Tag Archives: improvisitional piecing

“Flyover Country”—Scrap Happy Day

My local quilt guild has some very interesting challenges. This year we were given a piece of vintage fabric, of which we had to use 1 square inch in a 9 x 12 inch quilt.

The theme was something we had done without this year. As an introvert, I have adapted pretty well to isolation But there was one major disappointment: my daughter’s bargain tickets became null when Covid caused airlines to cancel flights. So airplanes would be my motif. I consulted my reference book for ideas.

I found 9 blocks that showed airplanes and several more designs named “Airplane” but were not representational. I chose #904, Airways (Washington), attributed to McKim’s Patchwork Parade of States. A square block. I had a rectangle to fill and also wanted to do more than make a block. I pondered making a city across the bottom, but couldn’t make the combination work. So the idea remained dormant till the deadline was a month away.

I thought of how many times I’d heard a comment about how land looks like a quilt from above. The background would be “made fabric,” an idea from Victoria Findley Wolfe.

So I went to my crumb jar and pulled as many green, gold, and tan bits as i could find.

Not nearly enough. So I dug deep into my scrap bin for baggies of sorted crumbs. Yes, once in the past I actually sorted what I had on hand.

And started sewing.

When I had some sizable pieces, I made templates and tried to fit them on the pieces. Most pieces needed additions.

That process took way longer than I expected. I think the basic idea of “made fabric” is that you mindlessly attach pieces when you don’t have any other ideas, then when you need it, it is ready. Maybe someday.

Finally the piece was finished and ready to mail. It is amazing how quickly a 9 x 12 inch piece quilts up. Time was absorbed not only by making fabric but also by working with the odd angles. I even basted and pinned—gasp! And ripped because when it comes to angles, I am spatially challenged.

So here it is.

Flyover Country. 9 x 12

It’s all scraps, batting and backing. At last a use for small pieces of batting other than making Frankenbatting.

If you want to check out other scrappy projects, find the Scrap Happy list on Kate’s blog : https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/

And if you want to see the finished scrappy Surprise Jacket, click on “ previous post” below.



Filed under quilting

More Progress on the Riley Blake Piece

I had barely stopped typing the previous post until I started arranging the curves.

Here is the first attempt.

RB first try

It looked hodge-podgey, especially the larger wedges. And I did give some thought to the placement of the darker red–sewing was too challenging. To sew more wedges or rearrange? Rearranging won, and after some tweaking, a second try–pretty close to the final version.

RB second try

More continuity here, but still some awkward spots where the larger wedges just end.  And finally the top, half sewn

RB top half finished

I solved the awkward ends by continuing the wedges with print instead of background, top left and bottom right in this view (which is the quilt on its side).

In the future I think I’d save large wedges for a larger quilt, and I’d make twice as many wedges as I’d think I wanted. It is easier to pull out extras and use them somewhere else than to shift from arranging back to sewing. Even though I’d not attached all of them, the chunks I’d sewn needed some pieces ripped off and other chunks were in need of pieces being added. No way to tell in advance.

I spent some time pondering the order to sew.  I located long, doable curves without Y-seams. Then started assembling the smaller pieces into units that made up the curves.  SLW suggests appliquéing the larger curves, but I prefer piecing. So far none of the curves has been too hard to piece. I had more trouble with the smaller, sharper curves.

I had planned to bind with the background fabric; however, I don’t think I’ll have enough large pieces–maybe not even enough small pieces to add up to 250 inches. I have a darker teal and a couple reds in the Riley Blake confetti cottons, the required solids. I can think about the choice while finishing the piecing and while quilting. You can make suggestions if you like. Whether I use suggestions or not, I always enjoy exploring options.

Linking with Needle and Thread Thursday and Finished or Not Friday (buttons in sidebar).


Filed under design, quilting

Progress on Riley Blake Challenge

As I said earlier, I plan to use this challenge as a chance to play with Score #9, “Get Your Curve on” from Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. To that end I have made my three sets of curves.

