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Improv Quilting Basics

Lesson 5 of 7

Squaring Off a Block


Improv Quilting Basics

Lesson 5 of 7

Squaring Off a Block


Lesson Info

Squaring Off a Block

So I made a serious of these blocks in preparation for the class and I did two things when I was making these I only had one little bit of red in each one of these as I was building up to the thing not absolutely necessary it's just what I did on ly one little bit of red in the block and I went to measure these and I'm like, I'm like a half an inch short right? And I so when you go to put it together you're like, well, I don't want to waste all this effort that I've done, but because we're trying to get up to a a rough generic size for these ones, you have a couple of options and I'm going to demonstrate those right now going to take this block okay, so I have this glorious large sixteen and a half inch ruler and I'll give it to you guys in a second so that you can use it when you're trying to get things up to a certain size regardless of what the size of the shape is either having a ruler or a piece of paper or a piece of cardboard cut to the size you roughly want works nicely as a gu...

ide it's not your teen may or may not be your template for cutting depending on what it is but it's really nice to go oh yeah I'm on size so if we switch to the overhead camera here I wanted to make my blocks fifteen and a half inches and that's this red line right here on it. So to show you guys there it's this red lines, I have a sixteen and a half and trailer, I want to go up to fifteen and a half inches. I'm not quite there. I have the length. I have more than enough length, but I don't have the wit no matter how I turn the ruler, I'm closer to fourteen and a half inches. So you have options in this we wanna toss me just one law, one of your long pieces long, long, long their ego that mason long should we will take this one. This should be long enough to take some of these long pieces. Okay. All right. So you have options? Well, see, I've already use this piece in there, but that's ok, I can add tow one side, right? Because when I I've just kind of laid it over, but even with seem allowances, I should be more or less there. I'm not as always, much of a fan of adding it on to the side. There and one of the things that you want to be cognizant of when you add it on to the side because I only needed a little bit if I add this on the side and then go to square up I may only be left with a little bit and then I have a lot of bulk in my seem allowance right? Because I have one long seem allowance and then another long seem allowance when I go to so this to something else so I try to not have those little bits along the edge so what I'm going to dio is I'm going to slice this block and insert it right so I'm just going to pick randomly right here relatively straight have a nice straight edge on which to insert this make sure that peace is long enough it is if you ever go to insert and as long and not long enough just piece that right to make it longer and then it looks less like you've just put in a long a long strip race and then always make sure you're cutting it wide enough for your using a wide enough piece that because as soon as you've cut you're going to immediately be taking a half a ninja way because of your same allowances so you want to make sure that you have enough you're adding and more than an inch or more depending on what you mean so one long seem and then we'll do the other one and using my little blip so that I don't have to get up and I will just so this and I'm still not worrying about squaring off those extra edges thiss and I'll show you where we're at for it and then this gets us one of our blocks all the way up to size, not terribly exciting to watch someone so along, but it gets the job done, ok? So let's, press this and I have to press both seems I'm gonna set them both and then press them both. I did not, and I'll show you what I mean worry about lining up the pieces that I cut at all because it's improv if they didn't line up, then so be it that's the way it isthe okay, so see there's are finished right? Really quite simple adds a different design element things diagonal adi star try to stay horizontal vertical, excellent question so the question was asked even earlier, about adding and angles or cutting on the bias. In this case, I would not do it on the diagonal when I'm just trying to increase the size because you've suddenly changed the size of the block, the demand the overall dement like now becomes much more of a rectangle as soon as you insert a triangle, you may like that sort of slice and insert kind of idea and putting maybe an axe across it but you just need to make sure you're back is big enough you know if you have a finished block size in mind it's totally it's a different design element right using yeah, exactly you've hit the nail in your head we're making fabric okay with fabric right in there and so doing something like that like adding an x two it is just a different design out ok and it's something really interesting in there but you've also at brought up another really good question when it comes to using angles in this sort of improv piecing really, really fun I have two pieces of of advice if you want to use angles number one use more than one because if you only have one triangle, one angular piece in something that is the first place you're I will look, there might be a little bit of wonk and a little bit of angle here there and everywhere in the block because remember we used rulers but we didn't necessarily cut parallel strips and pieces and stuff like that so you may have slight angles, but if you have a really harsh you know triangular shape in there, then it's becomes the first thing you see in a block, but if you have a few of them, then your eye moves around right, the other thing to think about is if you are aiming to get up to something square at some point and you use a lot of angles, you get this really crazy, weird shaped peace as your sewing, and so when you go to score up, you end up having to cut off a lot of what you've already sound, which can be the start of your next block, but it is something you're like. Oh, I did all that, and now I'm just hacking off this giant corner of it, okay? So I'm going to show squaring up so we have this totally random, you know? Nothing has squared off on this. I do have some kind of weird angles in here, but they're not alive, right? So it's good. So now I need to square this off to fifteen and a half inches because that's the size I decided because I like a nice big block, so I'm just gonna pick where I want to do this. I have a lot of freedom now because