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Designing your improv quilt for the WOW factor (think about it!)

Designing your improv quilt for the WOW factor (think about it!)

by Claire Haillot

What’s important to remember today is to allow yourself time to pause, review and make modifications to the pattern I’m suggesting, so you can tap into your creativity. Now that you have all the units to finish the Winter Sunshine quilt top, let’s continue the process to create your very own improv quilt! I’ve done my best to give you the main steps to create an improvisational quilt, as I hope it’ll allow you to understand how liberating it is to create without having to always follow rules.

Close-up of a small throw size improv quilt in white and blue.

Winter Sunshine – My first improvisational quilt

Finishing steps for the quilt top

Take all your Group A units, as demonstrated in Tuesday’s post, and cut them so they measure 9½” in height. The width will vary on each unit and that’s OK. Align your seams with the lines on your ruler to ensure your strips continue to have a vertical flow. I used my Omnigrip Ruler – 12½″ x 12½″ for this step along with my OMNI Cutting Mat – 17″ x 23″ and OLFA Quick-Change Rotary Cutter 45mm.

Rotary cutter, square quilting ruler on top of a light-colored pieced block ready to trim on a green cutting mat; Omnigrip Ruler – 12½″ x 12½″, OMNI Cutting Mat - 17″ x 23″, OLFA Quick-Change Rotary Cutter 45mm

Adding a fifth strip and cutting in half

Is your blade dull on your rotary cutter and you’re too afraid to change it because you’re unsure how to position the washer and nut? That’s what I love about this rotary cutter…it’s simple to switch blades and get back to your quilting. Here’s how:

Let’s get back to the quilt top assembly. Take 2 A units and sew them randomly together, adding a D strip in the middle. Makes 1 unit we’ll call B.

2 rows of pieced strips of fabrics in light colors with one medium blue strip on the bottom row.

Playing with the units on your design wall

This is your chance to step out of your comfort zone and play with fabrics to really take in the improv experience. Head to your design wall and place your B unit in the center. Add randomly 5 A units to make a row. Position randomly 7 A units above to make another row. Position randomly 7 A units below to make another row.

Vertical and horizontal strips of light fabrics and blue fabrics arranged together on a design wall

Adding the Group III units to the mix

Take your Group III units (the 6 strips you made from yesterday’s post) and insert them in the rows where you feel they make the best visual impact. Don’t be afraid to use your seam ripper to position them within a unit. See how adding horizontal strips enhance the visual flow? This is exactly the fun part of an improvisational quilt, experiencing movement through alternative directions and color.

Vertical and horizontal strips of light fabrics and blue fabrics arranged together on a design wall with the addition of dark blue strips

Adding colored strips to the mix

Let’s add a touch of color to the mix. Add some of your B1, B2, C1, and C2 strips left from Wednesday’s post. Take the time to look at your piece on the design wall and go with your instincts. No one is watching, so enjoy the process. Take the time to test several alternatives, and take pictures. If you’re afraid that you can’t commit, or are too uncertain of your decisions, then set a timer and once your time is up, sew exactly what’s on your design wall.

Once ready, stitch rows together. Makes 3 units size 9½” by approximately 44”. Then, stitch the 3 rows together.

Again, don’t stress over making the seams align. It’s improv quilting which means it doesn’t have to! Your final piece should measure 27½” by approximately 44”.

Three rows of stripped units are sewn together to create the quilt top.

Finished Winter Sunshine quilt top

Now contemplate your finished quilt top and enjoy your accomplishment. Come back tomorrow to see how to quilt this beauty and give it a totally fabulous look.

This is part 4 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 3: Creating movement in your strip quilt: What does the trick?

Go to part 5: Free motion quilting straight lines: WHERE to start and HOW to move


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