Welcome to Improv Mondays, a weekly series exploring improvisation in quilt making. The last two weeks I've posted about THE RULES. This week I want to talk about limits. Is there a difference between rules and limits in improv quilting? According to the dictionary, the word "rule" is defined as:
An authoritative regulation or direction concerning method or procedure
The word "limit" is defined as:
To confine or restrict within a boundary or bounds
In my practice I have found it helpful to differentiate between these two words. Whereas the word "rule" implies an authoritative power or force that dictates my decisions, the word "limit" implies a boundary that I can set which affects the range of decisions I will make while improvising.
Limits define the parameters of a piece so that decisions are easier to make. If you are feeling overwhelmed by improvisation. Where do I start? What’s next? Set narrower limits and see what happens. Limits that are too restrictive can kill creativity, or induce boredom. The right balance of limits will nurture creative flow during improvisation.
Limits work to guide the improvisation in an open way, but without a set determination. Limits can also challenge us to break free from predictable patterns. Like Sujata’s, self imposed limit to only use scissors and not work on a wall. Limits provide a safe container for freedom and risk taking.
For example I may decide to only use five different fabrics, a 1/2 yard of fabrics A, B & C, and a yard of fabrics D and E. I may have a limit that says I have to use up all of the yardage. I may limit my shapes. I’ll only use squares and strips. If I’m strip piecing I may set a limit that requires my strips to be between 1/2” and 2” or between 2” and 5". I may set a time limit to complete the pieced top in one sitting.
Brainstorm on the ways you can set limits when you improvise, quantity, color, shape, size, time, procedures, use of tools or technique, etc. Do you set limits when you improvise? What kind? With what results?