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Quilting Improv Quilts - Rulers & Free Motion

When you think of an improv quilt, what comes to mind? Lots of colors, random piecing, perhaps waves and curves? Applique? Asymmetry? Does improvisational quilting intrigue you or do you prefer a pattern with traditional blocks, sashing and borders?

My quilting buddy Marion has been making her special quilts for a few years. She has never used a pattern and has gleaned her skills with the help of our mutual friend and Wise Woman of Quilts, Sue. Sue's encouragement of Marion's whimsy in her creative process gave her the energy to begin with focus fabrics and to see where they led her. Most of Marion's quilts feature fabrics that are highly tactile, she loves shot cottons where the warp threads and weft threads are different colors. She features interesting pictorial fussy cut images that conjure up emotion and meaning. In this quilt, which is the fourth one I have quilted for her, she combined the shot cottons with a variety of scraps and larger pieces of fabrics for borders.

Marion enjoys my improvisation in approach to quilting her work and I am encouraged to see where her tops lead me in my creativity. I design my quilting "on the spot" and let the fabric, images or motifs guide my needle. My Innova longarm is well balanced and makes pretty stitches, yes?

I used a variety of free motion feathers, ribbon candy, single direction straight line, pebbling and tiny loops to enhance the fabrics and give the block movement. I ditched the rows using a ruler to stabilize and further define the piecing.

Marion chooses her fabrics by placing them on a design wall, she plays with them until she likes the way they make her feel. Following her creative instinct makes each quilt block a little bit different.

This fierce tiger has a silvery sheen that enrichens the block. I outlined it freehand with lustrous silver Glide thread.

I used a variety of different color Glide threads. This thread has a slight sheen to it and it makes the stitches look great.

We chose a wool batting for this quilt. Wool is very light, and it does not crease, so it is great for quilts you want to use every day. Even in the summer, the wool batting isn't overly warm, in my experience. I also love the loft it gives my quilting. Perfect!

Here is the entire quilt on one of my beds - I don't have a great place to take photos of quilts by myself, so I drape them on a bed and do my best. You can see the four blocks with the center improv panel. I believe Marion may have had some help from family members in making the elements of the middle panel.

Some more details of different blocks and sections of Marion's quilt are below. Even though this quilt has many different elements, it is unified by the placement of light and dark fabrics through out the quilt. It feels balanced even though it is not symmetrical. The dark blue and black hand dye fabric frame the entire center assembly and tie it together. If it were a lighter fabric instead, I think it would be very unbalanced. Marion has followed her intuitive sense and chosen different scales of prints that work out and balance across the elements. So cool!

I used a special diamond ruler to make the diamond motifs on the upper blocks. This was my way to unify the themes and bring the blocks together. Ruler work is fun!

I love how the fabrics and the quilting on these framed blocks play so well together!

The lower border motif was also done with rulers. I use the Quilted Pineapple rulers, and I love how this comes out every time I use it as a design element. It's a little like piano keys but much softer with the curves. It will be nice to sleep under this quilt with such a soft border. The fabric has a small print that contrasts well with the big blue and black hand-dye inner border.

I enjoyed the time spent quilting this beauty for Marion. I hope you enjoyed seeing something a little different. Will your next quilt be more "experimental?" Do you have some special fabrics you've set aside? I hope this post encourages you to take that fabric and play with it until it feels right to you, too. My rulers and longarm quilting machine will be waiting! Perhaps we will make your quilt something special together that you'll love forever.

Stay well and safe and keep on quilting!

Thanks for reading - Karyn

PS. Please feel free to send this to a friend who you think might appreciate it too!

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