Sandi from Crafty Planner and I are spending the month considering improv quilting on our blogs, and as I get settled in my new sewing space here in Baton Rouge, I’d like to share how I’ve approached improv in the past.

I used this tutorial from My Quilt Infatuation to make bee blocks for do. Good Stitches.

November do Good Stitches Blocks

Rachel’s Curves Class walked me through my first curves which I used in this ocean-themed block meant for a friend-of-a-friend.


Last year, I made these Looking Glass blocks for my good friend Michelle at Factotum of Arts using her tutorial over at the Stash Bee.

Stash Bee Hive 3 March blocks

When I made the mini quilt below, I simply joined fabric and squared up each piece as I sewed – by keeping the seams on either the x or the y axis of the block, I maintained 45 degree angles for each piece (kept everything square or rectangular and not wonky.)

improv mini quilt
These blocks have different styles, but when it came to picking and joining fabrics, I used a similar process for all four.  I asked myself two questions:

What do I want to be consistent in this quilt or block?

What do I want to be varied?

Color is usually the first thing I think about I go back to my high school art classes on hue, value, and saturation.  Hue is what we’re usually talking about when we say “color.” Value is the overall lightness or darkness of your fabrics. (Have you seen Jess’ article on value over at Elven Garden?) Saturation is the intensity of a color. You might have to run through the list in your mind if you’re not used to thinking about these, but after a while, it’ll become second nature to consider all three the first second you look at a piece of fabric. (Here’s one resource on this color theory for more information.)

If you’re using all solids, this isn’t a decision to make each time you pick up a piece of fabic.  And, if you’re using a broad color palette (or lots of colors), I find that pattern is less obvious than color. BUT, think about the scale and content of your patterns as you pick out fabrics. Two tiny florals next to each other may blend together and detract from your piecing.  Then again, if you’re being consistent across your quilt, maybe all or most of your pieces will have a tiny floral pattern.

Another way to refer to size is to think of scale.  Do you want all little pieces?  All big? Just two sizes or everything in between?

Ah, the possibilities are endless.  Do you want precise squares and rectangles?  Do you want your shapes a little wonky or imprecise? Do you want them a lot wonky? Do you want some curves or all curves or no curves?

Are there other things you consider when you’re improvising in your quilting? Do you create a set of rules to follow? Or does your process involve more random selection?

I try to remember that all rules, even my own, are meant to be broken from time to time.  So have fun and don’t be afraid to try something that seems interesting, even if it goes against your own rule. Maybe a random spark of color in an otherwise monotone quilt looks exciting, or maybe you need one giant square amidst a sea of small rectangles.

Hopefully this has given you some tutorials to try and some concepts to consider as you venture into the world of improv!



  1. Lynn Kline

    Glad to hear you made it to LA safely.  Have you had time to get settled in yet?  I’ve been trying to lean more about color.  I know it innately, but want to know and understand more of the technicalities behind it.  The links you provided are great.  Thanks! 

  2. Rachel at Stitched in Color

    Fun to see you doing this series! I have Sherri’s book and have been meaning to make something with one of the scores. In fact, that should be my next quilt, I do declare.

    Hope you are doing well after your move.

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