Top US quilting and sewing blog, Tamarinis, features insights on the improvisational piecing. Click here now for all the info!! Related Stories Exploring the Basics: The Rail Fence Block Exploring the Basics - A Look at Paper Piecing Exploring the ...

 

Exploring the Basics - A Look at Improvisational Quillting and more...

Exploring the Basics - A Look at Improvisational Quillting

ETB Improvisation Badge (1)

Improvisational, or improv, piecing is very much like it sounds - improvisational with little planning, precision cutting or measuring.  Which can be loads of fun - or super stressful for those perfectionists in the crowd.

Improv piecing is near and dear to my heart.  I love its free form nature, lack of rules and expectations.  But as a designer, it presents challenges.  How do I embrace the freedom of improvisational piecing and yet create patterns that others can reasonably duplicate?  Ah....quite the dilemma.

Marys Contrary Garden

One way is to use an easy stitch and flip technique, similar to the style that is used in crazy quilt piecing.  For Mary's Contrary Garden, above, the stitch and flip technique is used with strips stitched in fairly random circles around a center unit to create free style blooms.  I explored stitch and flip in detail in an earlier blog post.  You can read that post here.

Marys Contrary Garden Crop

As you can see in the close up, all of the pieces are not uniform or perfect, but the overall effect, when viewed in the quilt, is of full blooms.  What fun!

And pretty easy for someone to reproduce - so it works perfectly for my purposes as a designer - to create a quilt AND a pattern that others can reproduce.

But what about going beyond stitch and flip and giving folks a bit more direction while embracing the freedom and flexibility of improvisational piecing?

Ah.....that is EXACTLY how guided improv was born!  I took the freedom and fun of improv piecing and provided quilters some guidelines (ah....the term makes sense now....guided improv!) so they could create a quilt that looks pretty darn close to what I originally created!

Great.  So what does THAT mean?  Guided improv?  Guidelines?  Yup!  I provide measurements and quilters use those measurements to make marks on their fabric that become the guidelines (aha!) for fabric placement.  Is it perfect? Nope!  Fabric can shift and slide.  Measurements can be off.  Guess what?!  It's ok!  It really really really is!  Your points will be sharp (which, honestly, is what most folks see first anyway), and the rest - well, it is just support for those lovely, long, sharp points!

Let's look at some guided improv projects!

18 Sound Waves

Sound Waves was the first guided improv pattern I created - and probably still one of my favorites!  The diamonds dance up and down the surface of the quilt, just like sound waves.  How did I create those 40" long pointed diamonds?  Paper piecing?  Nope.  Templates?  Nope!  Guided improv!

To the Point

To the Point was one of the next ones in the series.  Ok, I love this one too!  I love it's mid-century modern vibe and the fun overlapping and interwoven diamonds.

Pointed Comments Gold

Pointed Comments, the little sister of To the Point, came about because one of my pattern testers suggested I come up with a small project for folks that wanted to try out guided improv without making a large quilt.  So I did - and I have to say I adore this little beauty!  I've made five different versions so far!

Ok, so you may be thinking - diamonds. Is that all you can do with guided improv?  Oh no, dear friend - I've only touched on the tip of the iceberg!  

Compass Points Photo 1

I love the Mariner's Compass block - and most folks will either paper piece it or create it with templates.  But I got to thinking....hmmm...can I do it with guided improv.  Guess what?!  You can!  Compass Points is my first guided improv pattern using stars rather than diamonds.  What's next?  Wait and see!

So here's the thing.  Improvisational piecing isn't perfect.  Neither is guided improv.  It is, however, fun and fairly freeing. The technique does allow you to work with interesting angles and create lovely, sharp points without the stress or mess of templates and paper piecing.

Want to see it in action?  I created a short little video demonstration of how guided improv works.  

 

Want to try it for yourself?  I, of course, have patterns (I've shown you some above), and I even have a fun little kit - a "Try It" bundle that has a pattern and fabrics for making a placemat.  How non-threatening is that?  Just one little placemat to see how you like it (you're gonna LOVE it!).

Head over to Kate's blog to get her insights on the joys of the Rail Fence Block!

Like what you see here, and want to hear more from Tamarinis?

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Following is one way to demonstrate your interest in my projects, patterns, and partnerships.  Your comments are also GREATLY appreciated, and provide valuable feedback regarding what inspires you, as well as what you'd like to see explored in future posts.  

