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Improv Quilting Basics

Lesson 2 of 7

Free Preview: Prep & Choose Your Fabric


Improv Quilting Basics

Lesson 2 of 7

Free Preview: Prep & Choose Your Fabric


Lesson Info

Free Preview: Prep & Choose Your Fabric

So let's get to how we actually do it that's the fun part so preparing your fabric how many air pre washers in the room a couple go for it there's no pre washing his personal preference entirely I when I first started quilting I pre washed everything on dh then I started buying a lot more fabric and that basically became a chore so I stopped doing it, but if I buy a boutique I will pre wash that and a lot of reds I will at least test to see reds and pinks all test and see if it's going to run but then I've also discovered a really handy tool that you buy in the laundry I'll I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention it by name but it catches the color from your laundry and it has saved quotes where I've had things run um so those are fantastic find and seek them out I should actually buy more while I'm in the states because for a while you can get them in the in canada so I would have people swap I would swap with people so do it, I'll send you fabric you send me those so but what you do w...

ant to do is press your fabric first okay it's it's great to go out and just start cutting and just start sewing but it's really easy to do so folds in your fabric without it being pressed first so I always press it first someone is going to run through um the entire process I'm just going to grab one of these fabrics just a random fabric off the table, right? Because most of us have either will have it folded like a fat quarter or yardage or something like that so right see this creases and that so I'm going to just quickly quickly press those oh, tsh! This is where you're allowed to iron um when we quilts, we press switch is lifting the iron like this, but when you've got a big swath of fabric that's not sewn it's okay to iron and not press, you just want to get the full vote as best as you can so that you're not catching them when you so and that when you cut it's just a little bit easier, answer the increases there. Um some people ask at this point if this is when people would like to do start, I don't recommend it, but that's again, I think that's just more my personal preference if you're really comfortable with starts and you tend to do it at this point, there's nothing wrong with that at all however, we aren't going to be cutting perfectly straight lines all the time, so if you starched it will make it harder two so things together because you already have that stiffness of the start she want a little bit of give when we go to do it okay so if you have a nice big cutting board like this make sure you have it the long way right? I have a salvage on this so the first thing is always cut your salvage off first so that there's no mistake that you will accidentally so it into a piece that's not the end of the world and this one is very, very fine but usually you can quite see the holes in the fabric you don't want that in your finished piece okay so I have a striped fabric I have two options you always have two options but in a straight fabric you get different design options this way you can cut with the strain for against strike right parallel and perpendicular it's up to you what I want you to notice we're very used to when we cut our fabric is giving ourself a straight edge first right? Like I would go ok line it up with the bottom of the fabric and I'm going to trim that and square off my edge rates you don't have to do that when we're in province right? You can still use the ruler in fact when it's unless it's a really short piece like less than ten inches I recommend using the ruler but we're not measuring right, so we would typically do this and if I was cutting a precision peace now, I would because I don't use the lines on my cutting. Matt, I use my ruler um we would do this and then ok, that was my freshly cut piece. I would ok here's a two and a half inch streb I've lined it up cut now I know I have my perfect two and a half inch strip am I looking? I'm looking for safety, but I'm not doing that and I'm just cut that's not a street it's a straight line but it's not a perfectly parallel strip it's not measured properly, this one might be thicker at the bottom, you know that way, this means also you can cut from either side of the fabric. Now I'm going to cut some this way rights now, I really don't know how wide that is. I'm going to cut some much wider, right? And then some skinnier, right? So I want a whole different mix of sizes and length. Um, and what I always do when I'm starting out is that don't cut all of the fabric, right? Because I don't know where I'm going, right? I'm just going to cut enough to get me started to go forward, make a few blocks, see where this goes but and then leave some fabric behind because I may want a very specific one yes, I got a question having much on the bias at all no, no we're going to cut relatively strange you can cut on the bias and you can add angles and but when we get to piecing I'll show you why you may or may not want to do that okay, so I'll leave some of the fabric to the side now we have these long strips and I have some shorter ones right? And that is that I always like to have three sizes small, medium and large okay to start what is small and medium and large that's entirely relative to the pieces that you're cutting right? You may not know as you improv the smaller your pieces are the longer it takes to get up to size, the more seems you have so it just becomes on effort to design consideration right? This one is a pretty skinny strip I'm going to leave it like it isthe this one a nice medium length I'm gonna cut a smaller piece on. So now I have a smaller pile and there's my medium and I'm going to cut you know ah hunk off of that one and that's going so those air both small in my world, right because relative to this that's large that small that's now medium right and I'm gonna cut you know one of these down a little bit into a small and then I'll cut this one because of stripe is going the other way they're so now I have some smalls that one will put in medium a gun and then some largest small medium large okay um so it's all relative this is the time to raid your scraps entirely right because you probably have pieces that look like this already in your scraps and so now is the time to pull them out and use it in fact if you were really trying t do this technique for the first time go to your scraps before you even cut fabric feel comfortable with the technique and the process before you get into your precious fabric that you've spent a lot of time with okay so you can see here I've already cut quite a few pieces right small again tiny little pieces I have some angles and there I'm not worried about that right now whole bunch of different fabrics these all happened to be in the low volume world with the exception of that red um they're so I've got smalls this is my medium pile I tend to have the most mediums when I do it because what happens is you use the medium's you want all three sizes because if you only cut medium and you only cut or you on ly cut small um it's not as visually interesting if you remember on my green quilt let's go back there right I've got some really big pieces and some really small ones if they're all roughly the same size it's not visually as interesting and then sometimes you have all these really small pieces and to get them into something bigger you have to piece more really small pieces and it gets tedious and