A Try at Improv

Earlier this year, I read Sherri Lynn Wood‘s book: Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. I heard so much good about her and her approach to improvisational piecing, I thought it was about time I give it a try. I did participate in an Improv Round Robin last year at the meetup between the Montreal and Ottawa MQG. But, doing it with a limited amount of time, was just to much for me. I decided I should give it a second chance by doing a quilt at my own pace. Still, improv really is a challenge for me. I have a hard time letting go and doing a quilt without a plan. Also,usually when I have a plan, I do all the math at the beginning and stick to using a ruler. So, I thought it would be interesting to try something freehand.

I really enjoyed reading Sherri Lynn Wood’s book and I like her score approach. For me imposing some constraints can help creativity. For my first quilt, I decided to use her Score for Strings. I first chose tree colors and a few fabrics for each, all solid colors in different tones.

Improv Quilt - Fabrics

Then I started cutting some strips to build 2 panels for each color, one darker and one lighter. Unfortunately, the only picture I have of that step is the one I posted on Instagram. Then, I recut my panels into strips in the opposite direction. I must say that at that point I did have to plan what I would do with my strings. I did a few sketches and finally chose this one which was inspired by artist Carlos Cruz Diez.


For each color, I sewed my strips together alternating between the lighter and darker ones. But for the lighter strips, I removed a length of the strip by cutting it at a 45 degree angle and replacing it with a strip of Kona cotton in Bone. The length I was removing was increasing at each row.

When I started this project, I had a lap quilt in mind. But, when I finished assembling the 3 panels I realized I would end up with a much larger quilt as the height was almost 90″. To balance things out, I created side panels with all Bone fabric I had left home. This is the largest quilt I ever made. Here is the quilt top on my son’s twin size bed.

Improv Quilt Top

Here it is on our queen size bed, it’s a bit to short for it on the sides but it gives you a better overview.

Improv Quilt Top

I was wondering how I would quilt such a large quilt on my home sewing machine. But, the answer just came up to me unexpectedly. A member of our guild who is moving to a smaller space was selling her Little Gracie II quilting frame for a really good price. I could not miss this opportunity. I spent some time last week making space for it in our basement and setting it up.


This is a frame for which you set up your domestic sewing machine on a carriage, and the carriage moves on rails in two directions. If you want to know more about it, you can look at this YouTube video. Now, I have to be patient. I have a few projects to finish first before my boys finish school. So, I might not be able to play with it right away. But, I look forward to it. And this quilt might be one of the first project I’ll do with it. I’ll keep you posted! As for improv, I will certainly try it again. The Score For Bias Strip Petals from the Improv Handbook is something I’d like to try.

7 thoughts on “A Try at Improv

  1. Francine Benoit

    Vraiment beau Josée! J’adore comment tu mêles tes couleurs. Et tu m’encourages car moi aussi j’ai acheté le livre pour faire des essais en improvisation. Je comptais m’y mettre cet été. Et j’ai bien hâte de voir comment tu vas aimer ton Little Gracie II. Tu m’en donneras des nouvelles.

    1. Josée Post author

      Merci Francine. J’ai bien hâte de voir ce que tu vas créer à partir du livre. J’ai beaucoup aimé ton centre de table et ta pièce pour Molinari.

  2. Shannon

    I love the bold colours and the angles you created, Josée! And I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed your second foray into improv!

  3. Isabelle

    Wow Josée – this is beautiful! You did an amazing job with this first improv piece. I just love how you placed your colours. And I can’t wait to see how you quilt this one! Have fun with the new frame! 🙂

    1. Josée Post author

      Thanks Isabelle! I’m thinking of an all-over design for the quilt. Since it’s my first large quilt I don’t want to put too much pressure on me for the quilting.

  4. Cinzia Allocca

    Great job Josee! I love your quilt! I’m glad that you enjoyed it enough to try a second one! I am the opposite of you. Following a pattern or doing too much math stresses me out! I am trying to get through my Weight of Love Quilt!

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