 

A Quilter's Alphabet - P

A QUILTERS ALPHABET P

 

Lavender Fields - Elementz BOM - Hi Res

Paper Piecing

Paper piecing, or foundation piecing, is a technique where you stitch your fabric to a paper foundation.  This is usually done to enable you to work with odd angles or shapes, and to achieve perfect points and matching.  Elementz, pictured above, is one example of a paper pieced project.  See more on paper piecing in my Exploring the Basics post on paper piecing.

 

Pressing

Pressing is the act of lifting the iron up and down to press a seam or block, usually with moderate heat and without steam.  It is generally considered better than moving the iron back and forth across the surface of the fabric, which can cause distortion.  You can read more about pressing in my Exploring the Basics post on pressing.

 

Pressing to the Dark

When pressing a seam on a quilt block, pressing "to the dark" refers to pressing so that the seam is under the darker of the two fabrics to minimize "shadowing", the dark fabric showing through the lighter fabric.

 

Head over to Kate's blog to get her insights on the joys and woes of paper piecing.

Like what you see here, and want to hear more from Tamarinis?

Like me on Facebook, follow me on Instagram, and sign up for my newsletter at www.tamarinis.com!  PS - I'm trying to get to the next milestone number on Facebook and Instagram (I am trying to get 2000+ followers) and would REALLY appreciate your help - so please click and follow!  Thanks so much!

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Following is one way to demonstrate your interest in my projects, patterns, and partnerships.  Your comments are also GREATLY appreciated, and provide valuable feedback regarding what inspires you, as well as what you'd like to see explored in future posts.  

 

      
 

Spring Clean Studio Blog Hop

 

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Just in time for spring cleaning, it's time for the Spring Clean Studio Blog Hop!  Once a year (at least!), whether the studio needs it or not (all said VERY tongue in cheek!), I participate in Cheryl's spring cleaning blog hop and clean up the studio!

Untitled design

Yes, things MAY have gotten a bit messy - just a bit.  There's nothing like a good clean up to get the creative juices flowing and also make some room

Untitled design (2)

Fabric is put away, quilts are folded and stored, and yes, even the floor was vacuumed!  I know - why don't I keep it this way all the time?!

The design wall at the end of the room is super fancy (not!).  It is simply batting thumbtacked to the wall, but it provides a great space for laying out quilts while I'm working on them.  The hanging system from Ikea that is at the top of the wall gives me a great secondary display for quilts for online lectures and workshops too!

I love the ease of the curtained shelving.  The white curtains provide a great temporary design wall (I often pin up blocks or small projects I'm working on) and a clean space for the eye to rest.  Having curtains over the cubbies where fabric is folded protects the fabric from light to help minimize fading.

 

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My favorite spot in the entire studio, though, is my cozy comfy chair on my beautiful colorful rug.  With everything put away neatly, it really shines.  What an awesome spot for binding quilts!

Now on to make a mess again and make some more quilts!

Be sure to peek into everyone else's studios and their clean ups!

Like what you see here, and want to hear more from Tamarinis?

Like me on Facebook, follow me on Instagram, and sign up for my newsletter at www.tamarinis.com!  PS - I'm trying to get to the next milestone number on Facebook and Instagram (I am trying to get 2000+ followers) and would REALLY appreciate your help - so please click and follow!  Thanks so much!

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Following is one way to demonstrate your interest in my projects, patterns, and partnerships.  Your comments are also GREATLY appreciated, and provide valuable feedback regarding what inspires you, as well as what you'd like to see explored in future posts.  

 

Exploring the Basics: The Rail Fence Block


ETB Rail Fence Block Badge

The rail fence block is a simple block - really.  It can be made up of two or more rows or rails - of equal or different size, straight or angled.  The traditional rail is made up of equal size rails that are parallel to each other - but really - almost anything goes.

So it sounds pretty simple - pretty "basic", huh?  And sure - it is.  And yet - don't discount the beauty and flexibility of simplicity.  Let's look at just a few rail fence options!

Some Types of Rail Fence Blocks

2 Rail 3 Rail

Rail Fence blocks can be as simple as two or three rails, or rows.  As I mentioned earlier, often the rails are the same size.  This makes the Rail Fence block a PERFECT block for beginners to work with.  All of your pieces are the same size AND you can strip piece them!  In fact, I suggested a basic Rail Fence block to perfect your 1/4" seam (read more here!)

4 Rail 5 Rail

You can, of course, have MORE rails.  Go crazy.  Above is a four rail block and a five rail block.  In each of the examples so far, each rail has been different, which makes them perfect for using up scraps!  But....can you use fewer fabrics with more rails?  Of course!

5 Rail

Just look at these two lovelies!  Both are five rail blocks, with just two fabrics each.  Placement of light and dark, bright and bold, can totally change the look of the block!  Still not impressed?