annoying and the process is not as much fun right? Sometimes you want to just put that big piece and go there's a nicely size thing but and people get freaked out there like but but it's got this big piece in this small piece yeah that's interesting right it's ok to do that so I tend to have smalls are you the medium's air the most because the mediums can kind of fit as smalls with the large and they can fit with large is with the smalls right? So you have a lot more options plus as you've seen what you'll see when we start selling them together you'll be trimming and cutting things off I don't cut a lot of smalls to begin with because they tend to come from what you cut off right thie only problem with with improves our problem but scraps beget scraps so if you cut all of these and you start using them you're like it feels like I haven't used any fabric because these piles don't seem to be disappearing but that's ok that's why you're set up for the next time you want to improvise there so I have and then this is my large right there mostly in the strip sort of world but they can be bigger you know, bigger chunks like in here like this big chunk there and some of these bigger chunks you know they don't have to all be strips it's just that's how I happened to cut them as well. It's a small medium and large ok let's, go back to her up, okay? And we're going to be cutting fabric here as well. So what I've got for the studio hear today is we're gonna work on two different sets with four students in class. Nikki and michelle over here will be working on one set and you guys will be working on another two completely different ranges of fabrics so one of you will be with the low volume right and I've already cut quite a bit here, but I'll be getting you guys to cut a little bit more so who wants low volume? Let me show you both options you guys can argue on dh then the second one is very neutral very, very neutral and I picked these colors because I had this set of fabrics that came from a spoon flower challenge on calligraphy and I was given a bundle and they just I loved the grays and the whites and everything so then I went through and picks a number of solids or near solids as the case may be and added them to the calligraphy sort of one's so in this case I want what I want you to notice this is that relative sort of thing that's my small pile right there this is my medium pile and that's my large so my small pile for this is quite similar to my medium pile for the low value and these are much closer to my large is and then my large is a lot of these pieces air just about the same length but I've got some some wits he look at me not pressing that out it's very easy to just pick this up and if you're not paying attention you'll so that whole thing in there so there's there's a different variety of things and this is what I meant by relative in terms of small, medium and large I wanted these to be a lot of the prince are much larger scale and I didn't want to have them just be cut off and lost so that's why I went with the larger cuts in there so those are the two that you guys are going to be working with so duke it out who gets what pile you want to throw me something so all right, so I was telling you because that's there so you guys are having the neutrals with the calligraphy I'm calling it my ink bundle because it's about that calligraphy sort of thing you guys are gonna have the low volume as well so what I'd like you guys to do there's a lot cut for you already but I'd like you to take some of the fabrics you guys see there's that basket there with a whole bunch more and we got the low volume bundle here let's not use thes pinks but if you want you can add a little bit of red into yours for fun but we won't use thes pinks and you guys can get cutting so take a few of the fabrics and cut some more to add to your piles while you guys were doing that after I have a sip of tea humble of other options especially for you folks at home here's a little red square describe randomly it's all good one of the things we should know is that just like when I was doing the mountain meadows well that green one having that pre selection of the fabrics goes a long way because then when you need more you're describing right just grab a little bit of it and esso I've selected low volumes but for now they're going to be cutting from there and then we have that entirely grey white neutral pack for the other ones over there and what else can we do? Well sometimes you get these beautiful bundles of fabric and it's either the latest and greatest fabric is this may this case may be but that's a school more obvious beautiful bundles or in a store they come up so package so nicely for you but then you're afraid and you don't want to cut into it and so how can I do something really really interesting with ease? And so I have bought a bundle and we're going to take it apart that's the first thing and because we're doing improv we're going to hack it up that's what quilters do we buy pretty fabric and then we hack it up right um so many iron a couple here and we're going to just cut this one a little bit differently then what we had done before not terribly differently but just a little bit differently I just want to press out those creases I'm just gonna pick two of the fabrics to show us today is this great fabric so much fun with the jacks? Ok that's enough so I'm not worried anything is going to get caught I was going to cut off those salvages so I was roughly lining things up and get rid of my salvages here okay? So for this one that we're going to be doing, I've basically on ly cut strips sets of strip sort of a thick I've gone with thick thin and medium in here so there's my sort of medium let's go with the thin and let's go with one sort of much thicker great we've got those sort of different wits there and I have that already see there's some in my thick sort of world this one goes in that thin put that and sort of medium same thing I've already done some sewing with this fabric so that's why these pieces are getting shorter and that's totally fine right there's that's then obviously just gonna sort them by thick, thin and medium more or less ok super quick I'm not measuring it's just really eyeballing if you're going oh I don't know if that sticker thin I don't know if that smaller medium just throw it in one pile there's no quote police for this to be telling us you know well actually that one's quite thick I don't know if you should be using it in that don't do that don't do that to yourself okay, so that's one other way that we can be cutting that I wanted to show you similarly I've got in this pile strip again nothing nothing but strips but I haven't cut these down at all in lengthy zehr all more or less sort of fat quarter with which sort of that eighteen to twenty two inches depending on which side you cut it on um and I have all manner of thick and thin. And in this case, I'm keeping them all together, right? So there's, no one right or wrong way to approach improv, there's a whole bunch of different ways you can do it, it's about starting with maybe an idea in mind. So in this case with the blue ones, I had the idea that I wanted to only be sewing strips together, still no rhyme or reason in terms of, um, what is going to look like at the end or how I made put things together, but I just had in my head, I only wanted it to be strips. Okay, so all I've done is cut the strips. I don't care if they're thicker, thin or anything along the way. Where is in this case with these beautiful fabrics I want? No, I want a distinction, and when we get to sewing, you'll see why I wanted that distinction.

