Tag Archives: improv curves

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The products featured in this post were given to me by Aurifil, OLFA, and Michael Miller.

I'm excited to share that I'm today's stop for the final 2020 installment of the Aurifil Slice and Stitch Challenge. Way back in November of 2019 I signed up as one of the Aurifil Artisans to participate. I was very excited about the Color Builder thread boxes that Aurifil had recently released. (They are such a feast of color!)

For the challenge I received the Florence Brown Aurifil Color Builder with three large spools of 50wt in Ermine (#2312), Toast (#6010), and Chocolate (#2360), a trio of Michael Miller Cotton Couture fat quarters in Khaki, Ginger, and Brown, an OLFA 28mm rotary blade (with refills), and a 24” x 36” OLFA cutting mat in Navy.

I enjoy planned improv piecing. I start with a set of rules or guidelines. This might be a color palette, a tool, a technique, or something else. My color palette and tools were provided for me. I knew I wanted to add a little bit of another color. Eventually, I landed on improv curves as my plan. (Scroll down for a mini tutorial on how I cut and sew improv curves.)

Initially I was considering a table runner with improv curves in khaki, ginger, and brown and thought I'd appliqué on some leaves in fall colors. I'm not terribly fond of the process of appliqué, so I pivoted to just improv curves. I eventually settled on a two-sided square table topper, because I had just enough fabric to make it entirely from my three fat quarters.

To complement the curved piecing, I opted for organic, curved walking foot quilting in four colors, adding a tiny splash of color with Aurifil 50wt Dark Turquoise (#4182).

My finished quilt is 16 1/2" x 16 1/2".

Thank you to Aurifil, OLFA, and Michael Miller for supplying me with everything featured in this quilt.


Improv Curve Tutorial

In general when I create improv curve piecing I make units that are oversized and trim them down after piecing. In the third photo from the top of this post above you can see my in progress work on my cutting table. The top and bottom edges are not aligned at all. If I wanted to create an 8" block I would probably start with pieces of fabric that were 10" wide.

Step 1: Lay two fabrics right side up, overlapping by a couple inches. (Not shown.) Slowly and carefully (keep those fingers out of the way!) cut through both layers with your rotary cutter (but no ruler or template), making a smooth improv curve. Always cut away from you. Remove the edges you've cut off of both fabrics so you have two pieces that fit together like a puzzle with the same curve cut. (This is more easily seen in the step 2 bottom photo below.) Here I have removed a little of the khaki fabric to the right of the cut and the edge of the brown fabric to the left of the cut:

Step 2: Using your marking method of choice, mark points that align on the two fabrics. Here I have chosen to use two straight pins, one in the khaki and one in the brown. These points should line up when piecing the fabrics together. If the fabrics are difference lengths, also mark where the edge of one fabric hits the other. I have not pinned the fabrics together at this point, as you can see in the second photo below.

Step 3: Flip the right piece of fabric over and place onto the left piece, right sides together. Use your marks as a guide for pinning the two pieces at those points only. Since I had two pins that were used for marking I have pinned twice at each point. A single pin should work fine as well.

Step 4: Sew with a quarter inch seam allowance. The curved cut gives you a bit of stretch along the edge of your fabric. As you sew, gently stretch the (only the) longer fabric between each pair of pins. This will change depending on which part of the curve you are on. In general, you'll be gently stretching the fabric that has a concave curve in that section. Do not remove pins until you get close to them. Take care to make sure that your bottom fabric is laying flat to avoid puckers. If you are ending up with too much of one fabric when you get close to the pin try stretching the longer fabric a bit more when you sew that section. This part take a little finesse, so practice until you like your results. Smoother, flatter curves will be easier to sew. This technique is not recommended for a drunkard's path 1/4 circle where the two pieces really need to be cut from different templates.

I generally prefer to press my seams open, but improv curves are a time when I press the way the fabric wants to go. If you are using high contrast fabrics you should be able to press to the dark side. And if you want to try it, pressing open can work as well. The seam shown above is the left seam below on the finished back of the quilt.


Sarah is a quilt artist, pattern designer, teacher, and lecturer who is passionate about using bold color and geometric design in both traditional and improv quilts. She enjoys inspiring others in their creativity. As a former math teacher Sarah loves the geometry and math of quilting. She is currently visiting guilds virtually to present lectures and workshops on Zoom. Sarah lives in San Jose, California with her husband and two quilters kids.

Keep up with Sarah by signing up for the Sarah Goer Quilts Newsletter.

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The products featured in this post were given to my by Island Batik and Aurifil.

