Secrets for improv quilting: start with a road map (video)

Quilt details from Becoming a Confident QuilterSew two pieces of fabric together and see where it leads you.

Think that defines improvisational quilting?

For some, that approach may feel like a safe place to start. But if you’re like many quilters, no matter how cool an improv quilt may look, the thought of rules-free quilting can seem overwhelming.

But what if you could learn more about improv quilting in baby steps—just a few exercises to warm up to common improvisational techniques?

Becoming a Confident QuilterFor author Elizabeth Dackson—a self-proclaimed Type-A personality—the key to making your first improvisational quilt is to start with a road map: a start-to-finish pattern (yes, a pattern with instructions and everything!) that lets you try wonky quilt blocks with angled seams and shows you how to twist and turn blocks to get that carefree, improv look.

When we met up with Elizabeth at Quilt Market, she told us about one special project in her book, Becoming a Confident Quilter, that lets quilters try their hand at what seems like a spontaneous, unplanned kind of design. Her secret: it doesn’t have to be! See what she says about her quilt “Wonky Fences” in the video below.


Reading this in email? See the “Improv Quilting: with a Roadmap!” video at the Stitch This! blog or watch it on YouTube.


Cutting charts and placement guides are all provided—you get the look of spontaneity and the comfort of a predetermined plan.

Wonky Fences quilt
LEARN IT!
Try improv piecing in “Wonky Fences” (make the full-size quilt or the smaller version)

Improv quilting is just one of the techniques to try in Becoming a Confident Quilter. Check out more techniques that Elizabeth covers in her book:

Lattice of Stars quilt
LEARN IT!
Sew half-square triangles and Flying Geese units in “Lattice of Stars” (try the full-size or smaller version)

Deconstructed Beads quilt
LEARN IT! Embrace negative space in “Deconstructed Beads”

Wham! quilt
LEARN IT! Try paper piecing in “Wham!”

Find 14 skill-building quilt patterns in Becoming a Confident Quilter 

Stock up your quilting tool belt and see where it leads you!


Improv quilting: dive in, dip a toe, or stay ashore? Share your thoughts in the comments!


9 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I try to "dive in"….but I still need LOTS of practice!!!

    —Ann Barlament on July 30, 2014
  • I like to look before I leap. I’m just getting back into quilting and I have found that the patterns I see in my head don’t always work out. I may need to rethink to get something that pleases me.

    —Nancè W on July 30, 2014
  • To begin with it is "dip a toe", but once I get comfortable with it, then it is "dive in".

    —Tina on July 30, 2014
  • Yikes! I may try it though! Love the Deconstructed Beads.

    —Janie on July 30, 2014
  • Love the way to organize a scrappy quily by design. And the two-tone paper pieced block will be done first!

    —Lynne on July 30, 2014
  • It’s all so lovely. I’ll try to dip- time is hard to find most days.
    Thanks. 🙂

    —Terry on July 30, 2014
  • That Lattice Star quilt is beautiful! I am reminded of a quilt I made that did create a lattice like that too.

    —Bro AJK on August 1, 2014
  • God put me on this earth to finish a certain number of UFO’s. Right now, I am so far behind, I will never die.

    Meanwhile, I am dipping my toes into new projects, diving into works in progress, and leisurely finishing my UFO’s.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on August 1, 2014
  • It would be really nice to have the videos captioned by you at Martingale. I checked "transcript" at YouTube and it was horribly captioned—impossible to follow. Some of your quilters don’t have great voices, and in a shared office, or when someone has a slight hearing impairment, having text would be so helpful. (Even a headset is not always the solution.)

    Hi Linda, we appreciate your feedback about videos. Captioning is definitely something we will look into. Thanks for your comment! –Jenny

    Linda Carlson on August 4, 2014

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