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2023 Challenge

Improv Quilting

President-elect Kim McCloskey picked improv quilting for this year's guild challenge.

Improv simply means to put something together without planning it all in advance, to make a quilt without a pattern and little to no planning. A good way to sew for the pure joy of it. Improv quilts can include curved piecing, strip piecing, appliqué and more! Nancy Crow is one of the earliest quilt designers who incorporated improv techniques in her work. Today we think of Improv as a genre of Modern Quilts, but many historical quilts also have improvised designs.


There is an impression that improv piecing means everything is wonky, you cut without rulers and without following any rules. It doesn’t have to be that rigid. The idea is to start, with or without a set plan. Then you let the quilt evolve and see what happens. You could start with an orphan block from a previous project and build from there. Or you could start with small pieces of fabric and just sew them together. Crumb quilting is a form of improv quilting.


You can choose to create in a free-for-all manner, but most quilters will probably choose to set some guidelines for this challenge project. For instance, you may choose to create a center medallion with various improv pieced borders, or you may choose to pre-select all fabrics/colors and stick to that pallet. The sky is the limit with improv quilting.


In the upcoming months I will demo some improv piecing techniques such as curved piecing, stars, houses, log cabins, strip piecing and more. You may use these ideas or find may other ideas online. I hope you have fun with this challenge. I know I will.



1. A quilt is comprised of three layers and must be bound and quilted to be considered complete.

2. One or more of the design elements on your quilt top must be improv pieced or appliquéd. You can choose to do the whole top with improv quilting, or just part.


3. Your quilt can be any size. If this is your first time venturing away from using a pattern, feel free to start small with a mug rug, potholder, or placemat.


4. You can use rulers and straight seams, if you would prefer, or throw caution to the wind and use wonky seams.


5. Quilts must be made in 2023 and the deadline for quilt submission is Wednesday, November 8 at our guild meeting.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kim McCloskey at (not gmail) or 801-319-5513. 

For more ideas on improv piecing, try these resources:


Alex Anderson Live -Improv Playtime available on YouTube, Facebook and at the quilt


Other improv lessons on The Quilt Show include classes with Maria Shell, Cindy Grisdela, Sheila Frampton, and others. also has improv piecing classes by Jacqui Gehring, Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr, Christina Cameli, Suzy Williams, and others.


YouTube has a number of improv piecing videos. I recommend videos from The Fat Quarter Shop, Heidi Creates, and Tiny Orchard Quilts, to name a few.


-Improv Quilting by Irene Roderick

-Adventures in Improv Quilts by Cindy Grisdela

-Inspiring Improv by Nicholas Bell

Open pdf document to view Kim's handout. Page 2 has several inspiration pictures!

Ribbon Quilt by Heather Pregger.jpg

Ribbon Quilt by Heather Pregger

improv quilting tutorial 1 log cabin pic.jpg
improv leaf quilt.jpg
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