Improv Quilting: Adventures in Making It up as You Go

I started this quilt with absolutely no plan other than that it should include three Kona solids I had recently purchased, and that it needed to look great hung over the back of a sofa in my best friend’s Brooklyn apartment.

I didn’t know how big I wanted it to be. I didn’t have a clear idea of the blocks that I thought would look right. I just wanted to sit down and start sewing with my friend in mind. So, that’s what I did.

I grabbed the three Kona fabrics I wanted to use (turquoise, red, and white) and added more whites and muslins to the mix. I picked a couple of fabrics and just started sewing flying geese. I love flying geese because the block looks totally modern and invokes a sense of soaring freely. Then I tried a zig zag. Then diamonds. Then red and white checks. As I sewed, I chose color combinations and blocks that made me think of my friend.


After I started piecing a few random blocks, I set up my design wall and started cutting out some 10″ x 10″ blocks out of muslin. These base blocks became an improv design grid of sorts. Using this grid as a guide I could arrange my randomly generated pieces on the design wall. This allowed me to see where and how I needed to fill in the gaps and ultimately make a whole, square, sensible quilt about 60″ x 70″ in size.


You can see how some of the blocks are just slight modifications on the 10″ muslin block. In other places, I had some tricky arranging to do to span a piece across several squares on the grid. And some things that I pieced didn’t end up making the cut at all in the end.

Full frontal picture of improve quilt hanging on the wall

I did manage to sew myself into a corner a couple of times which required a little undoing and rearranging, especially with the giant red and white zig zag which I still have some doubts about. But, I loved just about everything about this process. There’s something so fulfilling about just cutting some fabrics and sewing. There was no pressure tied to a perfect vision of the end result. I loved the end result just the same.

The quilting was done by the wonderful folks at the New Pieces Quilt Store in Berkeley, CA. They did a fantastic job. The pattern is called “Bubbles” which also happens to be the name of my friend’s cat. Win!

Bonus Pic of Bubbles the Cat!

There are so many fantastic guides and lessons out there for improvisational quilting. It’s such an exciting time for quilters who want to try it. I made this quilt before I knew about all of the amazing techniques out there.

I can’t wait to try more!

Here are more pics from my attempt at an outdoor photo shoot, out on one of San Francisco’s beautiful piers. A HUGE thank you to Melissa O’Kane for being a co-photographer, assistant, and art director!

Melissa O’Kane: Best Sport and Photo Shoot Assistant EVER!
Impov Quilt Blowing in the Wind
Improv Quilt with Coit Tower





  1. Hi Laura, its Rob Weichert. Nice job on the quilt. It was good to see your face again. Jill recognized you right away. Good luck with the quilting!


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