Improvisational Quilting - Having Fun with Piecing

Posted by Sherri McConnell

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Improvisational piecing is a fun creative quilting method that can best be described as "piecing without rules". With this technique, you throw your inhibitions out of the window and use a variety of different fabric scraps, sew them together, and continue adding more in a similar fashion. For example, string blocks, created from a number of unique strings of fabric, incorporate aspects of this style. With no clear pre-planned path, you never quite know what you're going to get with improv piecing-just that you're going on an adventure to create it!

fabric scraps

To attempt this type of piecing, first gather a bucket of scraps in various sizes. You might have the itch to color-coordinate these before you begin, but try to resist this temptation - you'll be surprised at how liberating sewing without a specific color scheme in mind can be.

improv piecing fabric square

To begin creating fabric blocks, first choose two random pieces of fabric and sew them right sides together along two edges. Trim the fabric giving it straight edges, and then press it. After that you are ready to add another piece of fabric. Simply reach into your scrap bin and incorporate any piece you touch. Continue adding various fabric scraps, pressing and trimming after each step. You don't need to trim to a certain shape-your work in progress can be square, rectangular, triangular or any shape you desire. Continue until you have a quilt block constructed of a mixture of fabrics, that is just a little bit larger than you need for your finished block. Then, trim to the desired measurements and start on your next block.

Using this technique, you can create a quilt of any size. Additionally you can set the blocks together directly or use sashing in between-the choice is up to you.

It can be a lot of fun to create a mystery quilt in this manner! I recently made a straight improvisational block as part of an online quilting bee. With this type of block you use the same method for selecting scraps; however, you square up the block with the addition of each new piece of fabric. Honestly, I was surprised at how much fun I had in creating this block. After years of worrying about patterns and rules, it was pleasantly exhilarating to just go with the flow and sew with a variety of fabrics without a particular end goal in mind. I embraced that the final block would just end up how it ended up, and that was a lot of fun!

improv piecing

If improvisational quilting piques your interest, you might want to check out Victoria Findlay Wolfe's book 15 Minutes of Play: Improvisational Quilts or her blog with ideas for this fun technique.

Have you ever tried improvisational quilting?

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