Riley Blake wedges sewn

This is not an arrangement, only an attempt to see how much space I can cover–I need to decide between 40 x60 and 50 x 70.  I think the latter is quite doable. The aqua row is made from three 18-inch WOF strips of three fabrics. The aqua + red from three 9-inch WOF, and the red from 4 1/2 strips from half of three of the gifted fat eights. The 18-inch arch would not have occurred to me without the book–good thing I reread the chapter before cutting; I do appreciate how it fills space.

I have a bit of geometry to learn–not by studying but by cutting and sewing. I was surprised at how quickly the short wedges formed a circle. Most of the wedges were an inch different between top and bottom.  The aqua and the aqua + red wedges were cut variously, ranging from 1/4-inch difference to 1-inch difference. (Measurements are approximate.) I think adjusting the length alone would have adjusted the sharpness of the curve.

The plan in my head had been to outline curves with red bias. Now that I see it laid out, I am thinking I might want to keep the more pastel look. Time and rearranging will tell.

Eventually I’ll link with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters (button in sidebar–scroll down to fourth Tuesday post); however, I hope it is with a later stage!

Challenge fabrics sent here.

Fabrics I added here.


Filed under quilting

The High Cost of Free Fabric

Seems like forever since I’ve added enough fabric to warrant a stash report, but at long last, a shopping day!

It started with the six free fat eighths provided by Riley Blake for this year’s MQG challenge (Creative Rockstar line). In the past,a requirement has been to add print fabrics only from the same line as the freebies and any solids.  This year the solids had to be Riley Blake cotton confetti.

Well, I don’t label my solids,so whenever a brand is required, I must shop. And shop I did.

Riley Blake additions

And of course some additional of the prints. The four small prints are the same as some in my six free pieces; the multicolored triangle print is for the backing. The varying shades of solid have two functions. I like using near shades/tints. And I couldn’t be sure what I saw on my monitor really matched what I had in my hand.

I did try to shop at my local quilt shops. But luckily I phoned before traveling, and none carried the challenge fabrics or the cotton confetti solids. I suppose they can’t keep up with all the challenges that are out there. I might have bought more variety in prints, but limited myself because the shop had a one-yard minimum cut. Otherwise I might have bought the two gray variations–I’d had an idea for using them. But they were not essential.

The plan I have so far involves improv. I’ve been wanting to try Score #9, Get Your Curve On, from Sherri Lynn Wood‘s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. This seemed a good chance to begin. So no sketch this time. I have nothing planned except which colors will go in which rows, which is background, and an overall size (either 45 x 45 or 40 x 60, whichever works with what I get).

This quilt is due April 30 so I can dawdle a tiny bit.

I’ll be linking with Molli Sparkles’ Sunday Stash Report someday (Molli is on vacation). Here is the button so you can see past posts.

The button isn’t working today–it was back when I posted. Here is another link.


Filed under design

Floating Squares, Take Two

That city fabric

city fabric

Utopia/Frances Newcombe/Art Gallery Fabrics

has been patiently waiting to be put into a second quilt. And I had a plan.

City 2 Sketch

It will be rotated so that the strips are lengthwise, but this is easier to read.

My first attempt at Floating Squares (Score #1 in Sherri Lynn Wood’s Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters) was to be the background for the first quilt from the fabric (Skyline), but I didn’t like it for that design, so saved it for this next one.

Floating Squares 1

Blue was going to be the filler color, but I ended up liking the mint green better. That is easy enough to adjust.  So, according to plan, this would  be extended to become the first (bottom in sketch) strip. ETA This photo reminded me of this piece, which did not show up in the WIP pile, so I went on a hunt. I have tried many places, logical and illogical, but no sitings yet. I’m guessing it got swooped up when I was putting some other fabric away and it will be years before I see it again. Sigh.

The next strip of four flowers was inspired by a detail in the fabric. (Four because that was how many I felt like making. I could add if necessary.)

They would have either plain background between them or more floating squares.

Then a row of strings (Score #2) based on the bright colors in the fabric, then the fabric piece and another row of strings before the last background row.