the block is there, I can move this ruler around and go different ways and everything, but I'm going to pick the moment where I've got yet I have fifteen and a half inches all the way around and I'm going to cut that so I will cut one side well my ruler and cut the other side so I have a nice square piece ms down here and that's crap so now I have two nice edges and I will line up my fifteen and a half inch mark on the side of already cut and then hold it down and square off the other two edges when you go to square things up a couple of things that I want you to look for is to not we're good on this block but let's say for example I wanted to square off you know much closer to this seem you wanna have no less than a half a nin inch from a scene right because if you have less than a half an inch suddenly you have seem allowance in seem allowance it gets very very bulky okay, so that's just one thing that you need to consider with that and then if you're cutting off little pieces here and there so there's one of your blocks done that I made for you it does well quoting can always be a lot more fun when there's more than one of you involved lots of people like we were saying before right so this one I think I'm a little bit short as well yeah just a little bit short so I can add a piece on the end but here's another way to do it right instead of just adding because I already have some long pieces right you can see that there's already long pieces I can cut some of that off and so instead of inserting it like I did I can give myself a straight edge and add a piece on to avoid having that little skinny strip right? So they're different ways to do it here so that's what I'm going to do in this one like I am I am so close like I'm just short a quarter of an inch but it's not enough to fudge an eighth of an inch you can fudge right? But a quarter of an inch you can't so I'm going to actually cut off a bigger proportion of it from this side and add a bigger strip and when I do go to cut that off I'm going to make sure that whatever piece I cut off is useful enough I'm not going to cut off a half inch exactly so I'm going to cut off you know it's at its narrowest about an inch in the house and now you can use that strip again absolutely you can but then the trick is to make sure whatever you add on the outside is wide enough to account for what you cut off so you guys gave me this nice long wide strip and that's what I'm going to add on is all of this puzzling starting to really make sense it is puzzling it is a puzzle for sure we'll finish up with this block and then we go back to your puzzle that you guys were doing tracy and karen and see how check in on what's going on oh, and then I want to show you a couple other ways that we can think about I can say for you guys but when I get to this point where I start where I'm in the midst of the puzzling and I start seeing it as more than just disparate chunks of fabric and I can start seeing it is a quilt I get ridiculously excited like it's a lot of stopping and standing back and little tiny girly screams you know? I'm like oh that's so cool it's I love it it seems I was going to join from the time I leave that spot over here I forgot what it seemed I was going to put together a great great point on dh that's why I said before this is very generative, right? So if I'm doing something like this, I'm just going to take over okay second, right? Ok, I don't know where you were planning on going next, but but let's just say it was this one before I leave the board, I won't just take these two pieces down and walk over there I go ok well this is my scene I will take this and put it like that and have it roughly lined up ok and then this is where again personal rhythm but I'll know that the scene what's in my right hand is where I'm sewing and I will go back over I'm going to just do it here the sake of the camera I will go back to my board still again I know my right hand is where I'm sewing and I'm going to give myself a nice clean edge to so right and I'll do a little trim and that also helps me it helps keep things relatively square but it helps me know where I'm sewing right? This is the point where if you are a pinner or if you have a really long seen pins makes sense right if you're someone who's very comfortable pending absolutely because then there's no mistaking where you were going to sell but when this is sown here this is a very long seem now so when we go to sew it to the next piece is you may want pins because we have so many seems everything can get stretched and pulled out so having a few pins is a really really good idea so now you know again that's my right hand so I made that decision for you know I was going to get to the opposite way but that's ok because there's no mistakes that if there are no mistakes right and so that's what I recommend is for every time every time you're going to take again I don't know what your next seem let's pretend it's this okay so I need to sew these two together have them write sides together in your hand pinching on the corner that you know needs to be so that it was my right hand but thanks I'm going go back to the board okay that's why I didn't go back to the door so we set up for sewing where we didn't have to move much now this is where you're getting your exercise right because you're constantly getting up and down and up and down absolutely is that's why I said it's the most challenging but also the most fun because it's kind it's really interesting well I could do this or I could do this and for the people who like that contemplative aspect now it gets quite interesting ok so I'm going to square at this block I have a lot of play now and where I go like I can move quite over to this side and have a skinnier strip of this blue and white but then I don't get much of the white there and I'd like to have the white there so I'm going to move over I don't have any little seems here so I'm going to go about right there right and those air seeing her cuts now I should say and we'll cut again. Ok, so now, in the instance of what I've cut off here, part of it is quite narrow. At this end, we're going to show you up here, part of it's, quite narrow, and some of it is thicker. Don't hesitate if you don't want to use a little tiny script strip like that to just go like that, and then use that one, right, but not the little one. What is my unfinished clock right now, I want to get up to sort of aimed for sixteen inches so that we can trim down to fifteen, fifteen and ok, so I'm going to give you the big ruler now, because that you guys can use that as a template. Thank you, and I'll put this second block up here for you.

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!