free form quilt free pattern free-motion quilting

Improv quilt – how to tutorials

I made this improv quilt in 2012.

Here’s how I made it:

How to make the blocks

Adding sashing

I made 4 strips of sashing, larger than required and then trimmed each strip as I added the sashing.

Making the sashing

Sashing is made of 2 inch cream strips with some touches of colour.

Place the cream strip below the colour strip and make a cut like below.

Pin well together and stitch.

Then place the cream strip on top of the colour strip and cut along the line.

Now put both coloured and cream strips together.

Pin well.

Stitch and iron flat.

Now do the same with another colour.

Cut together to make sure that cutting lines match.

The curvier the edge the more pins you will need to ensure the seam lies flat when stitched.

Iron the sashing well before sewing to the blocks.

Add sashing to blocks.

Pin one strip to the top of one block and stitch.

Trim excess off.

Stitch sashing to the next block.

Continue adding strips and trimming.


The border is 3 1/2 inches wide. Cut 5 x 4 inch squares and make a cut across each of them.

Cut now a narrow strip in a coloured fabric by placing the piece of fabric as per picture below.

Cut along each line on the sides.

Do the same for all squares.

Pin and stitch together.

Iron flat.

Trim to 3 1/2 inches.

Place the squares around the border and sew to strips of fabric 3 1/2 wide.

Stitch the border to the assembled blocks.

Make a quilt sandwich. I used calico for the backing and cotton batting.

Pin all three layers together.

Quilt the sandwich. I stipple quilted it.

Mount on canvas

My canvas is 90 x 70 cm (about 35.4 in x 27.5 in) and as you can see in the photo, the quilt is quite a bit larger so it wraps really well around the frame. Unfortunately some of the border stripes can’t be seen. Too late for me but you could make sure that in your border you add the little stripes closer to the blocks so they show.

After carefully placing the quilt over the canvas making sure it is centred (my quilt wasn’t perfectly square so on some areas there is more border showing than in others), staple the quilt well all around the frame.

Start stapling on opposite sides first.

Then staple in between the existing staples.

And then each corner.


I was going to add some fabric border around the frame but I’m undecided.

And now that it is finished, I am not sure it will work well as a bed head.

My book Turnabout Patchwork

“Turnabout Patchwork. Simple quilts with a twist” is all about playing with blocks – making a block, slicing it up, and turning or repositioning the pieces to make a completely different block (sometimes two smaller blocks) to yield endless quilt tops.

See all the quilts in the book in a real life project

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Share your work!

If you make any of my tutorials this is how you can share your pictures:

  • On Instagram please tag me with @teresadownunder and hashtag #teresadownunder
  • Join my Facebook group and post your pictures there

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  1. It looks amazing. I love seeing how you put all the blocks together and I’m super impressed that you did improv sashing too. it adds so much character to the blocks. Thanks so much for sharing your process.


  2. Thank you! I was debating what to do with the sashing and border for a while but I think it turned out well overall. Each block could be a whole quilt on its own but I think that overall the blocks look fine together.

    Given that the whole project was rather an improvisation from the start I’m quite satisfied with the end result.


  3. Absolutely STUNNING! Great choices of colour all the way through and I think it looks super mounted on the canvas frame.
    Enter it in a show – looks like a prize winner from here in Oshawa, Ontario Canada.


    Brenda J.Moore

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your feedback. I may not reply often but I certainly love reading what you have to say.


  5. I love this project! It’s very different to what you normally do and it’s my favourite! Clearly improvisation works very well for your creative mind. The colours are lovely and it all just works. The random patterns flow into and out of each other. I’d have this up on a wall somewhere where everyone could see it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I did not see the post until now when someone linked to it. I think this would be a fun mini class to have for one of my sewing groups to just get people thinking outside the box. Thanks for the tutorials.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really nice tutorial on free hand quilt design. Beautiful and spontaneous. Thank you for taking the time to simplify what seems to be a very complicated project. It’s beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your work is absolutely awesome. Your great instructions make me feel i can do it. Can’t wait to try it. Going shopping today. The best teachers inspire and create confidence in their students. You are definetely in that category. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you Judith for your kind words. I’m very happy I inspired you to action. If you post some pictures of the quilt let me know. I’d like to see it. Enjoy!


  10. I have been following you for some time now and this is one of my favorites. Thanks for all the great videos as well. Laura

    Liked by 1 person

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