Improvising

I’m doing a trunk show focused on improvisation for the Heart of the Triad Quilt Guild tomorrow–please come if you’re in the North Carolina Triad area. To help me update my talk, this post is focused on some of my favorite ways to improvise in quilting. .

The first time I recall improvising was about 20 years ago when I had scraps left from this quilt (made while we lived near Pennsylvania Amish country):

Amish design quilt

I combined the scraps with yellow and just sewed them together in strips, then blocks, to make a quilt for the friend who helped me choose colors for the Amish quilt.

improv quilt blocks

Improv quilt blocks I made about 10 years ago

Combining scraps from a single project, sometimes with the addition of another fabric for “spark”, remains one of my favorite ways to improvise.  I no longer cut the scraps into strips; I just start sewing.

modern art quilt

Whirlwind, my 2014 Quilt Alliance challenge quilt, finished 20″ x 20″

The quilt above won a judge’s choice award, possibly because some of the pieces in it finish as small as 1/4″.

Another favorite way to improvise a design is by modifying a traditional block.  Sometimes I cut off part of it, sometimes I stretch or distort it, sometimes I scatter the pieces around.  Here are a few examples.

Rising star art quilt

Rising Star, made for the Quilt Alliance TWENTY contest in 2013, finished 20″ x 20″

Zippy Star by Mary Puckett

Zippy Star I

I have done a number of things with those pesky orphan blocks (blocks left over from previous projects).  I swear they multiply when I’m not looking 😉  One option I like is to cut them into circles and applique them onto a different background:

This also works for quilt tops I don’t like once they are made:  This top

Became this:As a final example, I had a quilt that was quilted, and bound, and I STILL didn’t like it.

This one had to be cut up and made into placemats!

I cut it up into place mats, where it worked out just fine:

Of course, there are many more ways to improvise in quilting.  My plan is to try them ALL!

What are your favorite ways to improvise?

7 thoughts on “Improvising

  1. I’m glad the show went well (peeked at your response to another commenter), and I love the subject matter–congratulations! I love all your ideas, and love the concept of cutting up things into smaller bits. I may steal back a quilt from my daughter that I gave to her, and then grape juice was spilled all over it. It’s ripe for cutting up into baby quilts, for sure!

    • My daughter wanted her stained quilt to keep and let her kids play with, since it went through college with her. However, baby quilts sound like a good idea if your daughter will surrender the quilt.

  2. Amazing improvisational pieces. I remember seeing one of your pieces in person at the Quilt Alliance Quilters Take Manhattan event a couple years ago. It was cool to see the star that is also part of your website logo! I love that piece that is all scrappy but then has a traditional block in it as – that little block in the midst of improvisational scrappy pieces packs quite the visual punch!!!

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