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5 Improv Patchwork Projects

Hi there, Shannon of Shannon Fraser Designs and Amanda of Broadcloth Studio here! We just finished up our second annual 30-Days of Improv Quilt Along (QAL). And today we’re taking over the Art Gallery Fabrics blog to talk about some of our favorite projects to showcase our improv patchwork.

If you’re not familiar with the QAL, it’s a month-long improv patchwork challenge that we’ve hosted for the past two Augusts. Every week, participants are encouraged to explore a particular shape, using daily prompts as a launching off point. We love this QAL because not only are we having fun exploring improv patchwork and making our own improv blocks, but we’re also constantly learning and being inspired by the participants' amazing makes!

One of the questions we see pop up a lot throughout the month is “how will this all work together in the end?” When you’re working without a pattern, the end result isn’t guaranteed and that can be scary! But, as Shannon likes to say “you’ll never know if you don’t try!” And we’re all about pushing ourselves to try and experiment and play…even if it means we end up with a block that might be a design outlier.

At the end of the QAL, we typically end up with about 20 improv patchwork blocks. Sometimes there are a couple blocks that just don’t work well with the others when it comes time to work on a final composition. And sometimes none of them really work together (this happened to Amanda this year). And sometimes you love one so much you don’t want it to get lost in a bigger quilt composition! So, we thought it might be helpful to share what we made for this year’s QAL as well as some of our favorite projects that would be a great way to use up some of those blocks that don’t quite fit with the rest. 

What We Made This Year

1. Wall Hanging (Shannon): There are only so many beds that I can cover in quilts, so covering my walls with quilted art is the next best thing! They also tend to be the perfect size: large enough to explore ideas without feeling too constrained, but not so large (like a bed quilt) that you feel daunted and overwhelmed. This year I loved having fun exploring how to balance that deep moody Blueberry Zest to keep the drama while allowing highlights from the lavender and peachy corals to balance out the composition. I had the best time figuring out which blocks would help me achieve that effect the best. From there, I loved adding in all the textural details with both machine and hand quilting, to help entice you to zoom in! A simple hanging sleeve (you can find a tutorial to make your own here: How to make a quilt hanging sleeve in 8 steps - Shannon Fraser Designs) and she’s ready for display! 

ShannonFraserDesigns.30DaysofImprovQAL.Week5.Composition.P52 (1)Shannon used Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Blueberry Zest, Field of Lavender, Sweet Macadamia, Peach Sherbet, and Apricot Crepe for her #30DaysofImprovQAL quilt. Image courtesy of Shannon Fraser Designs.

2. Micro Quilts (Amanda): I have a tendency to try to make order out of chaos and often provide myself with parameters to ensure success. During this year’s QAL, I decided that in order to allow myself to really explore and play with my patchwork, I would need to shift my approach and my mindset. And boy, oh boy, did I have a blast! I loved letting my expectations go and really playing with my fabrics every day. I walked away from the month with so many different ideas to explore further. But on the flip side, I didn’t walk away with a cohesive group of blocks. So for my final project year, I turned a couple of my favorite blocks into micro quilts. I loved getting to spend more time with these blocks, adding in hand quilting while I thought more about what I loved about each block’s design. Plus with the holidays just around the corner, I think these would make awesome gifts!

Broadcloth Studio - Micro Improv Quilt 2Amanda used Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Sherbet, Dried Carrot, Tigerlily, Light Grey, and Night Sea for her #30DaysofImprovQAL quilt. Image courtesy of Broadcloth Studio.

Other Projects We Love

3. Small pouch (Shannon): What is it about zip pouches that are so fun to make and use! Even better? Featuring some of your improv patchwork blocks! After pulling together your composition, you might find yourself with some orphan improv blocks and a little pouch is the perfect way to feature them. Here I used up some of the scraps leftover from my first 30 Days of Improv QAL project to create this one of a kind triangle zip pouch. I upped the intrigued with some machine quilting to highlight certain shapes within the improv composition. Just another way you sneak in new techniques you want to try! This one’s been getting lots of request to be made into a pattern - stay tuned for that!

ShannonFraserDesigns.LimeImprov.SewingBag.P37 (1)Shannon used Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Light Citron, Lemonade, Dark Citron, Raspberry Rose, and Plum Preserve for this project. Image courtesy of Shannon Fraser Designs.

4. Tote bag (Amanda): I love a good tote bag, especially because you can easily adjust the size of a tote to match the number of blocks you have on hand (within reason, of course, though I suppose a sleeping bag is a type of bag if you have a lot of blocks to use up!). For this tote bag, I used a bunch of repeating nine patch improv blocks, but you could just as easily put lots of different blocks together to use! I quilted mine with a simple zig-zag stitch and eyeballed all the dimensions, but if you’d like a pattern to follow, I know there are a ton of different options right here on the Art Gallery Fabrics blog!

Broadcloth Studio - Improv Tote Bag 1Amanda used Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Lemonade and Olive Oil  for this improv nine patch tote bag. Image courtesy of Broadcloth Studio.

5. A Larger Quilt (Amanda): really love a block? Why not continue to explore what you love about it and make some more in a similar style?! As mentioned earlier, I had quite the range of styles and designs represented in my QAL blocks this year. But at the end of Week 1, I had fallen head over heels in love with a very simple and understated stripe block. I still really wanted to explore that block further but I didn’t want to give up my “no plans” approach to my daily block making. So, I started making other blocks on the side, focusing on exploring very elemental shapes and simple lines. Turns out, these blocks were so easy to make that I quickly found myself with a large crib size quilt on my hands. I’m so glad that I pursued this idea in parallel with my more detailed blocks for the QAL as both were such a joy to make and I already have plans to make more of both!

