Guide to Improv Modern Quilts

I’m excited today to be reviewing and giving away a copy of a gorgeous new quilting book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quiltersby Sherri Lynn Wood. (All images in this post courtesy of Sherri Lynn Wood and Abrams publishing. Affiliate link included.)


I think my first introduction to improv-quilting was seeing the Gee’s Bend quilts. They were so different from the traditional quilts I’d always been familiar with and they just spoke to me. There’s something so freeing about their imperfection and rule-breaking, and moving in their authenticity. Ever since then I’ve loved seeing more true improv-style quilts – in other words, quilts that break the traditional rules of quilting and grow without a formalized plan and pattern.


I’ve experimented with improv quilting a few times and I’m always surprised at how relaxing and inspiring it is to just sew fabric together with abandon. I need to do more of it. So I was excited to get to read Sherri’s new Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.

This book is a guide to the entire process of Improv Quilting – starting by discussing what Improv quilting is, tools, exploring color, a variety of improv-piecing techniques and then 10 different styles or “scores” to inspire you to create your own.

"Surf" / 36" x 49" / Heather Kojan

Here are a few variations on the Bias-strip “Petals” theme made by students in Sherri’s workshops. (Click on the images themselves to learn more about the individual makers.) This technique takes improv piecing and design to a new level, adding bias curves to your repertoire.
"untitled" / 58" x 54" /AmyDame

It’s fun to see the variety in shape and design from the individual makers – which is part of the beauty of improv-quilting: no two quilts will ever be alike. (Click here to see more of the images from the Bias Strip Petals collection)

"Indigo Bloom" / 73" x 73" / Latifah Saafir

This book has beautiful photography, great instructions and is FULL of inspiration to help you on your own quilt-improv journey.  It’s inspired me to do more improv sewing this summer (also a great way to use up scraps!) Visit Sew Mama Sew to read Sherri’s Top Ten Tips for sewing ruler free, to get a taste of what Improv piecing is like.

You can also visit these sites to hear more about the different techniques shared in the book and see more of the inspiring creations to come out of Sherri’s workshops. She’ll be teaching at QuiltCon again this year and I’d love to get to take one of her classes!

May 4: STC Craft – Score for Rhythmic Grid Gallery
May 4: Plaid Portico – Score for Strings Gallery
May 6: During Quiet Time – Test Quilter Amy Friend
May 8: Wise Craft Handmade – Score for Get Your Curve On Gallery
May 11: Studio Notes – Test Quilter Penny Gold
May 13: Quiltville – Score for Modern Block Improv Gallery
May 15: Peppermint Pinwheels – Test Quilter Stacey Sharman
May 18: Quirky Quilts – Test Quilter Kim McPeake
May 20: PoppyPrintCreates – Score for Patchwork Doodle Gallery
May 22: The Last Piece – Test Quilter Sara Fielke
May 25: Cauchy Complete – Score for Layered Curves Gallery
May 26: Diary of a Quilter – Score for Bias Strip Petals Gallery (you are >HERE<)
May 28: Getting Stitched on the Farm – Score for Improv Round Robin Gallery
May 29: Spoonflower – Score for Showing Up Gallery
May 30: Fresh Modern Quilts – Test Quilter Rossie Hutchinson

I have a copy of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters to give away to one of you! If you’d like to enter, leave a comment on this post. Giveaway open until Saturday, May 29 midnight MST.

Quilt Market inspiration

I attended International Quilt Market last weekend in Minneapolis. This is the trade show for the fabric/quilting industry showcasing new releases in fabric collections, patterns, books notions, etc. This is geared toward independent shop owners who are ordering stock for their shops and other professionals in the industry, therefore is not open to the general public.minneapolis quilt market 2015As you can imagine, the eye candy is amazing – and almost overwhelming. There are hundreds of booths over a giant convention center floor. In years past I’ve tried to provide some kind of cohesive analysis of up coming trends, styles, etc. This time I came home and got sick and just don’t have the head for it. But I did want to share many of the images I took before it’s too long after so you can get a flavor of what’s coming soon as well as some of the eye candy for yourself.

