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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Calling All Scrap Lovers! An Improv Piecing Tutorial

When I blogged about my scrappy improv blocks, I had several people mention that they were afraid to try it with their own scraps, since there really isn't a true plan for sewing.  It does take some time to get used to sewing with reckless abandon in an improv style, but I thought that a few guidelines might help some of you take the plunge.  Once you get the hang of it, this method of sewing is so much fun, and it's a great way to use whatever fabric you happen to have.



The first thing you need to decide is how big you want your blocks to be.  I use a 12.5 inch square ruler, and I find it makes things much easier.  If you would rather use a regular quilting ruler, that's fine too!

Get all of your fabric ready and divided in whatever way works for you.  I have my scrap baskets divided into cool, warm, and neutrals.  I also don't distinguish between scraps and strings.  They all go in together, and you'll love using both with improv piecing.

Start by sewing two pieces of fabric together.  It's helpful if the sides you're sewing are similar in length, but not necessary.  When you're finished sewing, just take your scissors and trim the excess.




Add another piece to any side you choose.  I always try not to sew around the first piece in a regular way, so that it doesn't end up looking too much like a log cabin block.



If you don't come across a piece that is long enough to cover the side, or if you just want some variety, piece a couple of scraps together to make them long enough.  As your sides get longer, you will have to piece smaller scraps to get enough length.  Try to avoid sewing too many long strips on the sides or your block might end up looking like a log cabin instead of an improv block.



I don't press my block until the end when I'm sewing like this, but you can if you choose.  Continue adding to your sides until you have a block that is about 3-4 inches bigger than your square template.



I know you're wondering why you are making blocks that are too big, but just trust me.  The part that will make your blocks really special is coming up.


Give your block a press and take it to your cutting mat.  Line up your template along one edge of your block.  Check our those extra side strips!  Cut them off with care and don't throw them away.  You'll need them later!



I know when I look at quilts that are improv pieced I'm always impressed by the tiny little strips and fabric bits that seem so perfectly placed within the blocks.  Well, you can get those neat little pieces without actually sewing teeny tiny pieces.  We're going to use those fabulous little trimmed strips in your next blocks!  One or two of those strips can really add a lot of interest to a block full of bigger pieces.

If you really get on a roll, you can always make a really big improv block and cut several blocks from it!  This also gives you the freedom to use pieces that are a little bigger, because there is a good chance that they will get cut when you cut your blocks out.





You can do improv piecing with a planned color palette as well!  If you choose to use scraps though, just remember that the beauty of a scrap quilt isn't fully realized until all of the blocks are together.  In my opinion, that's when scrap quilts really show their wow factor!

I really encourage you to try some improv piecing.  Once you get the hang of it, it's a lot of fun, and I think it's really great for getting your creativity and sewjo going!

Editied 8/25 to add- Here's a picture of the finished quilt, just in case you're wondering how it looks when the blocks are all put together!  You can check out the post with more pics of the finished quilt HERE!




43 comments:

  1. A nice and friendly intro to improv, Kelly! Thanks for sharing this!

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  2. Lovely post Kelly. I love scrappy quilt improve piecing....it is definitely fun. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. thanks so much! I'm glad you like the tutorial, and glad you enjoy improv too!

      :) Kelly

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  3. Thanks a lot for your tutorial. I absolutely have to try :-)

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  4. Well I may just have to take the plunge and try this one. I don't have a ton of scraps yet since I just got serious about quilting back in March, but I am saving every little shred of fabric. I've tried one improv block and it was really hard not to "Match" the fbrics so much! I will have to bookmark this tute. Thanks for sharing.
    xo jan

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  5. Improv piecing is great. When I'm ready to go through my stash bins, I'll look back at this! Thanks!

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  6. These are really great - I have yet to try truly improv piecing, LOL!

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  7. My husband's Grandma taught me how to make her "crazy blocks" using up scraps and it is so fun. It is a fairly similar way in which you do yours, but things are more angled and almost rose like looking when finished. I keep a large tote next to my sewing table in which I keep all of my scraps and when it gets to be too overflowing, I start making crazy blocks and as well as some string blocks. It is always fun to lay out the blocks when you are done & audition different sashing fabrics and then watch how the different colors in the blocks pop. I may have to give your tutorial a try for something different. Thank you for sharing!

