Improv Handbook Blog Hop


Welcome to the Improve Handbook Blog Hop! Sherri Lynn Wood’s new book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters; A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously, has just started shipping. I had the pleasure of meeting Sherri this past weekend when she visited my guild to teach her Bias Strip Curves class. You can read about that experience in my earlier post.


The book is full of beautiful photographs by Sara Remington–including the cover shot and the picture of Sherri (both above). The staging is sparse, putting the quilts on center stage.

I really like the way Sherri speaks about improvisation. I appreciate technique and skill and respect those who exhibit both in their work. She suggests that improv has it’s own set of techniques and skills. I think those who have never tried improv might be quick to disagree with that statement but if you have given it a go, you will know that there is much technique and skill involved in putting away that ruler. She speaks to that and provides hints and tips for fixing problem areas in your work such as puckers and pulls and how to avoid them or work with them. I also like that Sherri states that the maker is the most important part of improvisation. You have to know yourself and your likes and dislikes, feel your emotions, etc. I think working on a improv piece is just that for me. I love to work intuitively and make decisions as I go.  I also feel like my decisions are more visible in improv than they are in other types of sewing. You kind of bare your soul.

Sherri’s book contains 10 scores. She uses scores as a vehicle for teaching improvisation. I see her scores as guidelines, broad rules to follow that start you on your way to improv. The rules can be interpreted differently by different individuals, as you will see if you look at the many test quilts that were made for this book. I think these scores make improv much less intimidating to beginners. Most people who sew are used to patterns and following directions. Sherri has provided you with direction enough to make you feel comfortable, with room enough for you add yourself into the equation, in fact, you are forced to.  You have to make decisions because the answers are not all there.

More than a year ago now, I received an email from Sherri asking me to consider making a quilt using one of her scores for her upcoming book. She asked me to work with the Layered Curve score which, broadly speaking, had me collect fabric, handcut curves, and reassemble, all without a ruler.  I was really pleased when she chose my quilt for the book. I thought I would walk you through my process today.


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The blocks above were my first attempt in following the score.

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Then I layered them and cut more curves.  I quickly decided that I didn’t like the direction that I was heading in.  The quilt was way too busy for my taste and the curves were not elegant enough or balanced.

I decided to start again with a set of solids in a very limited range and, in addition to the score, set another rule for myself. I would cut an inner 1/4 circle type curve in the corner of each section.

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I realized that I didn’t have any photographs of my finished quilt this winter and Sherri’s book was due out in February.  In an attempt to get ready for the blog hop, I actually had to borrow snow shoes to walk over the several feet of snow in our Massachusetts yard to get pictures.  Who knew that the publishing would be delayed?  I could have taken them without storm interference but you had better believe that I am sharing the snowy pictures after that monumental effort!  Plus, it’s more amusing.

Scrambled by Amy Friend

This is my final quilt. I named it Scrambled.  Sherri refers to the 1/4 circle shape I employed as a yolk like shape.  It definitely is that though it wasn’t my intent and the name of the quilt came later.  The curves in this quilt feel much more elegant and calmer.  It’s more “me” if you will than my first attempt.  I allowed the quilt to remain in it’s wavy, non squared up shape which I like as well.

Scrambled by Amy Friend

The quilt top posted here did not follow a score in Sherri’s book but I think it was informed by the skills I learned when working with the Layered Curve score. It gave me the confidence to attempt such a large improv piece. I also stuck to what I knew I liked best from this experience-mostly solids (though I included one print) and again I made rules, or scores, for myself which I explained in that post.

This book is a great springboard to improv piecing. I hope you will visit the other blogs on the hop to see some of the other beautiful quilts that were included in the book and all the test quilts as well.

