Posts Tagged ‘improv’

improv double wedding ring

I’ve had this idea for a while to try to make more traditional quilt designs with an improvisational approach. After many hours in the sewing room, I’ve discovered that I need to use this time to just play, and for me, that is what improvisational sewing is all about. What I love about this approach is that there are no rules, and if you don’t love something cut it up and start over, or transform it into something else.

improv double wedding ring

I wanted to take on making my own modern version of the double wedding ring quilt, and I knew this would push me because of all of the curved pieces in this design. Every curve was cut freehand and sewn without pins, and rulers were only used to square up larger pieces. I really tried to let go of the rules on this one!

improv double wedding ring

After looking at lots of photos of traditional double wedding ring quilts, I mentally deconstructed the pattern into its most basic forms, and then created these out of improvisationally pieced panels of fabric.
In my quilt, the rings are made up of the negative (light colored) spaces. It makes the “rings” more subtle, though they’re still there. I also chose to piece everything from scraps, as I think this gives the quilt more depth and visual interest.

improv double wedding ring

I also wanted the quilting to complement the design, so I rolled up my sleeves and quilted different free-motion designs in different areas of the quilt. It took me quite a while, but I think it was worth it. I’ve never quilted a quilt so heavily– and I likely won’t do this often– but it’s nice to know I can when the design warrants this level of quilting detail.

Free Motion Quilting on the improv double wedding ring quilt

One reason I was motivated to finish this quilt was so that I could enter it into the double wedding ring quilt challenge that is wrapping up at the end of the month. There are so many cool quilts entered already, and I love seeing how differently people can interpret the same design.

improv double wedding ring mini quilt

I also wanted to test my design out on a smaller scale, so I finished a mini quilt using the same improv techniques. For this quilt, I used organic wavy lines for the quilting.

improv double wedding ring mini

improv double wedding ring mini

It finished up quickly, and I had so much fun sewing it. I highly recommend taking a little time to just play around with your scraps and designs to see what happens!

improv double wedding ring

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Do good stitches improv chevron quilt

A few months back it was my turn to design the quilt for the Love circle of the Do. Good Stiches charity quilting bee. I love designing the quilt– I let the other women in the circle know what type of blocks I want and in what colors, and within a month they all begin rolling into my mailbox! This time I chose an improvisational chevron block (using the tutorial from Six White Horses.) I asked the members of the group to use turquoise and robin’s egg blues paired with oranges, yellows, and greys.

improv chevron quilt

I have creative license to put them together however I want, and it’s always fun to play with different layouts. Usually I would use some sashing to break up the crazy patterns in blocks such as these, but this time I thought they were playing well together and I sewed them all right up next to each other. I love how bright and busy the quilt is, and I’m really hoping it will brighten up the day of the child that receives it through the charity we donate to, wrap them in love.

improv chevron quilt back

For the back of the quilt, I pieced together a number of fabrics in coordinating colors for a bright and patchwork-y back. I just love reversible quilts! Plus, I was able to incorporate the one extra block I had from the front as the focal point.

back of the improv chevron quilt

Thanks so much to all the women in the love circle who contributed to this quilt! I couldn’t have finished this one without you!

improv chevron quilt on the porch

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Liz's quilt

This quilt was really special for me to make. I had been planning it for quite a long time, as it was a gift for my academic adviser for helping me through my program.

Folded over

I couldn’t possibly have asked for a better mentor– Liz was patient, understanding, funny, and really, really smart. She has a somewhat minimalist, modern style, so I knew incorporating some sort of improv into the quilt would work well. Plus, I didn’t want it to be visually overwhelming, so I kept the design pretty simple. Liz loves gray (as do I!), and her other favorite color is purple. I added the green to round things out, and I was pretty pleased with the results.

Liz's quilt back

For the quilt back, I used the method from Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. I made a couple of bee blocks in this style last year, and I loved the effect. I had been waiting for the right project to work those into, and this definitely fit the bill.

a variety of grays

Scrappy gray binding

I bound the quilt using a bunch of the gray fabrics I used in the front of the quilt. I love scrappy bindings, especially on a quilt that isn’t too busy.

draped on the bench

I think Liz was really surprised when I gave her the quilt just a few days after my defense. It was well received, and it’s absolutely my favorite sort of gift to give– unexpected and very heartfelt. Plus, the peonies were in full bloom when I needed to take a few pictures, making for a very fun evening.

In the peony beds

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March is my month to design the next Do. Good Stitches quilt for the Love circle. I always look forward to designing the quilt– This is one of my favorite parts of the process. I like to think about the level of difficulty in the blocks I’m asking the circle to make, as well as what colors I want to be inundated with as I work on the quilt.