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  8. A wonky log cabin is about as crazy as I've gotten. These are looking great!

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  9. Thanks for this! I've never tried Improv blocks before, but this looks intriguing.

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  10. I tried but my first blocks resulted horrible and ended in the trash !

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  11. Scrappy and improv - I am in heaven.

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    1. haha! yep! I love totally stress-free, super colorful sewing. It just makes my day! Glad you like it, too!

      :) Kelly

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  12. I love scrappy piecing like this :) it's so easy to do and pretty much instantly rewarding.

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  13. Great tute! I love using up some scraps :)

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  14. Great tutorial! Thanks for posting!

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  15. Lovely! I've not done it before, but I'm not scared to try it either. Suppose I'll add it to my long list of "one day" projects. :)

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  16. Improv is fun, and the blocks look good.

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  17. I love you improv tutorial. I have boxes (and boxes, and boxes!) of scraps that would be fantastic for this method. Thanks.

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  18. Thank you for this! I am the organizer of an Improv Bee and it scares the crap out of me! Not the Bee part, that is super fun, but the Improv stuff - scareeeee! I am so a pattern girl. So I really appreciate your guidance on improv. Right up my alley:) Trying to break out of my quilting box, slowly!

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  19. Thanks for the tutorial, I've been planning to improve piece a knitting needle roll for a friends birthday, I'll have to give this method a try :)

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  20. I love the idea of making the blocks bigger to have some wonderful scrappy strips (or strippy scraps) to integrate into another block!

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  21. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I think I'll give this a try! :-)

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  22. Nice post… so clearly explained and shows how the variations possible make this process so much fun!

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    1. thanks! it's a really fun way to sew. I'm glad you like it!

      :) Kelly

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  23. I love this and will definitely need to try it.

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  24. It looks wonderful! Thanks for the tutorial. I think I'm going to try to do one of these blocks myself and see what happens.

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  25. It looks wonderful! Thanks for the tutorial. I think I'm going to try to do one of these blocks myself and see what happens.

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  26. It looks wonderful! Thanks for the tutorial. I think I'm going to try to do one of these blocks myself and see what happens.

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  27. I like this and I see myself doing this very soon. Thank you.

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  28. Thanks heaps this really gives me the courage to try it!

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  29. Love it. Thanks for the post and instructions. I'm going to tweet. Take care!

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  30. I finally finished mine!!! Thanks heaps for the tutorial, check out my blog for the pics of my quilt:
    http://adventurousquilter.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-finish-finally.html

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  31. Really great example of improv piecing. I'm going to link with your blog!

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  32. Es un quilt muy alegre y libre.
    It's a very happy and free quilt.

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  33. This looks like fun and I have so many leftovers to use... time to get started. Thanks for sharing your great idea..

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  34. This is one of my most fun projects to make. I like working with all the colors and it is like putting a puzzle together. So when I am stressed out or just want some quick fun to sew I make these blocks, stack them up until I want to make something from them. I make them from scraps as well as fabric I have cut into strips. This is a really great tutorial for this.

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  35. This is one of my most fun projects to make. I like working with all the colors and it is like putting a puzzle together. So when I am stressed out or just want some quick fun to sew I make these blocks, stack them up until I want to make something from them. I make them from scraps as well as fabric I have cut into strips. This is a really great tutorial for this.

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    1. Thank you so much! I actually work on them in a similar way. I'm so happy you enjoyed the tutorial!

      :) Kelly

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  36. Thanks so much for this great tutorial! I didn't know this kind of block but I sure will give it a try.
    I love scraps too!

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  37. I love seeing your scrapy quilt. I'm doing one I'm calling a Crazy Quilt but not following the traditional pattern or any pattern. I'm adding decorative stitches and lace... so far, to keep it the "crazy" theme. You did a great job on yours. I like it plain, too.

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  38. Absolutely love your improv method and the quilt is gorgeous.

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