So here is the onslaught of pictures in no particular order:

allison harris cluck cluck sewHere is Allison Harris with her new collection for Windham Fabrics called Hazel. I love this one! Great prints and colors. And great new patterns from Allison as usual.

anna graham rainwalkAnother love was this new collection by Anna Graham for Cloud 9 fabrics called Rainwalk. Anna also has a beautiful new book,Handmade Style with a 23 different beautiful bag, quilt, and clutch patterns. Even a pattern for this bench!

emily Herrick Sodalicious Michael MillerHere is Emily Herrick with her booth for her new collection Sodalicious for Michael Miller fabrics. Emily won the award for Creativity. So well deserved!michael miller cotton couture violet craftEmily also made this amazing quilt on the right called Over the Rainbow. This is a free download pattern on the Michael Miller website. The amazing quilt on the left is called Jungle Abstractions by Violet Craft.Riley Blake Lori Holt Quilt MarketDetails from the Riley Blake both including Lori Holt’s Farm Girl Vintage quilt. That Lori is so amazing. Also cool from Riley Blake is their upcoming Sashing Stash collection – a “cheater” print in red/white, blue/white and black/white. This print can be cut apart and reassembled to make a variety of complex looking quilts, with much less effort. Comes out this fall.amanda herring riley blake la vie boheme  Here is Amanda Herring with her newest collection La Vie Boheme.

Four Corners Riley Blake

Also new from Riley Blake is Four Corners from Elizabeth and Liz Evans.

Backyard Circus Jodie CarltonThis collection was so fun. It’s called Backyard Circus by Jodie Carlton who is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. This cheerful fabric collection was so her. Loved it! It will be available later this summer from Fat Quarter Shop and elsewhere.2015-05-21Jodie is also the creator of patterns for these adorable softies.
Artisan Pat Bravo Art Gallery FabricsThis is Pat Bravo’s newest collection for Art Gallery fabrics called Artisan. I’m totally smitten with the colors – love the Indigo and mustard especially.
art gallery April Rhodes and Bari JaMore pretty from Art Gallery April Rhodes Bound and Bari J’s Anna Elise.

Jeni Baker art gallery fabricsCute Jeni Baker’s beautiful collection, Curiosities.

Cotton and Steel Spring Market 2015My personal favorite of the new collections from Cotton+Steel was Melody Miller’s Picnic (the apples!) I’m also loving the Cotton+Steel Christmas prints from the Tinsel collection.Pie Making Day RJR Fabrics Brenda RatliffA new collection from RJR Fabrics is Pie Making Day by Brenda Ratliff. Great retro-inspired prints in beautiful saturated colors. Great Blenders. On the right is a Modern Buzzsaw quilt from Fabulously Fast Quilts (yay!) by Karen.

DSC04227Gorgeous quilts made with Alison Glass prints from Andover Fabrics.

Robert Kaufman Chambray fabricI’ve already declared my love for Robert Kaufman’s Chambray fabrics. I’m so inspired by Heather Jones‘ quilt on the left. I want to use my chambray/denim scraps to do something similar.elizabeth Hartman Rhoda RuthNew from Robert Kaufman is Elizabeth Hartman’s new fabric collection, Rhoda Ruth. Gorgeous colors and fabrics. And isn’t that booth amazing?carolyn Friedlander appliqueCarolyn Friedlander was teaching her method for applique in her booth. At first I resisted sitting down to learn because I felt like I had so little time and I needed to hurry. It ended up being one of my favorite parts of my Market experience – learning to applique Carolyn’s way. I loved it!

tula pink True colors Free SpiritGorgeous color in Tula Pink’s booth for Free Spirit. Love her True Color’s collection.

DSC04219Lee Heinrich’s first booth at Market, selling her patterns. Lee has such amazing style.Moda Vanessa Christensen and Vanessa GoertzenAnd finally the Moda designer booths: Vanessa Christenson’s new collection of her Simply Colorful range. And Vanessa Goertzen’s new collection Gooseberry – adorable!2015-05-022Sherri McConnell and her cute daughter released their first fabric collection, Bright Sun. Also with a first collection, Corey Yoder’s Prairie. And darling Brigitte Heitland with her latest collection Paper & Ink.American Jane Sandy Klop moda fabricAlways love to see one of my perennial favorites, Sandy Klop – aka American Jane. She told me that I am her favorite stalker. (I am not making that up!) Check out that use of selvage for the airplane banner. So cute!Jen Kingwell My Small World QuiltAnd finally lovely Jen Kingwell – along with my friend Holly LeSue (part of the Stately Type duo that designed the Moda sewing T-shirts). Jen is so lovely. And don’t you love that picture of her sweet husband, Richard, holding her latest My Small World quilt? Inspiring. Post edit: Patterns for My Small World are available in the Spring 2015 edition of Quiltmania. There’s also a My Small World Quilt A Long you can find out more about here.

And if you made it to the end of this post, congratulations! You now have a vicarious taste of the overwhelming inspiration that is Quilt Market.

If you’re looking for new projects after all that fabric inspiration check out some of these Memorial Day Sales:

LadyBelle Fabric: sales include all bundles and kits on sale, Precuts 15% off and sale yardage starting at $2.95 per half yard. Ends Wed May 27

Southern Fabrics: 25% off all regular-priced items in stock with code MEMORIAL

Craftsy: big sale on fabric and supplies. Prices marked

Gift Certificate from Connecting Threads

A fun giveaway from online fabric, notions, and thread shop, Connecting Threads.

