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Improv Quilting Basics

Lesson 4 of 7

Stop & Look at Your Design


Improv Quilting Basics

Lesson 4 of 7

Stop & Look at Your Design


Lesson Info

Stop & Look at Your Design

In this section of the class, we are going to be puzzling all of our random quote blocks together into a quote top there's a number of different ways that we can do this some involve a lot of precision, some involve a lot more improv and we're going to be demonstrating all of those different ways today so that we've got different options for you because you may be more comfortable in one now that you've had a chance to play and experiment and see where we're going with things, you'll get the chance to really see how you want to work and how your blocks may or may not come together ok? So I've set up some additional design walls here in the studio where each of our groups can be working on their own at the same time I actually probably should have switch those in terms of the order of things but that's okay, so there's going to be a lot of going back and forth? This part of the process is very, very generative because it's all about putting a puzzle together not a jigsaw puzzle there's ...

no interlocking pieces and they don't have to be why seems right or or step down type of scenes if you don't want them to be there okay that's entirely up to you this is the part to you where we're going to get creative on trimming and squaring up with things on the one thing that I didn't mention but for that I'm going to mention now because it will come into play is when you are improvising there is never a reason to use your seam ripper ever ever ever ever when you make a mistake cut it out take your rotary cutter and cut it out because the stakes are inevitable and if it's one that you go ok well I didn't want that fabric sewn in upside down or I so that to the wrong side when I was kind of thinking I was going to sew it there well this isn't precision piecing so if we lose you know a half inch of fabric quarter inch for me each piece it doesn't matter so just cut it out save yourself some time save yourself some effort and that way you keep going with the flow in the rhythm that you've got with improvised piecing so now we need to talk about how to get the puzzles together there we go this is by far the most challenging part of the process absolutely but for me it's the most fun this is when you get to go how is this gonna work it could be really cool we could do something really really interesting things okay this is now where we start bringing some precision back in and that precision can range from simply squaring up our blocks quite nicely all the way to measuring and pitt fitting things together by measuring things as well, eh? So when we get to the point of puzzling, we will be adding and subtracting as we go. So one of the questions that was asked before the break wass how big should you make these blocks? Right? How big is too big? How small is too small? And I said there really is no answer until you're kind of done with making it in here, so in this case we have some quite large blocks over here and then some smaller ones, right? You have options, you can sew the smaller ones together to make bigger blocks, you can add bigger pieces, you know to them to add it up or you can start puzzling it right as it isthe right? And I would personally recommend puzzling as it isthe because that gives you more freedom and more options for how it comes together, right? Because you have different sized pieces toe work with same with our low volume selection over here is you have more options for how things to go together in here, but at this point I'm going to do two things I'm going to split you now in terms of how doing it so I have already demonstrated two ways of putting together the improv blocks now we're going to demonstrate here two ways to put together our improv blocks, okay so michelle and nikki you with a low volume here I want you to get these blocks up to a bigger size to a bigger square size to a roughly sixteen inch size don't worry about scoring it up yet just get these build them up so really what you could do is you could combine a couple of these things to get up there or you can continue to build these out right to get them up to roughly that size okay? And then once we get to the point of squaring things up I'll show you why we've done that so that's going to be your task so I'm going to hand these off to you and tracy and karen I want you guys to start puzzling this together I have some additional pieces that I've made for you to add to it to help you get up teo a bigger size but I want you to come up here to the design while for comfortable doing that and start going ok look I'll just demo I'll demonstrate for you first right away okay so let's go this piece the white just a personal preference because we have the light design wall but I'm gonna start going oh that's kind of roughly the same piece I'm good okay but maybe not overweight this one's kind of roughly the same size there right roughly right so now I can see that could be one scene together this one I'm like I still wanna have that white bordered by something will that work so let's give ourselves a little chunk there to put against right because that's kind of the same size right? So then I'm going to sew together there make that longer I've got this piece you know what? Maybe fits here? Well, that piece works there maybe this one because it's smaller you know, one size so that all together fits there and I've got a block a larger bloc forming