Tag Archives: improv quilt blocks

Instead of two larger blocks, Ellyn asked us to make a pile of mini blocks in clear, bright colors for her August prompt. I chose three of the four colors that she assigned us, based on what was plentiful in my fabric stash. She asked for oranges, blues, aquas, and yellows. I didn't have enough variety in true blues, so I stuck with the other three. "Piecing can be any improv technique you like... anything goes!" A true opportunity to play!

The first thing I did was pull fabrics, anything from a small scrap up to yardage. I started with all my smallest bits as I began piecing.

I'm a chain piecer whenever possible. I like to pair up a bunch of fabrics and then line them up at the machine to sew many seams in one go.

Sometimes I have a plan for what will go on after the current seam. In the case of the block above, the right edge is the seam I'm about to put through the machine (top view on the left, bottom view on the right). I have pinned on the next two pieces I'm adding on to this triangular center to keep the pieces together. This helps me stay organized, even when I am working on many blocks at once. After I sew the seam on the right edge, I'll unpin my extra pieces at the ironing board to press my seam and then this block goes back in the queue to attach one of the light orange pieces next.

Ta da! I made Ellyn twenty 4 1/2 inch blocks. That orange triangle block from below is in the bottom left corner.

This is one of my favorites. Often the piecing in random improv blocks is dictated by the shape of my scraps and I love seeing what happens.

The best part of a prompt like this for me is that the finished units all look cohesive, but if you look closely you can see the personality of each maker in the design decisions they made in their piecing.

Ellyn has already put together her quilt top!


Our July prompt for Quilts Unscripted Bee was from E.A. She asked us to make two 13" blocks, one in solids and one in blenders. We could choose any color combination for each block and piece in any style of improv. We were asked to ideally use the two colors equally in each block. And we were encouraged to consider choosing our high school's colors for one of the two blocks.

I went with maroon and grey for the solids, maroon being the school color of my high school. My fabric choices were Kona Garnet and Kona Iron (I think). For this block I started with two rectangles of fabric approximately the same time. I sewed them together, then trimmed pieces off, leaving the remaining parts approximately equal areas. I sewed the opposite fabric onto each side and repeated, cutting and moving pieces around always keeping an eye on staying about 50/50 with each color.

For my second block, I chose purple and teal blenders from my stash. I made a bunch of improv 4-patch units in varying sizes and then arranged them to puzzle together into an oversized square, purposefully avoiding a full checkerboard layout specifically because the units were different sizes. I added a little bonus teal to fill out to square.

This was a fun opportunity to play since we had free rein on style of piecing. E.A. also asked for a signature block for each block (since she intended to make one quilt from the solids and one quilt from the blenders). I included a bit of my scrap fabric in each signature block.

I had a lovely time with Moonlight Quilters of Sonoma County today for 6 hours of Building an Improv Toolbox. This workshop is an opportunity to play. (You can join me for this workshop on March 29, 2023.)

I often forget to "take pictures" in a Zoom workshop. It's so different than being in the physical room with folks. Today I remembered to get a shot of our show and tell at the midpoint when we took a break for lunch. It's so fun for me to see the variety of colors people are working with and how the same prompts can result in so many unique outcomes!

Thanks for joining me in class today, MQSC!

Guilds and groups interested in having me teach should check out my teaching page.