First problem. In the left overs, I didn’t have a piece of the Utopia fabric 20 x 70–neither wide enough nor long enough. A lot of mental quilt designing followed that realization, but nothing felt right. So it sat and I did other projects and read books galore–not all were worth blogging about.

Then an idea. Abandon rows. Abandon strings. Maybe abandon flowers. Just do Floating Squares intermingled with large squares of Utopia. To that end I worked this afternoon. And this is what I have to show for it.

Floating Squares City

Not the final arrangement, of course

Not much to show for an afternoon of work. But you can see each of the three color combinations.

Sherri suggests limiting palette–I modified that. Where she says two fabrics plus a filler I said two colors plus a filler (and even the filler is a little bit pieced–the blue and mint).

I’m still aiming for 50 x 70. No danger of running out of fabric. Could run out of steam, though. Or really feel that the design says, “No more.” Time will tell.

I’ll be linking with Moving It Forward Monday (button in sidebar). Even though it is a design floor, linking with Design Wall Monday.

6/28/16 ETA: The time is right–linking with AHIQ (button in sidebar).



Filed under design, quilting, Uncategorized

Piecing Big Curves Without Losing Width

My friend, Tam, and I met for a sew day. She had a patchwork top that she wanted to add curves to, but couldn’t spare any width. She had a plan, but I was a skeptic. So we tested it on stash fabric that can become a charity quilt, and width won’t matter on it. Spoiler: She was right. The method is a bit fiddly, but when a detail is important, fiddly is worth it.

We laid the curved piece (green) on top of the whole fabric (print)–both right sides up–and marked along the curve.

curve-first mark

We used a hera marker because the fine line helped accuracy. Next we marked a second line half an inch UNDER the green.

curve--second mark

Note: we took photos from both sides of the table, so you can’t tell from the above that the second line was under the green. The measuring gadget helped accuracy, but any ruler would do.  We could not make continuous lines because the straight line of the ruler didn’t match the curve. So we made many single marks and joined them. Again with the hera marker, though I had to go back and use chalk on the cutting line. Tam’s eyesight was better than mine–she needed only the hera marked line.

Before cutting, we marked registration marks to aid in matching the two pieces.

curve first dot

We laid the green back matching the line drawn along the edge. The first mark was a short right-angle line across the cut line, marking both fabrics. We started with an erasable marker that was aqua–it showed up fine on the green but minimally on the print, so we supplemented with chalk. So that we wouldn’t confuse the marks, we used one perpendicular line, then two, then three, then back to one, etc.

So that we could see the mark when joining the pieces and when stitching, we needed a second mark on the cutting line under the green.

curve--inner dot

These too were 1,2,3,1 … little perpendicular lines.

Next we cut along the line that was half an inch from the edge under the green (had it been lying there). (If there is any mistake I’d make doing this, it would be to measure the second line the wrong way or to cut on the wrong line. I paid close attention, and Tam helped keep me on the correct line.)

curve-cutting line

We used scissors; it would have been possible, freehand, with a rotary cutter–whichever helps you be most accurate.  You can see how wide the chalk line is, so had I been able to use only the hera line, it would have been more precise.

The green is returned and placed edge to edge–right sides up. One will be turned so that they are right sides together.  Whichever piece has the concave curve (or the most concave curves) goes on top. In this case, the green had two long concave curves and the blue only one small one.

curve--concave on top

I am pointing to the blue convex curve.

Next, because marks were so hard to see on the print, we pinned at the registration marks.

curve--matching dots

The three little lines are clear on the green and the white barely visible on the print.

Notice that the pieces don’t look like they fit.


However, only about an inch has to fit at a time.

Sew a quarter-inch seam.


Had the marks shown better, I would have done my preferred no-pin method–it gives more flexibility in aligning the two pieces. When doing no-pin, I keep looking ahead to see how close the registration marks are and tug gently on the piece that looks like it might fall short. The gentler the cut curve, the easier it is to sew.

Press from the top, whichever way the seam wants to lie.