Quilting Fabrics, direct from the mill, starting at $5.96 per yard. Quilting Kits and Fabric Samplers with no charge for cutting. 100% cotton Quilting Thread, plus Quilt Books, Free Patterns and more.

As many of you may already know, Connecting Threads is an online retail shop specializing in a wide variety of sewing and quilting related items including notions, thread, batting, and patterns. They carry a wide variety of fabrics and specialize in producing their own in-house fabric collections which can then be marketed directly to the public at a much lower price point.


Some newly-released  collections include Line Dried (so cute!)

islandhopping and Island Hopping – both collections only $5.96 a yard!


and a new range of Batiks at only $7.96 a yard.

Connecting Threads also carries a wide variety of basics – called Quilter’s Candy. There’s a huge variety of basic solids in different shades for only $4.96 as well as basic prints and mottled for $5.96 per yard. The site is so easy to search and navigate. You can even search by color, scale, and subject. Lots of options.

The Connecting Threads website also includes lots of free stuff like tutorialspatterns, and other downloads. You can follow them on Facebook to keep up with all the latest releases and news.


Today I have THREE $25 Gift Certificates from Connecting Threads to giveaway to three of you! To enter, take a quilt trip to Connecting Threads and leave a comment back here, sharing an item or collection that looks appealing to you! Giveaway open until Tuesday, May 26 at midnight MST. Good luck! GIVEAWAY CLOSED


Rachell Reilly says I love the Quilters Candy Mirage blenders. And I really want to try those batiks! Their thread is great, their notions and books selections are expansive, prices great, and customer service is wonderful!

Carol g says Lots of great kits, especially bags! Thanks for the giveaway!

Brenda Ackerman says Isle of Enchantment is so beautiful. I will have to go back and spend a lot more time looking though!

Modern gray and white neutrals quilt

Finally sharing pictures of the finished neutrals quilt I’ve been working on. This traditionally styled quilt is made from only shades of white and gray fabrics, giving it a subtle modern feel.
Modern neutrals quilt - gray and white

The friend who this quilt was for, picked the palette herself. She has a very clean, neutral style and wanted something to complement their gorgeous home. (Where we shot these pictures.) She let me pick the design. Because the palette was so simple, I decided to go with a basic layout to – good old half-square triangles. You can never go wrong with HST’s, I tell you.

Modern Neutral Quilt

I originally planned to do a Broken-Dishes layout but once I got the blocks pieced, I tried it and didn’t love it. So I went even more basic with a simple light and dark layout and I LOVE how it turned out. Super simple but effective. A traditional design with a minimalistic color scheme to give it a modern look.

White and gray fabrics

You could use any neutral, low-volume/contrast fabric for a quilt like this. We were a little picky about shades. Seriously, who knew how many different shades of white there are! Well, if you’re an avid painter, you know. We were trying to keep all the whites and grays in the same tone. I also looked for fabric with texture- like chenille, linens, and wovens, to give the quilt some depth since the colors were so muted.


To create this specific quilt I cut ninety-nine 8″ x 8″ squares. I matched up a ‘light’ and a ‘dark’ square into pairs and used this method for making half-square triangle blocks. I squared-up the blocks to 7 1/2″ x 7 1/2″. Then laid out the blocks 9 across by 11 down for a finished throw-size quilt of 63″ x 77″. And of course, you could make this quilt any size you wanted.

Gray and white half-square-triangles quilt

The quilting was done by Melissa of Sew Shabby Quilting. I chose the Loop D Loop design. It was another perfect combination of traditional motif on a slightly larger scale to add to the quilt’s modern feel.Grey and white modern neutrals quiltI washed this quilt before I handed it off to make it soft and snuggly. I love the way it shrunk (we used 100% cotton batting to help with that) giving the quilt even more texture. I know I wouldn’t have come up with this color palette on my own, but now I’m itching to play with this muted palette again. I’m also happy to report the recipients have loved it. And that’s the reason we do all is cutting up fabric and sewing it back together, isn’t it?

Linking up to the Blogger’s Quilt festival and Finish It up Friday!

Easy Scrap fabric quilt block

This is a simple project for using fabric scraps. I’ve shared it previously as part of scrap-busting series but never on my blog so I figured while I was away at Quilt Market this weekend, it would be a good time.