Lately I’ve been very drawn to turquiose and robin’s egg blues paired with oranges, yellows, and greys. I found a few lovely photos for inspiration on pinterest!

Next I had to think about the actual design. This wasn’t too hard, as I recently found a new tutorial I’ve been wanting to try that incorporates 2 things I’m loving right now– improvisational piecing and chevrons! I found a great tutorial for the blocks through pinterest (anyone seeing a pattern here? I ❤ pinterest!).

I can’t wait to see the blocks as people make them! In the past I have selected colors that are a bit more feminine, and I think sometimes it’s easier to lean that way, but boys need quilts too! So, hopefully these colors will be suited to a kid of either gender.

Do good sitches retro flower block- pink

For our February quilt, Ara Jane asked us to make retro flower blocks using Christina’s pattern. These did take a bit of time to put together, but there was something very satisfying about working with such precise pieces. Of course, as you can see my seams didn’t line up 100% perfectly, but I think they are close enough. I was also glad I read this post from my friend Kate before making my blocks– I was very aware of using a scant quarter inch seam while piecing, and it did make a big difference– I’m happy to report that my blocks all came out the right size!

Do good sitches retro flower block- red

One more note about pinterest— if any of you are on pinterest, let me know your pinterest name so I can follow your boards! Or, if you’re not on pinterest and you want to give it a try and need an invite, let me know! Happy pinning!

**** ETA: I was telling J about my do. Good Stitches quilt plan, and when I told him my color scheme, he said “oh, because of leap day! In honor of Leap Day William!” Yes. That is exactly why I planned the quilt this way.

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The Banff Quilt

Earlier this year I decided to make a quilt to enter into the Project Modern Challenge 4: Find Your Own Voice challenge. The description I wrote for project modern is below, but I have to note first– this is truly one of my favoritest quilts ever, and accordingly I took a million and one photos of it. Consider yourself warned!
Plus, to show more of the inspiration, I’ve interspersed some of our pictures from Banff. Enjoy!

Banff Quilt Detail


This quilt tells a story about my past and my present all at once. Last year, I took a trip to Banff, Canada, and I was incredibly moved by the landscape and colors. The gray mountains, white snow and glaciers, green flora, and range of blues of the glacial streams and lakes were all stunning. When I returned home from the trip, I purchased a large pile of solid color fabrics representing all of the colors that so vividly remind me of the trip. However, at the time, I was unsure what pattern would best capture the lines and shapes of the landscape.

Banff Quilt Back

Back of Banff quilt details


After a year had passed, I revisited the photos of the trip, and I thought it was time to dig in to my pile of fabric. In the past year, I have experimented with a number of different approaches to quilting, and I found that improvisational piecing is my favorite way to sew; I love that I don’t have to follow a pattern or rules, and can let the colors and shapes guide my choices of which pieces to cut and sew together. I find such joy in sewing without strict rules, and I love continually making decisions that shape a project, not knowing exactly how it will turn out.

Tea House

Banff quilt on the bridge

After piecing a number of blocks concentrating grays and light blues (my mountain blocks), and greens and rich blues (my water and tree blocks), I randomly joined these to blend the colors together. I laid them out in a mosaic style pattern for an organic look, and I framed the quilt top with 2 gray borders, interrupted by 3 small lines of color in unexpected places. I chose the mosaic layout and the borders interrupted by 3 lines of color because it was reminiscent of the arts and crafts style, my favorite architectural style. I love the clean lines and simple forms of this style, and I loved translating this to my style of quilting. This quilt represents myself and my style on multiple levels—the colors, the inspiration, the piecing, the layout, the borders, and the overall design and aesthetic. My quilts are a reflection of myself, and I love that this quilt, which I call my “Banff Quilt,” are a seamless marriage of my personal experiences and the elements of my style.
Lake Louise

Banff quilt on the bridge rails

Lake Louise

Banff quilt hanging

Lake Louise

Banff quilt folded up


Banff quilt detail shot

One last– Here are J and I at Peyto Lake:

Peyto Lake

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This month Ara Jane was the designer of the Love circle of the Do. Good Stitches quilt. She chose to have us make improvisationally pieced blocks using pinks, yellows, browns, and tans. I love making improv blocks (like I did for the scrappy greens quilt), and this past weekend I made these:

do good stitches August bee blocks

And then, to follow it up, I decided to work on the blocks I needed to make for the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild. We received some of Jay McCarroll’s Habitat fabric, and we decided that everyone would make as many 12.5 inch square blocks as we can to put together into some quilts for charity. We could use any style we wanted for the blocks, and I decided to stick with the improv style. I felt it went really well with the colors and patterns of the fabric.

habiat block

habitat blocks 2

I was able to get quite a few blocks out of my stack of fabric!

habitat blocks

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