Tag Archives: improv quilting

Crunch Time

All my procrastinations are coming due and I am resembling the proverbial headless chicken. I have only myself to blame, of course, as these are self-imposed tasks.

First, a bit of background. I am not a holiday kind of person. While I’m not Scrooge, I do my best to ignore all the craziness of shopping and baking. Instead, I substitute my own kind of craziness which involves completion of various quilting/sewing related tasks.

Some tasks are done. “Flower Power” is quilted and bound.

Flower Power

Flower Power detail

I have sewn hanging sleeves onto seven small quilts so I can now display them. My art quilt group small glitzy scraps piece is done. Actually it’s overdone, which is why I’m calling it “Kitchen Sink Included.” I don’t embroider much, but when I do I leave no surface untouched.

Kitchen Sink Included

I’ve made progress with two reworked quilts, made a top for a baby quilt, and rethought “Deep Purple” a bit, thanks to your comments.

This baby quilt is made of scrap squares with yardage for the edges.

Still awaiting attention is another scrap piece I’m calling “Square Deal.” I want to make it more off-kilter.

I’m thinking of adding more escapees.

And, because I had a box of gauzy, glittery, silky scraps on my sewing table, I started playing around with another glitzy design. Unfortunately, I think it’s going nowhere, but it will be a distraction for a bit.

I’m plugging away at hand work on one of my revised old quilts as I wait for my fabric shipment so I can return to work on “Deep Purple.” I’m also pondering the best way to attach bits of silver lame to another revised quilt.

In a totally unrelated development, Rayna Gillman featured two of my quilts on her blog. She asked readers to send in examples of improv quilts, so I did.

Holiday best wishes to those of you who celebrate Christmas, and happy solstice to everyone.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, In Process

Catching Up

Despite my preoccupation with canals, I made a few non-related pieces in June and July. Both are improv based and on the small side.

The first is “Primary Directive,” which I showed before. It’s now quilted and faced.

The detail shot shows I quilted it mostly with straight lines, with a few zigzags thrown in.

Once I began sorting a long neglected bag of scraps culled at a workshop, I decided to go raw – raw edges that is. “Mining Copper” is the result. I layered fusible fleece onto muslin and sewed down strips and bits of fabric with machine decorative stitches. Then I sewed on some ribbons and mylar I had deformed with an iron and painted. Finally, I sewed and tied on zinc washers I had painted a while ago. The resulting color scheme led me to the name.

I’m linking up to Nina-Marie’s Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Lessons Learned From Improv Work

I am often tempted to play with improv rather than discipline myself with a planned out project. However, if I’m feeling blue a few hours flinging fabric onto the design wall will cheer me up. It’s way cheaper than antidepressants.

I’ll begin my pearls of wisdom on improv quilting with the well known “yes and” approach used in improvisational theater, which I interpret as – be open to any and all possibilities. If you have a crazy notion, try it out. It’s just fabric and thread.

Many original quilt designs gestate on paper and maquettes before any fabric is cut for the finished piece. Improv is more slash and burn.

I work directly on a design wall with my fabric bins close to hand. Now, my bins contain fabric strips up to 2.5 inches wide, little bits of fabric I can’t bear to toss, larger pieces of fabric that are smaller than a fat quarter, and fabrics I’ve printed, painted, stamped, embroidered, or already sewn together. I tend to work small for improv pieces, so scraps free me from my inability to cut into virgin yardage.


With that inhibition out of the way, I sift through my scraps in search of inspiration. Shapes that work together, certain colors or textures, or a marquee scrap can give me a theme.


After I make a pile of fabric possibilities (no curating for me) I start sticking up bits on my design wall, working by instinct. After a few rearrangements, I decide what to delete or add. Sometimes I go back to the scrap bins.

The next step after “yes, and” is to leave it alone for a while. Once I reach an initial composition that momentarily satisfies me I walk away.

Only at this point do I analyze my draft. I take photos with my digital camera to help me step back from the wall. Sometimes I feel only a little tweaking is needed. More often, I feel a lot of work is in order.

I realize that my process may work for me but not for you. However, here’s my advice that I think applies to any improv created quilt.

Don’t stop with the first solution that satisfies you. I suggest you study your photos. Print them out and cut them up to see if you like another arrangement. Turn the piece upside down and sideways. Another orientation may work better or inspire the next addition.

Sometimes another possibility will occur to you while you’re working. Feel free to start it.  It can be more fun to work on two at once. You already have your scraps at hand.

After studying your draft for a while, feel free to cut up your piece to change its shape. Put any leftover bits into a bin for another piece.

Once you’re satisfied with your piece, let it sit on your desk/design wall for a while. Look at it in different lights, see if you’re still happy with it. If it’s a go, sew your pieces together.

Then you’ll be ready to quilt it if you think your piece is a keeper. You may find some ideas have popped into your head during the piecing phase. If not, a small improv piece is great for trying out new types of quilting. Performance anxiety should be low, and goofs can become design elements.

Here’s the first improv piece I ever made, called “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” At the time I was reading Jean Wells’ Intuitive Color and Design, which inspired the curves and the mounting. I sewed together scraps left from trimming a paper pieced top. I have yet to finish the paper pieced top.

Nothing Gold Can StayIf you do improv I’d love to hear about your process, and any tips you have.




Filed under In Process, Inspiration, Techniques