Itty Bitty Curves to Carry Me Through the End of Winter

Small Piecing Improvisational Picing

Oh these improv curves! 

In sharp contrast, at least when it comes to colour, I pulled out these little blocks last week. With my Names for Snow quilt top finished it is great to play with bold colours again. 

Here's where it stands. 

I'm running out of fabric. But I am nowhere near running out of motivation to sew these little blocks together. So now I am debating finding more fabric - it is a mix of random vintage solids, Kona solids, Connecting Threads solids, and I think some Essex Linen. It wouldn't be hard to figure out what I've used so far and buy just a little bit more.

As it stands, this is about 65'' tall. But only 38'' wide. I have baggies of blocks, but they are little and get used up quickly. Hmm...

Improv quilting Modern quilts Eames chair

Traveller - Wrapped in Hugs

Indian Cottons Improvised Curve Quilts


54'' x 54''

Started years ago, finished in record time. Traveller is a special quilt I made for a special person going through a rough time.

The fabric comes from India, brought home for me - the quilter in the family. I pet it, I made precisely 3 quarter circles to test out the sewing, then put it aside for years. I would show the blocks when I taught my Perfect Circles class and put them back in the bin. Then you hear the word Cancer. Cancer. And the world stops for more than a few moments. When it starts again, you, the quilter, think of making a quilt.

The quilt itself is something you want to give, to try to keep your arms wrapped around the person 24/7. It's more than that though. It is the act of making for me, the quilter, too. The act of making allows us to slow down, think about the person, and process our own emotions. It is about the quilt AND the process equally. And when the quilt leaves your hands and gets wrapped around the back of the recipient all the love gets transferred.

The top was done already, made in a fit of tangential creativity and improvisation. I'd always known I would give it to this particular recipient, but the quilt top languished in the pile of unfinished tops awaiting another round of motivation. So when I heard Cancer and surgery and a lot of time on the couch right before Christmas I pushed myself to get the quilt finished.

I made the back from a collection of sarong fabric another friend gave me. More travel inspiration! My husband helped me baste the quilt on a Saturday night. All day Sunday I quilted. Monday I bound, stitching on the winter drive with a golden thread, car light on as the sun set freakishly early on the Northern Prairies. On Tuesday it lay on the bed, waiting for recovery, waiting to lay down the hugs. 

Improv Quilts

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. 

Morning Make II - Improv Curves plus Tag Fabric

Improv Curves/Morning Make

Ever have those moments where you see something and just have to try it? At some point in December I saw a block that Sharon, at Color Girl Quilts, was working on. Hers was very precise - she does really cool things with curves - and I wanted to see if I could do the same thing with improvised curved piecing. Turns out I could.

I only made a couple of blocks to try it, with no intention to make more. But I really, really liked the blocks and I was still more curious. So I made a few more. Once the secondary patterns emerged I was hooked! This project became my Morning Make over the holidays. I finished it up on the weekend. It became very addictive!

Our quilts are not the same at all. That being said, you can certainly see the link between mine and her original. The main block structure is the same. It is the piecing technique and the final layout that make the big difference.  

Improvised Curved Piecing, Tag Fabric
Improvised Curved Piecing, Modern Quilts

For the technique I use (and teach) when making improv curves there are some leftovers. Very usable leftovers. Think enough for a whole other quilt. Quite often I play and they become part of the original work. This time, however, that wasn't going to work for the repeating design. Now I am sewing together all the leftovers from cutting those curves. It will be enough for a whole other quilt (or the back). I just want to get them sewn together as blocks for now and will play with layout options another day.

One of the best parts of this quilt - for me, at least - was getting to use my own fabric in it! That's right, Tag is now available through Connecting Threads. I have a lot to share about that in the coming weeks, but it was a lot of fun for me to see how well it played with the rest of my stash. Can't way to show you more.