Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest BLOCKER today is Jennifer with Improv Piecing

Hey y'all! I'm so excited to be back at Madame Samm's. Such an honor to be here sharing my tutorial with you. Thanks Samm for inviting me!!

For those of you that don't know me, I'm a Southern girl, a former teacher, and now a Home Engineer (aka Mama.) I'm a self-taught quilter, and am slightly obsessed with quilting, sewing, fabric and creating. I blog about my creations and share what I've learned with the world at Ellison Lane Quilts.  I'd love for you to pop by for a visit.

So today I'm sharing one of my favorite techniques.  I LOVE improv piecing- it is so liberating and really fun. No such thing as a mistake and there are no points or seams to line up. You can't go wrong! It's quilting freedom! 

Here's what you do first: put on some music- choose something funky and fun- something upbeat. It will enhance your improv creativity.

Now supplies:
fabric (scraps and small pieces are fine) at least 1.5" wide work best.
rotary cutter
ironing board
sewing machine

Here are key points to remember: 
You are going to create a block by making several small parts and putting them together.
  • wonkiness makes things interesting
  • choose pieces of fabric in various lengths and widths and shapes
  • don't be afraid to trim pieces first and just go with it
  • add some neutrals 
  • sew with a 1/4" seam
  • choose one piece and jump in- get started
  • press seams to the side after each addition 
  • trim your blocks at an angle before you add more pieces
  • sew together smaller pieces to make longer and larger pieces to add visual interest
  • step back and take a look at your pieces to see what color or fabric you need at add next
  • add pieces at an angle 
I set up an ironing station right beside my cutting/sewing table so I can easily and quickly press my blocks as I go.

Keep building your blocks until you have the size you want. Add additional pieces as need to have a big enough piece to square off. My finished block is 8.5" x 8.5."

I had to add small pieces at the corners- no worries- just add them on, square up and trim.

I've found that small scale prints and patterns along with solids work best.

You can also work in a color family for a more harmonious look.

So what do you think? Ready to give it a try? Don't be afraid- just jump on in!

Another tutorial of mine that uses improv piecing is my Wonky Log Cabin block:

If traditional piecing is more your style, you can check out my Starflower block tutorial too.

I also have a Christmas Tree block, perfect for the holidays.

Thanks again Madam Samm for inviting me to share a tutorial with y'all.
Please come by Ellison Lane anytime!


  1. Thanks so much Jennifer for sharing this block! This is definitely a great way to use up scraps if you have them! Definitely a block worth saving all size scraps! :)

    Thanks for sharing this block, I'm pinteresting this! Hope you do not mind. ;)

  2. My kind of block - thanks for sharing Jennifer :)

  3. This looks like a fun block as well as some of the other block tutorials you have ,I'll be checking them out. Thanks

  4. Yes......what a nice way to use up all your scraps!
    Thank you for sharing.
    Gun, Sweden

  5. Hi Jennifer thanks for the wonderful tutorial on this block...I am a crazquilter and will be giving this one a try, it would be perfect for that. I am a member of your blog already and it is awesome....thanks so much

  6. Jennifer, all the designs look like so much fun! And the Christmas Tree block is perfect for a quick gift. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Great improv tute- thankyou Jennifer

  8. I love foundation piecing. Some greta blocks to play with. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post.

  9. Colorful this is. Thank you Jennifer, I do follow you and I have to say you are amazing. This is easy and bright. ps of course I follow you too MSamm always have. Great start to my day!

  10. Jenifer, I love, love, love your bright blocks. Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. I love string quilts as I call them, but haven't made one with your bright colors - how perfect that one would be for one of my grandchildren who thinks the brighter the better. :) blessings, marlene

  12. Beautiful Jennifer, this is just my style, thank you.

  13. I've always wanted to do "improv" piecing... I think I'll have to give this a try!

  14. Great post! Love your whimsical use of bright solids.

  15. I follow Jennifer at Ellison Lane...love her tutorials! I just put that Christmas tree block on my list! :)

  16. Oh Jenn. That was really awesome. My favorite part is the black in with the solids!!
    Great tutorial and something I have struggled with.

  17. Love this technique for getting rid of scraps. Especially love the tree and star blocks.

  18. Love this improv tutorial, thank you for sharing it. I need get out of my comfort zone and try this.

  19. All of these blocks are wonderful!! I love the Christmas tree and the star, too!!! Thanks for sharing the tutorials with us!! :)

  20. Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I love all of the blocks and I was staring, yup, just standing there staring at my small pieces scrap basket yesterday thinking "I need to use these, there are some nice pieces in here". Your 'Improv block' is perfect for using some of them up. BUT, I have to tell you that your Starflower block is calling my name (loudly) and the Christmas Tree block as well. I hopped over to your blog and read the tutorials...wonderful, I had to add your blog to my favorites so I can keep track of all the great projects you share. Thank you again! Hugs...

  21. Thanks for the improv block tutorial! I already follow your great blog.

  22. Love it, loving those solids! Thanks for a great tut!

  23. Hi Jennifer, I have been following your blog for a while. Love the StarFlower block. I think this crazy block today would be great in my oh, so beige livingroom. It could use a big shot of colour.

  24. Thanks for this great tutorial Jennifer. I really need to try this technique. :-)

  25. OH Jennifer, you make it look so easy! I have a question--the last time I made one of these I ended up with a y-seam. does that ever happen to you? what do you do with it?
    I love your bright, happy colors! Always a pleasure to see a tutorial of yours!

  26. Excellent tutorial, Jeniffer! Love improve piecing.

  27. Awesome! Love the tutorial. Will work great for my leftover stash of fabrics!


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