Improvisational Piecing For Those Afraid of Improv

Improv Piecing from Curved Quilt Blocks

Yes, this still counts as Improv. It has precisely pieced curves, all made and squared up to the same size. It has a controlled grouping of fabric. It isn't at all what I thought I would make.

I define Improvisational Piecing as this:

Starting a quilt without knowing what it will look like when you finish.

This puts the emphasis on the process, on the path, on the exploration. It makes it about the act of sewing more than the fun of figuring out how to make something beautiful from that act. 

So when I started this quilt it was just to play with the fabric and the curves. Years later, when I returned to the fabric I kept the initial play and ran with it. I simply made the blocks. There was no finished quilt in mind. Obviously, my intent was to actually make a quilt at some point and not just a pile of blocks. But I had no idea what size that quilt would end up or what the actual design was going to be. I just made blocks until I ran out of the grey fabric. (To be perfectly honest, I'd wanted it bigger, but the fabric is years old and I was too lazy to try and hunt it down. So 54'' square is the size of the quilt.)

Then I had to figure out a layout. With quarter circles you have practically infinite design possibilities. I spent a morning sketching and colouring some options. I played on the design wall. I looked at the quilts of Jen Carlton Bailly, in particular. All cool and pretty, but not what felt right with these fabrics. In the end, I remembered the movement of a quilt I made with a stack of half square triangles. The design wall play worked!

No plan, no sketch, no pattern. Just a bunch of blocks turned into a quilt top. Complete improvisation.

If the thought of wonky or irregular cut fabric freaks you out - and I know it does for some people - but you are willing to embrace the challenge of an adventure then I suggest an exercise like this. Take precisely pieced building blocks, like a quarter circle, half square triangle, equilateral triangles, or even pieced coin strips and embrace some playtime. Make them without planning out a design, then try out a million and one different options for lay outs. This is indeed improvisational piecing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.