HOW TO DESIGN with FREEDOM using IMPROV TECHNIQUES | Skillshare Projects

Donalee Kennedy

Artist, Designer, Quilt maker




Milepost #4

Here is my attempt at one of my video sections. I'm going to do my intro after I feel really really comfortable with the whole camera thing!!    Here is the updated version.  5/18/2016

1    Introduction 

In this class, I'm going to show you a system of improv or improvisational machine piecing. By designing this way, you will be allowing yourself the freedom of starting an art project without knowing exactly how it's going to look when we are finished.  We are not going to use a pattern, and no two students work will look the same.  We are going to be lead by the Elements of Design, and you will have complete control over colors, and fabric selection.  I'm going to demonstrate the technique as we work together on the really fun and simple class project from start to finish. You can use fabric from your collection or if you have scraps left over from another project that's great too. You only need about a square foot (or less) of each fabric. 

This class is all about exploration, and fun. I'm looking forward to seeing your work as you progress in the class gallery section.  If you have any questions please enter them in the class community link that you will find just below the video screen.  Click on enroll now, and let's go inside the classroom to start your project.   

2    Tools & Supplies

see attached PDF 




3    Things to Consider When Making Your Fabric Selection

  • You will need a total of 10-12 fabric options.
  • First, think about your favorite 3-4 color families.  
  • Fabric should be cotton quilting weight fabric.
  • Have 3-4 of your fabrics be solids.
  • Be sure to mix up the scale of your patterns. Small, Medium and large.  
  • Make sure you have different values of colors, Light, Medium, and Dark.  

Here is my pile, of fabrics.


Here are the fabrics sorted by value; Light - Medium - Dark.  How do I know that? Well, my eye is pretty good at decerning the values, but when in doubt look at it through your iPhone in mono mode.


4    Cutting your fabric

  • I recommend cutting a 5 sided shape no larger than about 3"x4"
  • Start by building on to this shape on a few sides, cutting fabric as needed.
  • As you are making your selections of what to sew next to what, keep in mind we want repetition and variety. 
  • As we go along we will be looking for that perfect pop of something unexpected.  

5   Pressing 

  • Use a dry iron, no steam.
  • Press well as you go along.
  • Press each seam to one side.

6  Building your Composition

  • Try to keep your seam allowance to 1/4" 
  • After you have joined several pieces, step back and squint. Ask yourself; What jumps out?  Where is the visual tension?  Is that good tension or bad?  
  • Adress the answer to the above question, maybe you need to cut something off to reduce its effect on the piece. 
  • Be sure to always consider the spatial relationship of the other pieces when selecting the next fabric. 
  • When you piece is built up to about 10" square... you might find it's much bigger than that, and that's OK.  There really are no mistakes this is improv and it's a potholder!
  • Decide where your favorite areas are... be sure to keep those and cut down to about 9.5" SQ. 
  • Press super well. If necessary use a spray bottle with water to dampen area. 


Section 1 sewn together.  


Section 2 sewn together.


 Sections 1 & 2 together   


Backside, showing quarter inch seam allowance. 


In this photo, I'm determining where I want my 9.5" SQ to be... being sure to include certain areas that I think really work for the composition.


Front of the piece, all trimmed. 

7  Compose The Back

  • You can pick one of your fabrics to be the back. 
  • Or you can go through the process above and build a back.
  • You can do whatever you want, you're the designer!  
  • Just come up with a second piece that is about 9.5" SQ.
  • Usually, I like my backs to be as interesting as the front, but not overpowering.  

8  Make a Sandwich  The order here is very important and not improv at all.... :-)   

  • Lay your back down, face down.
  • Lay one of the pieces of 10" SQ.  Heat Resistant fabric, metallic side down.
  • Place a piece of Cotton batting down on top. 
  • Place the last piece of 10" SQ. heat resistant fabric, metallic side down. 
  • Lastly, place your top right side up. 
  • You should leave some of the heat resistant and batting fabric hang out beyond your created piece.  (This will be trimmed later, after quilting.)
  • You can us spray adhesive (follow product directions) or safety pins to keep you sandwich together and manageable. 

9  Sew Your Pieces Together

  • Sew your sandwich together using whatever Quilting technique you wish.  
  • Options are free motion quilting, walking foot quilting, stitch in the ditch, or you could even hand tie with yarn.  Just remember to cut short so they are not a fire or safety hazard. 
  • After the quilting is done cut to the desired size, I usually take them down to 8" but you can leave them whatever size you wish.  You are the designer! 
  • 441b785a

10  Trim Your Art

  • Art needs a frame. To do that we are going to cut a piece of fabric 2.25" wide by four times the length of your piece plus 10" or 42" if you are using the 8" measurement. 
  • Press in half right sides up. 
  • Sew raw edges of trim or binding to raw edge of your top square.   Start in the middle, and leave about 3" of unsewn fabric. Sew within .25" of the corner and stitch off at an angle. 
  • To make a mitered corner, hold your piece in front of you with the trim you just sewed horizontally. Fold the trim up to create a 45-degree angle, then fold it back down creating a fold even with the raw edge. 
  • Do the same to the next 3 corners.  
  • When you get within 4-5 inches of where you meet the beginning of the trim stop sewing, and lock stitches. 
  • Sew the two ends together as shown on the video.
  • Fold binding over, use the hem stitch (by hand) to secure to the back.  

11  Closing and Thank You! 

I'll add this later... 

12  Post your project to the class gallery


Here is the link to my google doc. I have to go back over it to clarify some things, and I don't know which kind of video is best, still working on those details.

This is the link to my class .... where I'm entering all my class information.


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