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Make Easy Improv Squares With Your Fabric Scraps

Are you looking for ideas for your leftover fabric scraps? Join me as we learn from Christina, the owner of Sweet Potato Quilts in Boise, Idaho. Today Christina is sharing a fun and easy way to explore improv quilting with your scraps!

Improv Around the Block quilt pattern by Sweet Potato Quilts

Fabric Stash

If you are anything like me, you might have a storage bin (or two) full of fabric scraps in your sewing room, but are not in the mood to sort through colors and cut out the pieces you’d need for a scrappy quilt. I recently sat down to do some improv quilting with my stash and not only did I end up with several of these cute blocks, but the process of sewing together fabric without following a pattern had me feeling quite liberated and productive at the same time.

scrappy improv quilt block using strips of fabric

Improv Quilting for Beginners

Improv quilting is an approach to piecing fabric where one goes by a system or process of piecing rather than following the sequential directions of a quilt pattern. Once the parameters of the system are set for making these squares, I can sit at my machine with the scrappy bin by my side and have one of those sewing sessions where time flies in the blink of an eye.

These 5″ squares are versatile enough to piece together into a quilt, and can be used in this free pattern. If you have extras, turn them into coasters or use them in another pattern!

Materials Needed

Using the Wash-N-Gone Squares

This particular type of interfacing is intended for use as embroidery stabilizer, and will disintegrate upon first wash without affecting your fabric. In this beginning improv project, the 5″ squares will serve as a great template upon which you can sew together your scraps of various shapes and sizes. I see these squares as ‘training wheels’, which is why I recommend only purchasing one yard. After a while, you will find that you no longer need them for improv piecing!

pellon wash n gone squares for quilting

Improv Quilting: The Parameters

When it comes to improvisation, parameters provide guidelines that lead to consistency and cohesiveness while leaving room for individuality and creativity. These are the parameters that I have set for this particular process:

1. Piece the scraps so that they end up 1/2″ over all sides of the interfacing square (to at least 6″ x 6″) to allow room to fussy-cut down to 5″ x 5″ Squares. (See image 1 below)

2. Do not leave raw fabric edges or interfacing exposed in the middle of the square.

3. Sew square and rectangle scraps together that are the same length, or in ascending/descending length order. (See image 2 below)

4. Longer rectangles are best used for covering up raw edges. (See image 3 below)

5. Right Triangle pieces are great to place in the corners of the squares. (See image 4 below)

6. Trim the pieced squares to 5″ x 5″ Squares.

You can use your improv squares to make the quilt pattern linked above, or maybe even turn them into scrappy coasters.

techniques for using up fabric scraps in an improv quilt block

Improv Quilting: The Process

This is where the fun begins and the time flies! Once you get the parameters, you can sit for hours repeating the same steps over and over again while appreciating the differences in each square.

Starting the Square

Though it is entirely possible to start in the middle of the square and grow from there, I typically like to start at a corner with a Right Triangle or small rectangle or square. Make sure the sides of the triangle hover 1/2″ over the interfacing edges, then sew it directly onto the square.

beginner improv quilt block

After that, repeat the following four steps until the interfacing square is completely covered.

  1. Measure – not exactly with a ruler, but place the newest piece of fabric adjacent to the edge of the previous piece to see if it would be a good fit. The one in the image below works well because it reaches and covers the corners of the interfacing square.
  2. Turn the new piece of fabric RST along that adjacent edge with the previous piece of fabric.
  3. Sew a 1/4″ seam away from the edge of the fabric scrap.
  4. Open and press, then repeat until the fabric scraps cover the interfacing square, or open and sew over the seams.
steps for an easy improv quilt block

Notice that the pieces go over the edge of the interfacing square by about 1/2″ on all sides.

If you’re anything like me and want to avoid the back-and-forth of sewing and pressing, try sewing your pieces open instead of pressing! This would result in your squares looking more like this:

example of top stitching on a quilt block

Using the steps again below, I am finishing off the square with another triangle-shaped piece of fabric.

diagonal seams on a modern scrappy quilt block

Trimming your Blocks

This is my favorite part of the process! Turn the square Right-Side-Down and trim alongside the guidelines of the interfacing squares. You can also depart from those guidelines a little bit and fussy cut 5″ with your ruler, with the extra room you provided by piecing 1/2″ over the edges of the square.

trimming quilt blocks into squares

This is what the two blocks from this post look like once they have been trimmed:

Go ahead, make a ton of ’em! I promise, once you sit with your scraps and start making these squares, time will fly.

make these easy improv quilt blocks using this sewing tutorial

Now use those squares to make your Improv Around the Block quilt. Enjoy!

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free quilt pattern using scrappy improv quilt blocks

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