This project is for a 15” x 15” mini quilt, but of course you can make use this concept to make any size quilt or quilt blocks. This is a great project for using all kinds of random scrap sizes. This method is called “Foundation-paper-piecing” and it’s fun because it allows for lots of improvisation and does not require perfect accuracy (best part!).
What you will need 
  • Assorted string-y scraps of your favorite fabric no wider than 1 1/2” and between 3” and 13 1/2” in length.
  • 17” x 17” piece of batting
  • 18” x 18” piece of fabric for backing
  • 1/6 yard piece of fabric for binding (or more assorted 2 1/2” wide scraps)
  • 4 pieces of paper 8 1/2” x 8 1/2”
  • Sewing machine
  • Rotary cutter and ruler 
I suggest pressing your fabrics (scraps included) before starting.
 Fold one of the 8 1/2” square pieces of paper diagonally down the middle. Lay one 13.5” long scrap down the center of the fold, using a small amount of glue at both corners to hold the first scrap in place. 
Audition various scraps by placing them on either side of the middle scrap, in diagonal rows, overlapping generously to compensate for seam allowance. Make sure you completely cover the paper. Carefully remove the scraps, keeping them in the right order so that it’s easy to grab the next one and sew. 
Turn stitch length on your machine to about 1 1/2. (The shorter stitches will perforate the paper more often, making it easier to tear the paper away later.) Put a new fabric scrap right sides together on top of the glued center scrap with right edges matched up. Sew through both fabric scraps and paper using a 1/4” seam allowance. Working from the front of the fabric, press both strips open and flat. 
Start at the center and work outwards toward the corners, sewing your strips in the order that you auditioned them.Repeat the process with additional scrap strips, completely covering the paper.
Turn the square over and with the size of the paper as the guide, use a ruler and rotary cutter to trim all four sides.
Turn paper over to the fabric side and using a ruler and rotary cutter, cut into four equal 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” squares. Carefully remove the paper backing by folding on the stitched lines to crease and then tear them off completely.

Repeat the process with the three 8 1/2” x 8 1/2” paper squares and remaining scraps to create a total of 16 mostly different 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” scrappy diagonal blocks.Layout the pieced blocks 4 across by 4 down. There are a variety of designs you can create by rotating the blocks. Here is a sample.

Sew blocks together using a 1/4” seam allowance into four rows of four blocks each. Press seam allowances to the left on rows 1 and 3 and to the right on rows 2 and 4. Sew rows together in order, nesting opposing seam allowances. 
Layer quilt top with batting and backing pieces underneath and quilt as desired (machine quilting tutorial here.) Using remaining fabric or scraps to create a 2 1/2” x 64” strip for binding the quilt.
You could easily make multiple blocks to make a bigger quilt, re-scale the sizes, use this panel for the side of a bag, etc. Since scraps can so easily get out of control, here are more tips for organizing and using your scraps.

Fort Worth Fabric Studio Gift Certificate giveaway

Today a fun sponsored giveaway from Forth Worth Fabric Studio.

FFort Worth Fabric StudioWFS is an online-only fabric store out of Texas, owned and operated by Jodie Heinold.  She has a fabulous selection of fabric collections from many of the major fabric manufacturers.  I love how easy it is to see and search the available fabric collections available. An easy-to-navigate site is such a bonus with me.

Michael Miller Ta Dot fabric bundle

Fort Worth Fabric Studio carries a huge selection of Kona Solids, Bella Solids, and Cotton Couture solids. They also specialize in creating custom bundles in a variety of palettes and themes including a weekly special called Friday Bundle Batch. I love this Michael Miller Blue Ta Dot bundle. They also carry one of my other favorite basics dots: Riley Blake’s Swiss Dots.

Mama Said Sew Dots from Moda

Some new collections now available in the shop include these Mama Said Sew Dots from Moda.


Also new is this 1930’s inspired collection by Kaye England called Spring Showers by Wilmington Prints.

Gardenvale Fabric Collection by Jen Kingwell for Moda fabrics

And one of my current favorites also in stock is Jen Kingwell’s Gardenvale (I’m working on a little project with Gardenvale right now!) It’s such a fun modern collection with a retro, scrappy vibe!

Another great feature – all Holiday and Halloween fabrics are together and easy to find.

Gift Certificate 25Today Jodie is giving away a $25.00 gift certificate to one of you lucky readers. To enter visit Fort Worth Fabric Studios find something you love and come back here to leave a comment telling me what it is. Giveaway open until Saturday, May 16 at Midnight MST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED


Melissa says  I’d pick up some Happy Haunting! I have a Halloween swap coming up

You can also follow Fort Worth Fabric Studio on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up on the latest arrivals and sweet deals!

(Thank you so much for your support of these sponsor profiles and giveaways. Having worked in a fabric shop, I know that it’s a lot of work and not a huge financial windfall – they’re typically run by people who have a passion for fabric and sewing and not because they’re in it to get rich. I’m so happy to support them by spreading the word about who they are and what they carry – each one has it’s own personality and specialties.  In return, I am so grateful for the support they give to this blog and making it possible for me to justify the many hours spent sharing here. :))