also rotated. {Am I seeing a theme?}
  5. Edeltraud Ewert created one of my favorites which seamlessly crosses boundaries between traditional, improvisational, and even modern. Art at it's best.
Applique can easily be incorporated into this design.
  1. All a Flutter by Judy Crane appliques trees, leaves, and birds on a Chinese Coin background. Notice the strips are divided by color and the coins are rotated again.
  2. Mel Beach used a McCall's pattern to applique cheerful floral vines with cute buttons on the sashing between her Coins. As usual, her color sense delights.
If you want to try more challenging improvisation or think Chinese Coins is too simple, look at these three quilts.

Improvisational variation of Stacked Coins quilt in green, yellow, tan, brown, and white.
Build Me a Wall by Kaja Ziesler, 2016 (Used with permission.)
  1. Kaja's Build Me a Wall incorporates vertical strips (rather than sashing) and reverse applique squares into a basic columnar Coin layout. Her middle section divides into two columns at the top. Notice the visibility of each column despite the fabric repetition. The vertical seams create their own boundaries. Her borders unify the composition without encasing it.
  2. Sue Kelly recently made a top based on Point Reyes seashore. Her final version reminds me of horizontal Chinese Coins with sashing strips in several colors and widths.  
  3. Nettie Young of Gee's Bend created Stacked Bricks in 1928. Her quilt is composed of rotated double brick (or coins) columns that are sashed and posted.
Do you need still more inspiration? Check out my Chinese Coins Pinterest board or Google "Chinese Coins", "Stacked Coins", or "Strippy quilts."

Getting Started

Although we are approaching this improvisationally, I was planning to write instructions to aid beginners until I found Mary Johnson at MaryQuilts and HeartStringsQuiltProject already posted great directions. Her traditional version guides you through the basic construction.
  1. Overview on Chinese Coins quilt.
  2. Construction directions.
How much fabric? Assuming a 50"x60" quilt {without borders or sashing} and 2"x5"finished coins, you will need between 2.75 and 3 yards of fabric. Changing the coin sizes, adding sashing, or any other variations will alter the yardage requirements.

Are you in? Then go through your scraps, remnants, and yardage for the colors and fabric that speak to you. Try sewing some coin blocks or units. You don't need to sew an entire column all at once. Let's meet back here next month to share where we are, what we've discovered, and any questions we have.

Be sure to tag your photos with the hashtags #AHIQ2017Invitational and #AHIQChineseCoins so everyone can find them more easily on social media.

Enjoy the day, Ann

InLinkz removed because it was hacked.


Cynthia's Creating Ark said...

This sounds like a great way to expand my improv work. I want to explorethis more and think this way may just work for me. I will pull my box of novelty fabrics out and have a go at this. Thank you for the inspiration.

JanineMarie said...

Oh, this sounds like fun. I was given some fabric that is printed as coins, and was trying to figure out what to do with it. These links might help me with some ideas for using it in a unique way.

Quiltdivajulie said...

What a terrific post - thank you for including links as well as photos. I love coins quilts and have been stashing pieces to make another one. I wasn't sure which of my waiting-in-the-wings projects would rise to the top first, but now I know!

PaulaB quilts said...

Yours is a really fun improv version of the coins. I'm excited because I have never done one and ideas are popping already. Thanks for all the links to other coin quilts. It's a good challenge, certainly doable, not scary. You and Kaja make a great team.

Ann said...

I'm delighted you will join us, Cynthia. Novelty fabric will be a different take. I love seeing variations on a theme. People are so inventive.

Ann said...

Fabric with coins. I'd not thought of that as a variation. What a great way to use it! Enjoy the links, JanineMarie, and thanks for writing.

Ann said...

You are so prolific and have such a good eye. I'm thrilled you're going to join the Coin counters. :-)

Ann said...

Perfect, Paula. I intended this post to get juices flowing; thanks for letting me know it worked. Collecting all the different coin quilts was such fun (although it took quite a while.) Hopefully people will be struck by one aspect or another and then head off in their own direction. Won't it be fun to see where we all end up? Like a message in a bottle.

Mystic Quilter said...

Great ideas Ann, count me in. ! I haven't made a Chinese Coin quilt up to this point, but certainly will do now. I've been pondering since I saw your post come through (late yesterday night) and know by now what my inspiration and my starting point will be. I'm looking forward to this immensely. Thanks to both Kaja and yourself.

Janie said...

Lots of fun, great idea, Ann, I'm in.
I do like your coin quilt, perfect mix of color

Monica said...

Lots of great quilts to see here! And I really love your string version, Ann. But best for last, my breath just went out when I clicked on the link for Nettie Young's quilt. I have nothing this month, but ideas are blossoming for next time!

Cathy said...

Thanks for the excellent research and challenge. I made a couple of traditional Chinese Coin quilts (also Halloween) for the granddaughters ages ago and haven't made one since. I think I know what I'm going to do for the challenge already. And. BTW, the next AHIQ link up day is my last day of work after 30+ years!!!! (But who is counting down the days to retirement?)

