Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Starting to Improv

In early September I was full of enthusiasm for Ann and Kaja's new Improv Quilting link up. I knew immediately that I wanted to make one of those improv word quilts, and the whole concept came together quickly. But then I didn't think I would have time for it, so I pushed it to the back of my mind.

This week I had scheduled the completion of that star quilt from last week, which I believe is now my oldest UFO, but I just couldn't face it. I pulled out my scrap box instead and decided today I would do something totally new. With my oldest fabrics!

I had no idea what was in the box. A few years ago I planned to keep neat, pre-cut 2.5" strips, hence the label. But I gave up on that eventually. So it was a little exciting to open the box and see what was in there!

Plus, I recently pulled all the leftover fabrics from Circa 1998 (when I was considering making it larger!). So, I'm going to supplement with them, too.

There are a few books out there on how to sew improv letters and words, but I figured I could just wing it. I chose a light green/dark green colour scheme, which I hoped would be forgiving, and a less important part of the quilt to practice on.

"t" seemed like a straightforward letter to start with. I just jumped in, cut some strips and sewed them up!

In general, I kept the thickness of the letters to around 1/4" to 3/8". I want to keep the whole thing wall-sized, and there will be a lot to fit in! As I progressed I realized that these first t's are a little large, but they will be easy to cut down.

My only plan was to start with the easy letters and progress to the trickier ones. "o" seemed like a good letter to do next, and these circular patterns felt appropriate.

I discovered that a log cabin style of strip piecing works well for making letters. It's the same technique that I used here for my snowman quilt, only these strips are narrower at around 3/4".

I cut almost everything with the rotary cutter, because it's easier, and a ruler, because I want to keep my fingers! But I didn't worry about perfectly even cuts.

I may or may not round off the o's later. I'll see how it looks as I progress.

"c," "u" and "i" are also all pretty straightforward. I'm not so sure about these fabrics, though! We'll see how they look when they are sewn in.

"h" and "n" are almost the same shape. I used the nearly solid dark green (leftover binding strips)...

...for the tiny triangles that round off the arcs. They had to be well defined, so the solid was safer than a print there.

With just "d" and "a" left, I forgot about the camera and focused on the construction. No music on today! It went pretty smoothly, and I only needed the seam ripper once (on an "a").
I was determined to get at least one word done. Ta da!

Except "y," all the remaining letters are done, so hopefully I can put them together next time. It will be interesting to see how big it is. I really have no idea!

I knew that I would like improv sewing, and I do. I was afraid that I might never go back to regular sewing, but I don't think I'm in danger of that...yet.


  1. I would not have known where to start with making letters you have done a great job here and used up a lot of scraps at the same time this is going to make a great quilt

  2. What great fun! I agree with Margaret. You've done a wonderful job of explaining the process of making letters. Thanks for that!

  3. Very nice, and what a great way to use up all those scraps!

  4. Love how you're getting started doing your own thing. We're waiting to see what you wrote. The colors are fun and the fabrics definitely playful.

  5. I've never tried letters, but I like how these look a lot - your completed 'and' is great - and the idea that lots of them can be based on the log cabin makes sense. Looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

  6. The shapes of your h's and n's is really great! They are even more readable. I need to try this!

  7. I love how you are willing to try new methods, but I think that you're a very brave woman to go improv. The word alone makes me weak in the knees. I would likely have countless sleepless nights "not planning" my improvisational quilt. I will be following this quilt with great interest.

    BTW, love the letters and love the fabric from the archives. I recognize some of those prints from my archives.

    1. The lime with the white rings, would be my guess for the fabric you have. It was popular!

      Just because it is improv, doesn't mean there is no plan. There is always a plan! It's just the details that are tbd. :D

    2. Actually, I think there are some Kaffe Fassetts in there that I recognize? Something that I bought at Liberty in London in 1997?

      Re: improv quilting: what counts as detail? is the layout planned?
      Clearly I know nothing about improv quilts, but I have a feeling it would be a very healthy, therapeutic endeavour for me.

    3. Honestly, the Kaffe was my second guess!

      For background on improv, both Ann and Kaja have written several thoughtful posts about it. The links are at the top of this post. I have a pretty strong opinion on it too, so I may write that up for the link up next week. But in a nutshell -- there is always a plan!

  8. This looks like great fun. I'd be improvising too - way to go. I have a piece in my stash very like the pink roses on black, had a dress out of it in the 70s. I love everything about this project: using little pieces, seeing fabrics from the past, figuring the shapes, making words, not knowing quite what it will look like, the ingenuity of it. Wahoo!

    1. Thanks, Jillian! That pink roses fabric is turning out to be very useful for this project. I will have to see how far I can stretch it! I don't know where I got it, but I know it's not as old as the 70s! (Unless it is a hand-me-down from my grandmother -- she didn't have much usable fabric, but it could be.) Or, it could be a reprint. Ok, I'm digressing now. Thanks again!


I'm told Blogger has been bouncing some comments, so if it happens to you I'm sorry! But the settings look right so I can't explain it. In any case, thanks for reading!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...