teaching sewing confidence, tip by tip

Monday 18 July 2016

Improv: Beyond The Bee - June 2016 (NYC Metro MOD Quilt Guild)

June was a busy month, making many projects ready for Christmas in July and July's busy also promoting them.  I took a break from Christmas today to catch up on my outstanding June Improv: Beyond The Bee block.

Improv: Beyond The Bee

As a Bee, we are using many of the ideas in The Improv Handbook For Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood and working with scores (rules open to self-interpretation) set by that month's Guild Queen Bee.

Queen Bee for June 2016 is Audrey and she sent me these 2 fabrics.

Audrey's Score: Floating Squares

Step 1
use neutral fabric to make squares
choose size range for squares

a) NO ruler
b) any size squares within chosen range
c) any configuration

Step 2
Add squares of a more saturated colour
choose size range for squares
use muslin filler to fill gaps when joining Step 1 & 2 squares together

a) NO ruler
b) as many squares as you like
c) saturated colour only
d) no BRIGHT orange, red or green
e) no more than 1 additional colour
f) if using print must read as solid
g) no novelty fabrics

Step 3
a block of 3 colours only:
1 x neutral (supplied)
1 x muslin filler (supplied)
1 x own colour (see rules for 2 above)

Step 4
block size minimum 12"

Step 5
make as many blocks as you like

Making My Block - The Process

I cut my Step 1 squares in the 1" to 3" range and
my Step 2 squares in the 2" to 4-1/2" range

Looking for ways to speed the process up I sewed a number of squares edge to edge onto the length of muslin filler in one go...

... pressed the seams, then between each square, I continued the cut across the filler strip.

This saved so much time and then the units were ready to use within the block.

When placing a square between two sections of filler I used this technique to ensure the filler sections on either side of the square are of differing widths.  

Sew square to a length of filler...

...sew opposite edge of filler to opposite edge of square...

...this creates a 'tube'...

...cut the filler at ANY point along its length to open the tube.

Position each filler cut differently to create variations in the position of the square within the strip.

The technique is based on the bargello technique that I used years ago making my Something New Sampler Quilt - you can see my finished quilt here

I ran out of the muslin filler fabric that Audrey had supplied so I couldn't increase the block size further or make additional blocks as she'd suggested.

You can see in the pic above just how little filler I had left at the end.  Unfortunately, I'd cut too many squares from the neutral fabric supplied by Audrey and also from my blue solid.  I'll send the surplus neutral fabric back to Audrey with the finished block, maybe she can make use of it when she puts all the quilt blocks together.

My finished block measuring 18" x 13".

Assessing My Work Against The Score
I don't like the long seam down the centre of the block, I wish it was staggered through the piecing or offset.  I guess there'll be a lot of seams just like it when the whole quilt is pieced together given that it is being made as blocks rather than as a whole quilt top.  Towards the end of making the block I was restricted in my improv by running out of filler fabric.  In one direction, I had to plan how to achieve the finished block size of 12" min rather than being able to let the design develop naturally.  Working on a block limited the improv nature - if I were working this design up to a quilt top size I could improvise more and I'd like to use larger and a wider size range of squares.

The seams pressed well and I only had to 'dart' once to make fabrics lie flat.  Getting the block finished in only an hour or so was a total bonus - I was getting concerned about how late I was making it and thought it would take much longer based on last month's blocks.  Checking the score and rules set by Audrey I believe I've met them all, yay!!!

Surprises & Discoveries
I enjoyed making this block and that really was a surprise!  In terms of rules, I felt freer than I did making the May blocks.  It was fun to think of ways to make the process faster and to have a use for a technique I haven't used for 3-1/2 years.  This score was super easy!!!

My Thoughts
Again this month's block didn't push boundaries and neither did it take me out of my comfort zone. The rules felt freer and, although I read the relevant pages from the book to ensure I was clear on what Audrey was asking for in her score, I didn't need to refer to the book while making the block.

Again I find myself thinking that all floating square quilts using this score will look very similar.  Given that I was working on a block for someone rather than on a quilt top, I found I couldn't work too many large squares into it - with more filler and a larger area to work with I think there's room to be more individual than using 1" to 4-1/2" squares as I did.

Have you made a quilt using scores from The Improv Handbook For Quilters?  
I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences too.

I'm a member of the NYC Metro MOD Quilt Guild and from 2012-15 I was a member of our Guild's first Bee and I shared how I made each block with you here on this page along with our Guild's challenge and charity blocks and now the Improv: Beyond The Bee blocks too.

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Linky Parties This post may be linked to some great Linky Parties, always a great source of inspiration too.  If you click through to my 'Fave Linky Parties'  page you can see where I like to share my work.


  1. I love the addition of the blue fabric

  2. I love the contrasting colors and sizes. Thank you for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party. Pinned!

  3. I'm enjoying reading about different quilter's reactions to the various improv scores. Thanks for writing out your impressions.

  4. Wisdom from a Jacquie Gering workshop: to reduce the impact of a seam when joining two big improv sections, have some of the same fabric touch across it. In other words, had some of the tan fabric from one side abutted some tan fabric on the other, the seam wouldn't shout at you. Personally, I think it looks fine; I'm just responding to your dissatisfaction. Must have been fun to make.

  5. Interesting to see your reactions to it. I've been following Rachel Hauser's experiences with this book, too. I'm not sure I'm ready yet to jump into improv, but someday I will!

  6. Never seen a floating quilt before but looks fantastic


I love to hear from everyone, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts. Please leave a message to let me know you visited, it's a great way to get to know you all better too :)

Chris Dodsley

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