This month our Island Batik challenge was to try something new. There are so many options in the quilting world to try a new technique or tool. I was inspired by my friend Gayle’s recent quilt project where she used Fabric Magic on her quilt top. Here's one of her textured flowers:

 

Fabric Magic is a polyester fabric that "shrinks up to 30% when steam-activated." The way it works is that it is stitched to the back of a single layer of fabric in straight lines or free motion stitching. Then you apply steam (without touching the iron to the polyester fabric) and the Fabric Magic shrinks up and causes the quilting cotton to wrinkle up. Different density or types of stitching will achieve different results.

The Peach, Flame, and Tangy fabrics are from the Island Batik Basics line. I chose these as a starting point so I could submit this piece for the 2019 Pantone Quilt Challenge. The teal I added is a Cherio print (BE21-G1) from the Blenders line. I used Fabric Magic on three panels and, in true try it fashion, opted to use different free motion motifs on each.

The first, and my favorite, was back and forth wavy lines on the diagonal, stitched with Aurifil 50wt Fleshy Pink (#2420) on the Peach fabric. I think in addition to it being my preferred motif for ease of stitching and pattern of texture it creates, the technique just shows up better on lighter fabric due to being able to see the shadows from the texture more easily. The stitched area shrunk up from 17" wide to approximately 14 1/2" wide, about a 15% shrinkage.

My second section was pebbles on my teal panel with Aurifil 50wt Jade (#4093).

And my last section was spirals on the Flame fabric with Aurifil 50wt Red Orange (#2245). I didn't make a panel on the Tangy fabric since I didn't have a thread color that would blend well.

At this point I used my textured and non-textured fabrics to cut sections with smooth, gentle improv curves. I initially considered the sections to be horizontal, but decided in the end to rotate the quilt so they were in a vertical layout. I felt this orientation both worked better with the finished dimensions, and also gave a feel of coral and seaweed in the ocean.

I used a remnant of Quilter’s Dream Select 100% cotton batting that was just about the perfect size. Since I was working on a small quilt and intended to stitch on either side of each seam to stabilize the quilt before more quilting I opted not to baste. (Channeling Dora Cary!). I echoed each side of the curved seam on each non-textured fabric. (The textured sections did not get quilted, but if used in a larger section one could do some quilting on top of the previous stitching lines.) After my echo stitching, I chose nesting C curves, inspired by Mel Beach’s recent finish. I used overlapping curved lines on the two end sections.

I used the rest of the piece of Tangy fabric to make binding, knowing that I'd have way more than I needed and will utilize it on a future project. Isn't it so cute on my Binding Baby!? Usually I favor machine binding, but due to the textured sections I opted for a hand bound finish.

Living Coral finished at 22" x 13 1/2".

 

Be sure to check out what the other Island Batik Ambassadors are trying out this month!

This is also my contribution to the 2019 Pantone Quilt Challenge in the Minis category. (I'm in the USA.) And, it's my OMG for June (which I'll try to remember to linkup with the finishes at the end of the month). ;-)

I've linked up to June Favorite Finish and Beauties Pageant.

Thanks for visiting!

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I can't remember the last time I sewed at home. It's probably been nearly two weeks. (Eek!) Thankfully, I did get some quality time with my sewing machine at a workshop last weekend. Bay Area Modern hosted Karen Foster (@capitolaquilter on IG) to share her Improv Abstraction technique featuring curved piecing. I've played with gentle curves previously in my Finding Dory mug rug and Improv Tumbler mini. Karen's technique involved creating parts and using them to play with the composition of the piece.

four small quilts featuring Karen's Improv Abstraction design technique: blues, magenta and chartreuse, purples, and multicolor

We spent the morning piecing the gentle curved unit and putting them together into larger parts. I made 12 units featuring the same gentle curve and pieced together two larger chunks. The first used three of my units, and the second connected two units vertically. I "fussy pieced" (is that a thing?) the seams for the curve to be continuous.

twelve navy and grey gentle improv curve units on design wall

seven navy and grey gentle improv curve units and two larger chunks on design wall

In the afternoon Karen introduced her technique for more extreme curves. You can see the example on the right in the photo of Karen's work below. Unfortunately, I had to leave early, but Karen showed me her technique before I left. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but it blew my mind. I'm looking forward to adding a new skill to my repertoire. The examples below include a "what not to do" in the upper left, and the lower left shows different options for pressing seams. While I generally press seams open, I think freeform improv piecing is a great time to play with how you press seams to see what works best for the piece. (Tip: Consider shortening your stitch length if you are going to press seams open.)

teal and mint pieced gentle improv curves

This was a great class to build skills with curved piecing and to just play with the design elements of the overall piece. I intend to keep my quilt small. I have a bit more of the navy (Kona Nautical) and a bunch of the grey (Kona Pewter). I'll definitely play with the extreme curves and I may include some strips and squares like Karen used in her multicolor quilt.

Karen Foster and Sarah Goer standing in front of Sarah's work

Thanks for a great class, Karen!

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