Ready, set, go improv!

I am trying to finish more quilts in a shorter time period, which doesn’t mean that I necessarily need to sew faster, but I want to make decisions more quickly. I don’t expect to make a quilt in a day, but I have SO many ideas in my head clamoring to be quilts, and there is such satisfaction when you get to this point:

This one will be a surprise for a 3-year-old southern California boy who loves the beach and will probably grow up to be a surfer!

I played with different improvisational techniques to make this quilt, and it was really freeing—and fast! I pieced this roughly 5-foot square top in two sewing sessions of a few hours each.

For the first session, I had a little help.

At a recent Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild meeting, I demonstrated making a wonky log cabin block  from the book Block Party (written by my friend Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejnieks).


Block Party by Alissa Haight Carleton and Kristen Lejnieks for Stash Books

 Members sewed for 20 minutes, and beep, beep, the timer went off and we went on to another technique. Several members used my scraps from the Going Coastal collection of fabrics designed by Emily Herrick and gave me these great blocks (or pieces that became parts of blocks):

We also sewed scraps into bigger chunks of fabric. Victoria Findlay Wolfe calls it “Made-Fabric” in her book, 15 Minutes of Play.

15 Minutes of Play by Victoria Findlay Wolfe for C&T Publishing

She’s a great inspiration for getting yourself unstuck from a sewing rut, sitting down at the machine, and making decisions quickly.


became the starting point for these blocks:

Improv Piecing Stash Books     Improv Piecing Stash Books
 We spent another 20 minutes starting work based on Gwen Marston’s quilt, “Chevron String Bar,” in her book, Liberated String Quilts (out of print, but available now as an e-book!).

Liberated String Quilts by Gwen Marston

 Adrianne (Little Bluebell) demonstrated the technique she used to make this quilt top:

 I had so much fun with it that I made these two blocks:

 And an oops! block with the remaining pieces:

One of the advantages of working at C&T is that we have a library of all of our books, and I can wander in there and browse for new ideas when I am stuck.  I never know what book or quilt will catch my eye or attention, or when I’ll find something I know will be perfect for that new fabric I just picked up at a shop or quilt show, or that I might have been hoarding for a while until I find the perfect project.

This one’s all finished, so I can work on getting more ideas out of my head and into fabric for another quilt!

Contributed by Alison Schmidt one of our Technical Editors! Thanks Alison!

This entry was posted in Inspiration, Miscellaneous, Our AuthorsComments closed


  1. Posted December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    I found your site when trawling thru Amazon, it is not in my bookmarks. Fantastic, thinking outside the block is what I like. Quilting is fun, and the clever ideas from other ladies is fantastic. Have only been at it for 12 months and don’t have enough time in day.

  2. Posted November 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I like it so much! It turned out so well.

  3. Posted November 15, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    String quilts are one of my favorite – I especially love the ones that the pioneer women made in order to use every last little scrap. It is so fun to see what modern quilters do with this technique!

  4. Carolyn Champion
    Posted November 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Love your “wonky blocks”…never have tried them but I think I’ll have to give it try but will have to wait until all my other projects are under control (I didn’t say finished)!!

  5. Carolyn
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Love this quilt. I especially like the wonkiness set against the white borders. This inspires me to give these ideas a try.

  6. Posted October 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Nice post Alison. I really like your finished wonky log cabin quilt. I love the idea of sharing techniques and having some time in the meeting to try them out.

  7. Posted October 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous!!! I want to try a wonky log cabin soon :) looks like a lot of fun

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