4 patch Rail

Now look what happens when you put FOUR four rail blocks together!  Fun, right?  Notice what happens when you shift the placement of lights and darks in the same block - the focus and shape change a bit.  But you are still working with that easy peasy block!

Some Rail Fence Quilt Layouts

2 Rail Quilt

So we looked at some basic rail fence block options.  Now let's explore JUST A BIT some uses of those blocks in a quilt!

Above are two different layouts using the first rail fence block we viewed, the two rail block.  Ah....interesting how simply rotating the blocks can provide a completely different look.

So what happens when we use different Rail Fence blocks?

3 Rail and 4 Rail Quilt

As the blocks increase in "complexity" (more rails), the impact and overall look changes completely!  

The quilt on the left uses all 3 Rail blocks, with every other block rotated.  The quilt on the right uses the same alternate block rotation, BUT every other block is a 4 Rail block.  It adds some more interest, doesn't it?

5 Rail Quilt

As the number of rails increase, the design possibilities increase too!  Both of the quilts above are five rail blocks, but look at how the color placement makes such a difference in how the overall quilt looks.

Mixed Rail On Point Quilt

What if we mix things up AND put the blocks on point?  Ah....now things RELLY get interesting - and fun!

Five Rail On Point Quilt

With many of these examples, I've rotated alternate block placements (straight set and on point).  But look at the quilt on the left.  The blocks are on point, but the the rails for both block color versions in the quilt on the left are all going the same way - but the pink rails provide a break in the action, adding more interest.

You are starting to see all the terrific options the Rail Fence block provides, aren't you?

Four Rail Block On Point Quilt

Let's look at more more (but there are MANY more options!).  Remember that block that was made up of four Rail Fence blocks?  Look at what happens when you put THAT block on point?  And how color placment COMPLETELY changes the overall pattern.  Fun fun fun!

As I mentioned, I've just scratched the surface on the possibilities the Rail Fence block provides you!  Want to see more?  Head over to my Instagram feed and check out the #railfenceblockchallenge and #railfencequiltblock posts from myself and a bunch of other designers, and see how everyone reimagined the Rail Fence block.  I think you are going to be inspired to do some reimagining of your own!

Rail Way

Here's my rail fence block - reimagined!  I love how the skinny rails provide a bright pop of color against the blue background!

Let me know which is your favorite project from the Instagram Rail Fence block challenge!

Head over to Kate's blog to get her insights on the joys of the Rail Fence Block!

Like what you see here, and want to hear more from Tamarinis?

Like me on Facebook, follow me on Instagram, and sign up for my newsletter at www.tamarinis.com!  PS - I'm trying to get to the next milestone number on Facebook and Instagram (I am trying to get 2000+ followers) and would REALLY appreciate your help - so please click and follow!  Thanks so much!

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Following is one way to demonstrate your interest in my projects, patterns, and partnerships.  Your comments are also GREATLY appreciated, and provide valuable feedback regarding what inspires you, as well as what you'd like to see explored in future posts.  

 

A Quilter's Alphabet - O

A QUILTERS ALPHABET O

 

Opposing Seams

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You may have hear "press to the dark".  So let's imagine a four patch block - like the one above.  If you pieced with a light and a dark square, and pressed to the dark, then when you sew the two sections together, you will have opposing seams.

The term opposing seams refers to the direction the seams are pressed when two or more units are joined.  This is an important element to not only help your seams "nest" or match, but to also reduce bulk and help your block lay flatter.  (Yes you can press seams open, but that's another topic!).

 

Overcast Stitch

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An overcast stitch is a stitch that goes across the seam line or the raw edge of the fabric.  In the above image, the overcast stitch shown is a blanket stitch, which follows the raw edge of the applique and is also on top of the appliqued shape.  It is often used as an embellishment and/or to secure applique shapes.

Overcast stitches can also cross over from the applique shape and the background.  Satin stitch and zig zag stitch are two more examples of an overcast stitch.

 

Visit Kate's blog to get her definition of on point setting and one patch quilts.

Like what you see here, and want to hear more from Tamarinis?

Like me on Facebook, follow me on Instagram, and sign up for my newsletter at www.tamarinis.com!  PS - I'm trying to get to the next milestone number on Facebook and Instagram (I am trying to get 2000+ followers) and would REALLY appreciate your help - so please click and follow!  Thanks so much!

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Following is one way to demonstrate your interest in my projects, patterns, and partnerships.  Your comments are also GREATLY appreciated, and provide valuable feedback regarding what inspires you, as well as what you'd like to see explored in future posts.  

And did you know?  I travel and teach!  Contact me to schedule a trunk show and/or workshop!