May 1: STC Craft – Score for Rhythmic Grid Gallery

May 1: Sew Mama Sew – Score for Floating Squares Gallery

May 4: Plaid Portico – Score for Strings Gallery

May 6: During Quiet Time – Test Quilter Amy Friend

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 26Diary of a Quilter – Score for Bias Strip Petals Gallery

May 28: Getting Stitched on the Farm –Score for Improv Round Robin Gallery

May 29: Spoonflower – Score for Showing Up Gallery

May 30Fresh Modern Quilts – Test Quilter Rossie Hutchinson

The publisher, STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books, is offering one copy of this book to a resident of the US or Canada.  Please enter below for your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



  1. I really like improv piecing, so it does not scare me, but it really messes up my sewing room 🙂

  2. I have been improv piecing for a number of years and it is just about the only I way I work now.

  3. Hahaa…when I saw your first attempt I was thinking that it totally wasn’t you! Scrambled is wonderful!
    I love just putting together stuff that isn’t cut straight!:)
    Maybe you could cut those squares up and add more solids?

  4. The book sounds interesting. I’ve not always been happy with my improv results, I bet I could learn some things from the book. I like your end result; your first attempt doesn’t look bad to me either.

  5. sharon says:

    I want to try improv piecing

  6. Alison says:

    Hm, that’s a good question. Thinking about it made me realize it’s no one thing in particular that scares me about improv so much as just a general feeling of intimidation. I’m actually (slowly) working on an improv quilt top for my daughter right now and I’m loving the process. Maybe improv isn’t really that scary, after all…

  7. I love improv but I will say they are not always the flatest and can be difficult to quilt. I love what you made!

  8. I guess what scares me is the unknown. Not of the actual cutting and sewing, but sometimes with improve, when it’s done I don’t know if it’s ‘OK’ or not. Ie. is it ugly or is it cool? But I do love it more and more all the time…

  9. I love improve piecing, I’m more scared of precision piecing.

  10. Jeannie says:

    You do this so well but it just seems so far from my idea of easy and restful.hah.ah.ah.a.a

  11. Shannon says:

    I haven’t tried improv piecing but it looks like fun! Maybe I will try with some of my scraps

  12. Fear of the unknown!

  13. Perceived lack of control scares me.

  14. That it will look scattered and unbalanced! I would love to read this book! Improv is enjoyable!

  15. I’m afraid that I won’t have enough fabric for a whole quilt! And that I won’t be able to make enough similar looking blocks to put together in one quilt, that I’ll just end up maling a bunch of single blocks which don’t go together.

  16. Susan Zakanycz says:

    I think the thing that might scare me the most is that I might sew or cut something and regret it but no worries as one can just cut and sew again.

  17. i think getting started is the hardest part for me.

  18. Amy, Your work is always amazing! and your process of improvisation is very interesting and are helping me to have courage to try make it too! thanks for sharing! ( P.S. I have an US address so I hope I can participate of your giveaway!!) XXOO , Sil

  19. DreiPunkteWerk says:

    LUCKY MEEEEE! My book will arrive tomorrow :-)))

  20. I think the scary part is going for it and then not salvaging something that I like out of it. I don’t know if that makes sense but it is in the back of my mind sometimes.

  21. I feel like this must have been an awesome creative stretch for you Amy, after all of the precise paper piecing and designing that you do. It is a fabulous quilt!!! I love all of Sherri’s ideas, techniques and concepts for maker/quilt relationships. I’m getting so much out of her book. Now all I need is commitment-free time to play. I really feel like I want to take a year off and just make improv!

  22. Kathleen D says:

    I’m not really sure (and it doesn’t make sense because I’ve made an Apple Core quilt…) but, I think I’m a bit afraid of the random curves in Improv piecing… I do like your Scrambled quilt, BTW!

  23. Jessica says:

    Lack of planning!

  24. Barbara says:

    I want to try Improv. I’m scared of it because when I do a “planned” block, I know what it will look like. With Improv, I’m scared I’ll do all the work, use all the fabric, and not like the outcome. This book looks fabulous, I really hope I win it!

  25. Laurie says:

    going outside of the box….

  26. i worry that the quilt will not look nice together. I absolutely LOVE your quilt!

  27. I always improvise any pattern I try to use, and am definitely interested in heading into a more improvisational direction! I think Sherri Lynn’s book looks like the perfect guide : ) I am more afraid of fussy types of quilting where things have to match/line up…

  28. Kimberly D says:

    I love how you made it your own.