Finished, it lies almost flat.

curve--lies flat

The first curve lay perfectly flat–no photo, kinda like the fish that got away. This bit of pooch will quilt out. I think it happened because of the S-curve, the change in convex/concave. Or it could be because my chalk mark wasn’t as precise as Tam’s mark with the hera marker on the first curve.

But what is important is that the edges meet.

curve--edges even

Here is the finished section to show how large the curves.

curve--finished piece

Large curves, though unwieldy, tend to be gentler, so easier to manage.

A few more sections, also with curved piecing, and it will be a child sized top.




Filed under quilting, tutorial, Uncategorized

Skyline (was City Quilt)Finished

With this finish, my three for the local show are completed. Two days before the deadline! The light wasn’t perfect, but good enough for some photos. I’ll take more when it comes back home. Or at the show. A hanging photo instead of a floor photo, what a concept.

Without further ado, the front:

Whole quilt

49 x ~68

And back:

Skyline back

This was my first attempt at quilting large sections of negative space. I’m not totally unhappy with the results, but there are some changes for future quilts. I really like the “cobblestone path” as a divider and wish I’d used it in all three dividing places.  The chain of spirals with echoes ends up looking too much like roses and breaks the feel of the rest of the quilt. However, they are fun to make.  And when I use  spirals again, I’ll have some tight quilting next to them so they puff out more. And I am not sure there is enough contrasting texture between the various sections–circuit board, elongated meander, and waves of checkerboard–someday I’ll learn the real name–and within the “building silhouette” section between the circuit board background and the “silhouette.” I have trouble planning quilting because I can’t quite see it in my head, and even less so in a sketch. I guess all I can do is quilt a lot and get a better sense of what motifs look like by doing.

One thing I find ironic: Modern batting can take unquilted distances up to ten inches, but current trends (and my taste) call for closer quilting! The batting was Warm and Natural, cotton and poly (I think 80/20–I am too lazy to get up and look at the label.)

There were a few tucks and puffs, but nothing like were in the last quilt.  A big part of that was the batting. But here I also did all quilting from the center out, even when it meant wadding 3/4 of the quilt under the sewing machine harp. Even the long dividing line of cobblestone path. I did have to mark it since I’d not be able to see the whole quilt as I stitched.

Some detail shots of the quilting

Quilt history

The fabric purchased soon after Christmas

A start at background–rejected for this quilt but on hold for another (March)

Second beginning (March)

Top finished (April)

One more sideways view–not so dramatic a difference as the last quilt, but oh well . . .I like photos.

skyline sidwaysL

Linking with Free Motion Mavericks and Needle and Thread Thursday. And if I remember, with TGIFF ((buttons in the sidebar but link at celtic thistle) and Finish it Up Friday (link provided 4/29/16)

5/24/16. ETA Linking with AHIQ since the technique is improv even though the design came first. And the quilting is improv.

7/5/16 Edited to add a hanging view of the whole quilt. The photo I took at the quilt show wasn’t good enough, but here is one from guild’s May meeting Show ‘n Tell–about 2/3 down the page.


Filed under quilting

City Quilt Renamed “Skyline”

The top is finished. I’m working on use of space and balance. Not sure I’ve captured it in this one.  On the sketch the 3/4 size partial petal looked okay; here is looks like it could have been larger. And I never did comment on the reason for the partial petals. To get the amount of the fabric print that I wanted into one petal would have been too big to add anything else other than dinky little things that didn’t seem to fit the whole. So one night before sleep hit, I got the idea of half petal shapes.

Skylne top

50 x 68

Here’s hoping those bumps quilt out.

I love open spaces, but I never seem to buy enough fabric. This background had to be pieced more than I had intended. While looking at it and pondering how to piece either of the background ideas I had sketched, I came up with another idea and went with it. The idea was to echo the shadowy/misty silhouette in the print. You can see the lower one in the above photo. And here is the upper one.

City background detail

Now my question is how to quilt it.  Do I ignore the piecing to make it even more subtle or do I draw attention to it with different quilting from what is in the green? Let me know your opinion in the comments.