Ann said...

I'm glad you're going to join us, Maureen. I can't wait to see how you start; I'm still dithering myself. {Looking at so many Coins while drafting this post still has my head spinning.}

Ann said...

Thanks for joining in, Janie. The gracious responses of so many quilters is humbling.

Ann said...

I quite agree, Monica. Nettie's quilt is breathtaking. I keep looking at it: combination of soft and bold, light and dark, stacks and blocks.

Ann said...

Congratulations on your rapidly approaching retirement. You will have more time for your family and I know you need that now. How amusing we've both made Chinese Coin Halloween quilts for kids. It is a good design for that purpose. And you already have ideas percolating. Mine are a right muddle after creating this post. I'll have to let things rest a bit.

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

I enjoyed reading all the ideas here, thanx for the links. Nettie's quilt is my favourite! I'm tempted to try out a more improv version too now!

Mel Beach said...

Wow---what a inspirational post. I have the sudden urge to make another chinese/roman coins quilt! I just love all the subtle variations in the construction/fabrics that alter the appearance so dramatically. Thank you!!

Ann said...

Thanks, Linda. I tried to link to the makers' sites wherever possible. They have more to say about their own work. Nettie's my favorite, too. On my Pinterest board are two inspired by her quilt. I love they gave her credit and enjoyed seeing how the design metamorphosed... again.

Ann said...

Knowing you, you'll probably have another one done inside a week. I used to think this design was overly simple but after all this research I changed my mind. It's a perfect project for quilters of wildly varied abilities. Anyone can do this; no points to match; simple variations create big changes; works for traditional, improv, modern, applique, you name it.

Kaja said...

Great post, Ann and it looks like you have struck a chord with Chinese coins.

audrey said...

So much good inspiration here! I've been wanting to do another 'coin' type quilt. In fact, haha there is a stack of fabrics and a rough draft of something I've been wanting to dive into that just might work for this sort of project! Will do some more thinking and see what I can come up with. Your adhoc improv.'s have been wonderful for me so these 'prompts' should be an interesting twist. Will try to have this months post up sometime tomorrow with my latest progress.:)

patty a. said...

Ann, I had thrown my hat into the ring and accept the challenge! I don't know anything about hashtags, but posting here is enough for me.

Ann said...

Thanks, Kaja. I'm amazed at the interest. We will all learn with so many joining in.

Ann said...

I'm pleased you found it inspirational. I've never done an exhaustive search to study a quilt form before. The women who made these were so inventive. Grouping them allows us to begin to grasp the diversity and variations possible with this simple style, doesn't it?
And you already have ideas and plans percolating in your mind. Can't wait to see!

Ann said...

Wonderful, Patty. I think we will all learn much by studying everyone's version of this simple style. Together we can think of many more variations and beauties that we ever would alone.

liniecat said...

Maybe I'm telepathic! Only yesterday I continued piecing strips and thought, these are not going to look right as edgings on my scrappy happy blocks 'joined-together' lap quilt after all, but I was enjoying using them as strips, so continued making them anyway.
So I'm already started and will jump in with you all too.
I don't do organised patterns/knitted or sewn, or recipes either - always go off on a tangent and am thrilled to know I'm Improvosational and it's not that I'm undisciplined LOL :) And to think the strips are really Chinese Coins!

Sue said...

Better late than never, I'm in! I am so flattered you used me as an example, too! I'm really excited about a new challenge with a longer time frame for ideas to develop and I like the approach very much.

sonja said...

Ann, this intrigues me in many ways! thanks for sharing all the sites and
(I don't do organised patterns/sewn, or recipes either)!!!

I don't do organised patterns/knitted or sewn, or recipes either)

Ann said...

Having some pieces already is a perfect way to improvise. You started off with an idea for one project but found it works better somewhere else. Making our own is more personal that using a pattern... although I often start with a block idea myself. (But that's just the way my mind works.)
I'll look forward to seeing what you're creating.

Ann said...

Your top appeared at the right time for me. I loved that it was based on a photo but also had a Coin image. A new way to look at two different styles.
I'm delighted you're joining this study.

Ann said...

We are hoping this will help people become more comfortable with improvisation. Kaja and I have very different styles. Improvisation itself means each result will be different. By showing several examples, we hope people will see some aspect that intrigues them or heads them in a new direction. Our response is more important than the original catalyst. So whether you join in this or not, it might give you some new ideas. Thanks for writing.

Marly said...

I'm reading this rather late, but I'd love to have a go. I've seen plenty of photos of Chinese Coin quilts in the past and found them anything but interesting. The variations you have shown here couldn't be more different: alive and dynamic; altogether a different kettle of fish! I won't have much to show by next week, but I'm in!

Ann said...

I'm so pleased you're going to join us. I wasn't sure how many people would be interested but, as you noticed, this design is much more flexible than it originally seems. Once I started checking there are so many ways to use this basic design. It seemed like an easy way to dip a toe into the ocean of improvisation.