09 Feb

Improv Handbook: The Process

Last year I volunteered to be a test quilter for Sherri Lynn Wood’s upcoming book The Improv Handbook (it will debut at QuiltCon and be available through Amazon on March 17th). What appealed to me in Sherri’s proposal was that the book would not have specific how-to patterns, but would inspire makers to create their own designs based on inspirational “scores.” Examples in the book were to be in a range of styles and experience levels. Ultimately, my quilt did not make it into the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed making it — and only wish I had had more time to commit to the process because the more I worked on the score, the more options emerged. I could have easily made three quilts from the ideas that were spurred by the prompts in the Flying Geese score I was assigned.

So, here’s a glimpse of how I made my quilt “Nene” (named for the state bird of Hawai’i which happens to be a type of goose).
The begining
I chose fabrics based on a favorite painting in the room where I was likely to use the quilt.

Kunia Painting



Sewing a Flying Geese block
Then I made a bunch of flying Geese blocks (without measuring or using rulers).


Flying Geese block
What if I stretched out the proportions?


Improvisational Flying Geese
What if I “outlined” the geese? I really wish I had made a bunch more of these. As I ran out of time, I wanted to make a whole quilt with just this style block.


Flying Geese blocks
I made lots of geese.


Improv Flying Geese blocks
I made so many that I had lots of leftovers.


"Nene" in progress
I started out thinking I might make an abstracted version of the landscape in the painting.


Improv Dutchman's Puzzle block
But I made some Dutchman’s Puzzle blocks and liked where that was going.


"Nene" quilt in progress
They looked pretty good alternating with solid color blocks. That might be too tame though.


"Nene" quilt
Ultimately my quilt became something between the two ideas. Clusters of more complicated blocks, surrounded by larger swaths of fabric, vaguely reminiscent of a landscape.


“Nene” detail.

I have not seen The Improv Handbook yet, but based on my experience as a test quilter, I am very much looking forward to seeing the final product. I wish Sherri all the best and hope that her book is a smash hit at QuiltCon!


10 thoughts on “Improv Handbook: The Process

  1. Oh my! I’m not normally an improv quilter, but your quilt could talk me into thinking about it. Loved seeing the inspiration painting and then the finished product. Really, really lovely quilt.

  2. thank you so much for sharing! i have been so curious to see other test quilts as well!!! like you, i had so much going on that i actually wasn’t able to do all that i planned. i had about 4 or 5 different ideas in mind for the score i was testing and wouldn’t you know, didn’t even finish up the one i chose…i made the quilt top for the testing, but was am still hand quilting it! i live in hawaii, and love how you chose the name nene! 🙂 like how your quilt turned out!!!!! 🙂

  3. I got the same score, and just put up a post about it. I like your final design. Can’t wait to see more quilts come out in the next few weeks.

  4. Lovely quilt and great explanation of your process. I’ve taken a workshop from Sherri and eagerly await this book – more so after seeing your quilt. Thanks!

  5. Wow,it’s nice. You’ve done improv and produced a great look. Thanks for the step by step. It helps a lot.

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