Hi, I’m Lynne from Lily’s Quilts and Fat Quarterly and I am going to show you how to make an improv quilt using Malka Dubrawsky’s wonderful A Stitch in Color line. The great thing about making an improv quilt is that, although you are following a pattern, no two quilts will be the same and you can adapt and change your quilt as you go. If you do make a Rough and Tumble quilt from this tutorial, I would love you to post a picture of it in my Flickr group.
One A Stitch in Color Layer Cake
Half yards of each of the bright A Stitch in Color semi solids (blue, green, red, orange, yellow)
and 2 yards of the grey A Stitch in Color semi solid.
Plus 5 yards for backing.
Making the strips of wonky LCSs
1. Divide the layer cake into 5 piles of 8 slices, mixing up patterns and colours. Put the two spare slices to one side.
2. Place two layer cake slices (LCS) on the cutting mat, aligned with the lines on the mat overlapping by 3″ and both right sides up.
3. Slice at a randomly chosen angle making sure that both ends of the cut remain within the 3″ overlap.
Retain any wedges cut off the LCSs wider than about 1″ to be used for little pops of colour in the framing and sashing.
4. Flip one LCS on top of the other, aligning the cut lines so that the ends meet 1/4″ in from the edge. Sew using a 1/4″ seam. Press open or to one side.
5. Take that section and place it back on the cutting mat, again aligned with the lines on the mat and place a third LCS on top, this time with an overlap of 2″. Again make a random wonky cut within the area of the overlap. Flip the new LCS and sew to the original section. Press open or to one side, as desired.
6. Continue adding LCSs to the wonky strip, sometimes using a 1″, 2″, 3″ overlap or occasionally sometimes a 4″ overlap to give a variety of angles. Sometimes cut top left to bottom right and sometimes top right to bottom left, sometimes at a more severe angle and sometimes at a gentler angle or even absolutely vertical. Sometimes leave a wider piece of LCS and sometimes leave a narrower piece.
TOP TIP: avoid alternating the slant of the angles each time. This will prevent your quilt from looking too much like a tumbler quilt. I love tumbler quilts but that is not what we are aiming for here.
7. Once pressed, the tops and bottoms of the LCSs should align in a straight line. Don’t worry if this is not absolutely bang on as we will be trimming the top and bottom lines of this section before the next stage.
8. The finished strip should end up something around 50-55″ give or take an inch or two. If it ends up way longer than this, we can trim to size at step 12. If it ends up way shorter, add one of the spare layer cake slices to the end but cut wider LCSs on the next one as you only have two spare.
9. Make five of these strips.
Adding the colour frames
10. Decide which of your five strips will be framed by each of the five semi solid colour frames. Cut each semi solid into four 4 1/2″ WOF strips.
11. Read to the end of this instruction before cutting 10″ strips. Cut two 10″ strips from these WOF strips, one for each end of the LCS strips. If you fancy inserting a pop of colour into one or both of these strips, follow the method at step 20, making sure to cut the strip of coloured fabric 11″-12″ rather than 10″ to compensate for length lost in the seams and to give a bit of waggle room. Once the pop of colour has been inserted, trim to 10″.
12. If your LCS strips are much longer than 55″, trim them down to about 50″-55″. Align each of the 10″ frame end pieces with the ends of the LCS strips, overlapping by 2″ and make a random wonky cut so that they are attached to the original LCS strips in the same way as each LCS was (see the yellow ends on the strip below). Sew the 10″ pieces onto the ends of the LCS strips. Press seams open or to one side, as desired.
13. Now give the strip a wonky trim. Firstly fold the strip in four and cut a straight line along one edge to tidy up that edge if the LCS edges are not all perfectly aligned.
15. Bring up to the cutting mat and cut along the marked line, from pencil mark to pencil mark to end up with a long wonky strip. Retain any parts of the off-cut strip wider than 1″ for pops of colour and the scrappy binding.
16. Sew the remaining three semi solid WOF strips together into one long strip. Use this strip to sash the top then the bottom of the LCS strip. If you wish to insert a pop of colour anywhere within any of these strips, follow the method at step 20. Again, press seams open or to one side, as desired.
17. Now give the framed strip a wonky trim. You are aiming to trim it to something around 55″- 60″ X 12″-14″ or thereabouts but each side will be wonky. Firstly cut the ends off at a slight angle each, making sure to leave at least 1/2″ width away from the seam at the narrowest cut.
18. Then lay the strips down on a big table or on the floor and take a retractable metal tape measure to give you a straight line. Lay it along the edge of the top and bottom of the framed section at a slightly wonky angle, making sure to leave at least 1/2″ width at the narrowest cut. Mark several pencil marks along the line.
19. Bring up to the cutting mat and cut along the marked line, from pencil mark to pencil mark to end up with a long wonky strip. Retain any off cuts wider than 2″ to go into the scrappy binding.
Adding pops of colour
20. If you want to add pops of colour into the semi-solid at any point, take an off cut scrap of fabric from the LCSs. In the picture below, I’ve taken a piece from trimming the long LCS strips to it has two LCS fabrics in it. Lay it over the sashing strip where you want it to be inserted with both fabrics right sides up.
Cut the sashing strip along both sides of the scrap of fabric.
21. Sew the scrap of fabric to one piece of the sashing, press and trim.
Then attach the other piece of sashing and press.
Framing in grey
22. Cut the two yards of grey semi solid into sixteen 4 1/2″ WOF strips.
23. Layout the five colour framed strips and decide on a layout.
24. Sew pieces of grey to the end of each strip. Add in pops of color if desired. Trim along the sides but not the ends at this stage. If any of these five sections are significantly shorter than the others, add some more grey or even a pop of color and then some more grey to bring them to the same length(ish).
25. Join the remaining WOF strips end to end to make one long piece of sashing. Insert pops of colour into this as and when desired.
26. Sash the top and the bottom of the 1st, 3rd and 5th brick strip in your quilt layout, leaving the 2nd and 4th unsashed. Do not yet trim the ends or the side of these strips.
27. Once again lay all five strips out on the floor or a large table, butting each one right up to the next one. Measure the length of the quilt on the left, middle and right of the floor layout. If these three measurements are significantly different, try flipping one or two strips to bring them as close together as possible. If necessary, make a wonky trim along the length of one of the strips to bring the top and bottom of the quilt as close to parallel as possible.
28. Sew the five strips together and press.
29. Measure the length of the finished quilt at three points along its width and make a final wonky trim if needed to bring those two edges parallel.
30. To trim the sides, fold the quilt into quarters and make a final trim parallel to the folded edges cutting off all the uneven ends to give a straight finish on both sides. Here is a bad indoor photo of my quilt top just having been all squared up.
31. Back, baste and quilt as desired.
32. To make the scrappy binding, take all scraps of the semi solid offcuts more than 2″ wide (or 2 1/2″ wide if you prefer a slightly wider binding) and sew them into one long binding. Add in pops of colour if desired.