there so you're going to start to go on the go away mate wait, maybe this fits here now that I do this right? Maybe not right? Because I might cut off a lot of that feather and that feather is a really nice feature, so let's shift that over right? And I could trim off from here, but I've already got that little piece section I said don't don't use the same ripper and I mean that this is we're going to cut but don't cut out like effort you've already put in so I would be more inclined to go well, we can do this and when I get to it, I'll cut off this chunk but that's a usable chunk that can be used some boat somewhere else, right? So already you can see from those disparate blocks we're getting some order to this right? And then maybe there's some more here maybe that goes there maybe that goes there, you know? And then you need to add a piece to that and then those go together, right? So we're going to start building bigger pieces and start thinking about how they all may sort of come together does that make sense to you guys? Ok, so that's the puzzling right there's adding and subtracting right here would be subtracting but what you want to do when you come to subtracting on this is don't cut this piece off before you sewn it to everything else the subtraction should be almost the last thing that you d'oh so you'll get this section together you'll get this section together see, you're going to have a little subtraction there as well but not until you have these pieces together and you know exactly how much you need to cut off you'll give yourself a nice straight cut there and that can go and if we always keep those sort of that but at least an inch to an inch and a half wide it's a reusable piece, right? If I came to this and I had, you know let's pretend that shorter right there and I had that little bit well that's just a trimming and that's fine, right um but I like to put it on so that it's a usable peace there. Same with if I didn't decide. I wanted to cut this off. I would make sure to cut off enough that I had a usable piece. You know, that showed off this little bit of piecing in here on the left. That's kind of a block it's. Got that one. Could you add that right hand side before exact? I hate to lose. I hate to cut it. No. Is that and that's always your options. So you have some traction. So when we do this piece, you don't have to cut this off. You could add a piece here, right? Okay, right. So that it's not it before you sold it to the other one, though, right? W it in this case, I would have these pieces sewn together. And maybe you would have all four of these sewn together, and then you would put it up next to here and go. I'm going to need to add a piece, right? Great. So you always have the option, whether you're subtracting or whether you're adding in this case, right, you can cut this off, but that's a lot of piecing to have wasted. So I'd be more inclined to either at another piece section or one long strip here, and this is why it's also good we talked about earlier about the mix between large and small. This is one of the reasons you want to have the mix, because if you suddenly added that large piece would look really weird, right? But because we already have larger pieces, it doesn't look were it just looks like an extension of the effort that we've gone into right, and it all blends together, so let me give you the additional pieces, and then you guys come up here and lay this out how you want you may not want how I want it other things to consider, we talked about the black before the break, right? At this point, you may go, I want to make more blocks, I think the blocks that I have do have more black, not in it, but if you had got to the point where you said I don't want the black, I don't like it cut it off, right? The black is too harsh, and I want it where the solid white is too harsh in this case, you know, cut it off right here, oh, but then I've lost the feathers, so that may affect the decision about whether you keep the black in or not, so those sorts of things play it, but because we took the moment to step back, we noticed it. So what you may be conscious of when you're putting your puzzle together is spreading out your blacks or having them concentrated, right? Because if you you know, if you have them concentrated that's, a place where your eye is going to go, when you look at the finished well, like your quote, that you had, like, some dark spots and lighters, thoughts and everything like that, so if they're spread out, then your eyes kind of dancing around and everything, but if they're all together, it's a focal point on the quote, neither is right or wrong is what's your preference when you're putting it together, right? Right? That makes sense. It does perfect. Okay, so let me get those additional blocks for you guys, and I have additional for you guys as well. I'm not going to make you do all the work, so there you go. See, some are small pieces said there was more blocks looks yeah, there's some they move and you put things on because it's just got a central pivot points. You kind of have to hold the sides as you're putting things on, so there you go, so you can see there's a lot of different things, and they're in some, listen, some bigger than others, right, and then sums moments. So play around with those, and I have additional for you guys as well. Weii, go here's a few more pieces, right? Some smaller, just pairs, and then somewhere, we're starting to get larger so you can add two things and some that are very nearly up to size.

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!