Break away from the traditional quilting rules with improvisational curved piecing! Embrace spontaneity and explore free-form curves and circles.
What is improvisational curved piecing?
Also referred as improv curves, this is a quilting technique that encourages free flowing and organic quilt designs without relying on templates or precise cutting (or sewing). Improv quilters work intuitively, creating unique designs.
Embrace imperfection with improv curves – that’s part of its beauty! Each block is unique and an artistic expression. As a quilter, focus on the creative process instead of making sure every corner matches.
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Improv curved piecing includes circles. In this article we show you how to do improv half circles and improv quarter circles, as well as basic curved piecing.
How to Make a Basic Improv Quarter Circle
Quarter circles are so much fun to make! We’ll start with a basic two-color improv quarter circle. Select your fabrics.
Take your rotary cutter and just cut a nice gentle curve in your fabrics across two adjoining sides. Make sure your fabric is on a cutting mat!
Take the pieces and align them together. We’ll want to find the center point on both the center pie and the outside L shape.
Match the center points and begin pinning from the center to each edge. They will not line up because we did not cut seam allowances. By starting in the middle, the center pie will be centered on the outside L shape.
Now is the time to sew the pieces together. Sew carefully with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, with the L shape up. This way you can carefully manipulate the fabrics so there aren’t any folds or pleats.
Here is the blocks sewn together and ready to be pressed.
Press the blocks with the seam allowance to one side. It will naturally go to one side or the other. Here are the blocks pressed and ready to be trimmed.
All trimmed up and ready to be put in a quilt!
How to Make an Improv Quarter Circle with Three Fabrics or Rings
Start by selecting your fabric.
Stack all three fabrics up on your cutting mat. Take your rotary cutter and make TWO (2) cuts to make three rings.
TIP: Starting from the inside with the pie shaped piece. Leave the first set of pieces the way they were in order. For the middle set, take the top fabric and move to the back. For the outside set, take the top two fabrics and move to the back. Now they are in order for sewing to make sure each one is unique.
Begin sewing from the center out. Here the center pie is sewn to the first ring and the next ring is placed. Just like we did above, lay the pieces out. Find the center. Pin. Sew.
Here is a finished three ring improv quarter circle ready to be pressed and trimmed.
Here are all three 3-ring improv quarter circles sewn together and pressed, ready to be trimmed.
How to make a four fabric improv quarter circle quilt block
Start (again) with selecting your fabrics. Tips for selecting your fabrics are to pick different values. If you are working with prints, pick different sizes of prints to add more visual interest to your quilt blocks.
Again, stack all four fabrics on top of each other on a cutting mat. Take your rotary cutter and now make THREE cuts into the squares from adjoining sides.
Just like we did before, let’s get the stacks in order to sew. Leave the center pile alone. With the next ring in, take the top fabric and move to the back of the stack. In the third ring, take the top two fabrics and move to the back. With the outside ring, take the top three and move to the back. Now the fabrics are in sewing order so that each block will be unique.
Begin sewing with the center pie to the first ring. Find the centers. Pin. Sew. Continue doing that until all four rings are sewn to the center pie. Your block will look like this with wonky sides. That is normal!
Using your rotary cutter and a ruler, trim the blocks to be the same size. Here they are all trimmed and ready to sew together.
What are some design layout ideas for improv curved blocks?
I find it fun to mix and match blocks that are different. Here is a block made with two squares using the three-ring design and two blocks using the four-ring design.
Most of all have fun. The intent with improv quilting is to be free and just make design decisions along the way. Points don’t match. There are no quilt police!
Check out our comprehensive article about improv quilting.
Browse through more improv inspiration on Create Whimsy.