  29. What scares me the most is sewing the seams with out puckers!

  30. love Scrambled and Improv piecing b

  31. I’m not eligible to win – just wanted to say how much I love your Scrambled quilt. Too gorgeous!

  32. Thriftyredhead says:

    Not liking the results scares me. I am a copy cat not much of an improver but want to learn.

  33. Wow – snowshoes. I’ve always wanted to try them but not in southern California, maybe when I visit my relatives in WNY. I love your quilt. I didn’t find the print fabric. I liked the colors and the natural looking curves.

  34. Barbara says:

    I love improv quilts, the book looks very helpful.

  35. Betty A. says:

    Love your final solid quilt – quirky and soothing at the same time!

  36. The not knowing what the end result will be.

  37. Lisa Marie says:

    To me the scariest thing about improv quilting is the uncertainty of the outcome. Will it look like art or will it be just a mess? I guess even if it turns out badly, it’s just fabric, and I do have more. I think this book might help point me in the right direction.

  38. Great post and so inspirational! I love improv, curves…you name it! I think the only thing that scares me right now is the quilts (projects) I make won’t translate to others. No one will get what I’m doing or see my vision.

  39. Judy Tucker says:

    Fun! The quilt that made it into the book really is true to your personal style Amy, even though you were using a new technique. Thanks for sharing the project that you didn’t think worked along with your analysis why it wasn’t what you wanted. Really good. Projects don’t always work out as planned but who ever admits to having one??
    Love the magenta snow pants!!

  40. Betsy S says:

    I am too restrained when cutting. I really need to loosen up and follow the Improv in my body and not in my brain. I have high expectations and am frustrated when they don’t translate to my final prohect.

  41. Beautiful color palette that really suits the style. Good job.

  42. I fear that it might look like a great big mistake of hideousness, without rhyme or reason.

  43. I have a very mathematical mind and the idea of no restraint in cutting intimidates me

  44. Linda K says:

    I’m scared of wasting fabric and time. Now that I write it, it seems so trivial. Your post really had a calming affect, making improv seem more accessible.

  45. HI,this is a neat concept and this book looks so neat! I’d like to try some “Improv”!

  46. Ellen M. says:

    I think the scariest thing is not having those precise measurements and directions as a guide. I’m only on my second quilt and being “told” exactly what to do gives me confidence to try it. I think the improv piecing would be very exciting once you got the hang of it!

  47. Not knowing exactly what the end result will be is the most challenging part of improv piecing

  48. I’m just afraid to waste fabric! Seeing pieces together only to have to end up chopping a bunch off to fit the next piece.

  49. audrey says:

    I am always afraid the fabric won’t go together properly and I’ll have huge puckers!

  50. As soon as I saw this book, I knew I would have to try it. I think that not using rulers scares me; I can be improvisational and wonky–but only with rulers? It’s a challenge to my linear-thinking brain, for sure.
    Thank you so much for sharing your process.

  51. I’m really intrigued by the curved imrov. I really love your piece and would like to learn how to do something similar. I also like how every single quilt will be different using improv techniques.

  52. I can honestly say I think your quilt is one of the best I’ve seen so far. I like the simplicity of it. The solids and simpler curves worked much better than the busyness of your first one and that’s coming from someone who loves prints. Makes me want to give it a try.

  53. Jenny L says:

    i think what scares me the most is that I don’t understand how it’s done. Your quilt is lovely, and I really like the idea of trying some improv quilting. Also, I worry that I’ll end up with something chaotic, or that I don’t like. But everyone has that fear, and I should probably just go for it!

  54. stanleybeagle says:

    It’s the unknown! I don’t know how it’s “meant” to turn out. Too anxiety provoking!

  55. I wouldn’t say I’m scared of improv piecing, but I know there is the potential to work myself into a point where I will be unable to get my vision into fabric because I’ve cut it all up too many times.

  56. lisa mc says:

    I’m always worried my block will be scant, and I can never envision the balance in my mind so that it works out.

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