Strip piecing for IMPROV quilting: WHY and HOW to let go of what you know

My goal this week is to get you comfortable creating an improv quilt. To help you along the way, I’m sort of giving you a pattern to follow to make this Winter Sunshine quilt with the fabrics we picked out yesterday while hoping at the same time you won’t feel the need to follow it. The whole point with improvisational quilting is to figure it out on your own, and to give yourself the freedom and permission to create as you see fit! Now, let’s begin our journey with some fun strip piecing.

Winter Sunshine – My first improvisational quilt

But until you get there on your own, here are the cutting instructions.

 cutting instructions

Group I

From your A fabrics, cut:

  • 1 – 2¼” strip (set aside for Friday)
  • 3 – 1” x 22” strips
  • 3 – 1½” x 22” strips
  • 3 – 2” x 22” strips

Group II

From your D fabrics, cut:

  • 3 – 1½” x 22 “strips
  • 3 – 2” x 22” strips

We’ll prepare the B and C fabrics in tomorrow’s post.

All set up with my favorite tools for some improv strip piecing

Now the fun part about this project is that you don’t need to worry too much about the quilting police! It’s OK if your strips are not cut perfectly straight. In fact, it adds character to your project. You can choose to cut some strips at 1¼” and 1¾”. So, if you have scraps, go with the widths you have, and don’t go smaller than ¾” or larger than 2”.

I do have to say that I kept a portion of each fat quarter to be able to make the binding with the same fabric. So, ensure you keep at least 1 strip of 2¼” of each color to make your binding. To give you an idea, I needed 156” of binding for my project.

Let’s begin our journey with some fun strip piecing.

This is where the fun begins!

For sewing the pieces together, I used Gütermann Cotton 50wt Thread in the beige color. But for my choice of fabrics, I could also use ecru, pongee, beige, or ivory. I also installed a new Klassé Universal Sharps Needles – Size 80/12.

Sewing strips in groups of 2

 Grab all your Group I strips and sew them 2 x 2 (meaning 2 strips side by side lengthwise). Pick each strip randomly to create as many diverse groups of 2, not matching colors or strip size. Make 24 units with sizes varying from 2” to 3” x 22”.

Remember…there is no quilting police. This means that not only can you cut your strip a bit crooked, you also don’t need to sew perfectly at the ¼” seam allowance. However, it’s very important to press the strip using Mary Ellen’s Best Press Starch Alternative to ensure the strips are nice and flat.

Sewing strips 2 x 2

Sewing strips in groups of 4

After my groups of 2 were nicely ironed, I went back to my sewing machine to sew them 2 x 2 once more giving me 12 units of 4 strips with the size varying from 4” to 5” x 22”. I also went back to my UNIQUE quilting wool pressing mat – 18″ x 24″ – Grey to iron the strips using my  Oliso Pro TG1600 Pro Plus Smart Iron and Mary Ellen’s Best Press Start Alternative.

The right tools to press your strip units

Sewing a fifth strip

Sew one strip of your Group II fabrics randomly to the edge of each unit. The strip sizes of these 12 units will now vary from 6” to 7” x 22”.

Cut each unit in half, in the middle of the 22” length, to give you 24 units we’ll call A Units.

Adding a fifth strip and cutting in half

Hope you enjoyed your first journey into improvisational quilting. Now that you learned to let go, I hope you’ll be back tomorrow for the next step in creating the Winter Sunshine quilt.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: Improvisational or ‘IMPROV’ quilting – Let’s get started (beginner)

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

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