Linking with Nina Marie’s Off the Wall and Em’s Moving it Forward–buttons in sidebar.







Filed under design, quilting

City Quilt Progress

The two half petals are sewn. Here is the first one.

city large segment

35 x 31 inches

You may remember a red bottom line in the original plan. The more I looked at it, the less I liked it. I wanted enough red for interest, but not enough to usurp the red in the fabric. As I auditioned various colors, I realized the dark blue echoed the narrow blue and black lines in the print, liked it and went with it.

Then to decide on the size of the second one I did some rough sketching.

This is with the smaller half petal about 3/4 of the larger one. I like that sizing, but am not sure yet of the placement. That will be easier to decide with the real pieces. I have often found that my mental enlargement with color doesn’t accord with what the pieces look like after they are sewn. Spaces and proportions that work in a small sketch don’t in the real piece.

I plan for the quilting lines to follow the background piecing lines, so I needed to think about options for the pieced background here as well. From many sketches, I chose these two.  Sorry the ray lines on the right one are so faint. I am leaning toward the curving lines on the left, anyway, except I think there may be more space needed between the two shapes than I like.

So out comes the “design” sofa-bed (and there goes my living space till this part of the project is completed). I put tape on the mattress to mark the desired finished size and began to work with the layout.

city layout 1

Now to work on spacing and background. See you later.


Filed under design, quilting, Uncategorized

Finally Beginning the City Quilt

You may remember my dilemma on how to use the city fabric that I liked so much. I’ve been doing a lot of mental quilting on that project these last couple of weeks. And now I have three plans, and possibly enough fabric to make all three. Since I’ve not sketched them, there are no photos.  In due course . . .

I began by starting to make Sherri Lynn Wood’s Score #1, Floating Squares for background.

Floating Squares 1

I hadn’t worked long till I decided that the very light and the very dark (relatively speaking) contrasted too much for the idea I had in mind, so I cut more squares of the two medium value (again relative) and added another of almost the same value. I stitched some, but didn’t get a photo. As I thought about the long curving quilting I was planning, it seemed the squares would clash too much, even with the near values.(I know, sometimes the contrast of curves and squares is a good thing, but I couldn’t picture it here.) So these pieces will return later for one of the three planned tops that is more rectangular.

Moving from background to figure, I pondered Score #8, Bias Strip Petals, and #9, Get Your Curve On, where the latter involves these instructions: each curve requires varying widths cut from pieces of the same length. I want varied lengths as well in my finished curve, so I cut 8 1/2 x 5 inch rectangles of colors and attached a piece of background to each. That way I can work with fabric of the same length while getting my variety.

city pieces

I oversized the pieces so I could move them around and decide as I went just how much background to keep. Before stitching two together, I’d trim to the 8 1/2 length. (I’ll admit, I did use the ruler for that part–but I cut the wedge shapes freehand when that time came.)

I laid out a first approximation to see how I liked the color spread and whether I had enough pieces to make a large enough curve to show a big enough piece of the focus fabric. The top curve will use Score #9, the bottom #8.

city first approximation

Next I began cutting and stitching wedges, deciding on the width of each piece, the amount of slant, and the length of each color one by one. It made for a lot of jumping up from the sewing machine to lay out sewn portions and ponder the next. (I don’t think it would have taken much more  time to make and use templates. But I have long gotten over expecting improv to be a short cut.)

And here is where I am now.

city curve 1 stitched

I have remedied one seam with a tuck to get the arc to lie flat–I think the bumps are from folded background fabric under the arc. Next move is to decide just where I want it on the focus fabric, then to cut and sew the big curve. Then to make the half petal bottom.  I plan to make two of these partial petals, this one on the right and one for the left. Once that is done I’ll lay it out and decide if it needs more than two–there is a design consideration to use odd numbers. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll follow it.

Linking with Needle and Thread Thursday, button in the sidebar. (I think I’ll have more to show by the time the new AHIQ (Ad Hoc Improv Quilters) rolls around, but that improv linky button is also in the sidebar so you can check this month’s entries out.





Filed under design, quilting, Uncategorized