Class Description

Improvisational quilting invites you to experiment with unexpected textures, designs, and colors. Learn about this playful quilting technique and sew along with Cheryl Arkison as she creates a completely improvised quilt top in Improv Quilting Basics

From fabric selection and prep, to sewing and puzzling blocks together, to making a quilt top, Cheryl will demystify the improv process. Cheryl will help alleviate any fear you have of this technique and bring a new level of fun to your quilting. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Select, prep, and cut fabric
  • Plan using a design wall
  • Assemble pieces together

Cheryl will show you how to troubleshoot common obstacles and you’ll learn how to turn the fun of improvising into beautiful, quilts.



I have taken all three of Cheryl's classes and she is an excellent instructor. Amazing. She is clear, engaging, non-judgmental, informative and has a ton of quality suggestions. Can't say enough about her! I hope that she does more courses in the future. Thanks very much, Cheryl and Creative Live. Very inspiring.

Virginia Crawford

Great class. Cheryl is a very capable designer. quilter and teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed (and benefited from) the emphasis on design in this class, where Cheryl presents how to achieve balance in improv quilting design making best use of fabrics. I like that she covers using low volume fabrics. I'm very impressed with this class.


So I've just watched this whole course in two evenings, and can say I got my money's worth. Cheryl is engaging, experienced and reassuring, and has enough information and samples to offer to make things interesting for those not sewing along in the moment. I do not have the opportunity to attend classes, so seeing others sew with shared intent is new for me; sometimes having only a teacher's example leaves more room for my creativity, but this "bee" atmosphere prompts other kinds of jumping-off. I had some trouble with the platform (longer segments took up to 20 minutes to load and crashed if I tried to start somewhere other than the beginning) and would like the camera operators to be more aware of each others' shot lines so they're not standing in the middle of the viewer's screen. Sturdier design boards would be great. Now my only question is who got to keep the collaborative class samples!