Broadcloth Studio - Big Improv Shapes Study 1Amanda used Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Sherbet, Dried Carrot, and Tigerlily for this improv shapes study quilt. Image courtesy of Broadcloth Studio.

So, when you end up with a block or two (or twenty) that aren’t playing nice together, why not shift your frame of reference and see how many different potential projects there are out there that are perfect for those blocks? Or set aside the ones you don’t love and chalk them up as a “learning experience” (you can always use them as the inside of a quilted pillow cover). And then take the ones you do love and celebrate them!

We can’t wait to see what you make! Stay tuned for next year’s 30-Days of Improv QAL (August 2023). And make sure to follow us on Instagram (Shannon is @shannonfraserdesigns and Amanda is @broadclothstudio) as we’ve got a couple of fun improv projects on the horizon.

Shannon & Amanda


6 Reasons We're Excited About Improv

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In 2021 Shannon used Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Light Citron, Lemonade, Dark Citron, Raspberry Rose, and Plum Preserve for her #30DaysofImprovQAL quilt. Image courtesy of Shannon Fraser Designs.

Hi there, Shannon of Shannon Fraser Designs and Amanda of Broadcloth Studio here! We’re back taking over the Art Gallery Fabrics blog and we’re super excited to be talking to you all about improv quilting.

Why are we so excited, you ask? Because we’re just about to kick off our second annual 30 Days of Improv QAL! We had such a wonderful time last August: it was beyond thrilling to see all the different improv blocks and quilted wall hangings pop up on Instagram during last year’s quilt along and we can’t wait to see what emerges this year.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about the quilt along (or if you need a refresher), here’s a quick recap: during the month of August, you’ll be making one block Monday-Friday to make a total of twenty-ish 5” blocks (because we all need a couple days a week to catch up or just chill out). Starting July 31st, we’ll be sending out weekly emails every Sunday, highlighting the shape of the week and providing daily prompts to explore the shape without a pattern. If you’re curious to see what this looks like in fabric-form, make sure to check out the hashtag #30DaysofImprovQAL to see all the makes from last year!

Broadcloth Studio Improv 7In 2021 Amanda used Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Vanilla Custard, Garden Fern, Tigerlily, Turmeric, and Apricot Crepe for her #30DaysofImprovQAL quilt. Image courtesy of Broadcloth Studio.

Before we dive into our fabric bins and start slicing and dicing, we thought we’d share what we’re most excited about for this year’s QAL. So, without further ado, and in reverse alphabetical order, here we go:

Shannon @shannonfraserdesigns says, “I’m so excited that Amanda and I have teamed up again to bring you another summer of improv quilting fun! As we gear up to host again, here are 3 things I’m most looking forward to in this year’s improv quilting challenge:

    1. Color & Fabric Play: Shocking, right?! Getting to play with a new color palette always gets me fired up! And since the first step in any improv project is picking your fabrics and colors, I think this is the perfect opportunity to have fun,  try something new and set the tone for your quilt journey. I’ve been itching to cut into these colorful beauties.
    2. Switching up my tool of choice: last year I used a combo of both my rotary cutter and tailor’s shears, with a little heavier reliance on my rotary cutter. This year, I’m thinking about exploring my improv solely with my tailor's shears. I’m curious to see what effect that will have on the shapes I create.
    3. Encouraging the play: I love sharing my enthusiasm for improv quilting and encouraging you to let loose and just play. I know how scary it can be to quilt without a pattern, which is why we love leading you through this improv challenge. Seeing you have a quilty a-ha moment is just the best!”

ShannonFraserDesigns.30DaysofImprovQAL.2022.Week0.P5This year, Shannon is using Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Blueberry Zest, Field of Lavender, Sweet Macadamia, Peach Sherbet, and Apricot Crepe for her #30DaysofImprovQAL quilt. Image courtesy of Shannon Fraser Designs.

Amanda @broadclothstudio adds, “ditto to everything that Shannon said! The 30 Days of Improv QAL was a highlight of my 2021 and I’m thrilled that we’re bringing it back this year. I love that while there are so many unknowns about this month-long adventure, what I do know is that I’m going to have a blast! I’m specifically looking forward to:

    1. Learning to love Orange: This year I’ve had an unofficial goal to try to work with purple and orange, colors that I don’t naturally gravitate towards. For the first half of the year, I challenged myself to work with purple (and umpteen purple projects later, I’m now reaching for it first). So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with orange. What I love about the #30DaysOfImprovQAL is that I know I’ll be spending a whole month playing with these colors, getting to know them better, discovering what I love about them! 
    2. Making Waves: We’ve changed up a couple of the weekly shapes this year and I can’t wait for Week 4’s Waves! Last year we tackled quarter circle curves and I had so much fun with them that I continued to explore playing with them for months afterwards. While I’ve dipped my toes into the water of waves (pun intended) before, I haven’t spent any serious time immersing myself so I’m looking forward to getting to explore them for a whole week.
    3. Connecting with YOU: I always love getting to hang out with quilters, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised that one of my favorite parts of last year’s QAL was trading tips with each other, cheering each other on, and being inspired by you, the fabulous community of QAL-ers! I’m always amazed by your creativity and can’t wait to see what you bring to the table this year.” 

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This year, Amanda is using Art Gallery Fabrics PURE Solids in Sherbet, Dried Carrot, Tigerlily, Light Grey, and Night Sea for her #30DaysofImprovQAL quilt. Image courtesy of Broadcloth Studio.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up now for our weekly emails that will guide you throughout the month of August here.

You definitely don’t want to miss out, especially because we’ve got an extra special giveaway to jumpstart this improv journey: by signing up before July 24, 2022, you’ll be entered to win a fabric bundle from our friends at Art Gallery Fabrics so go ahead and sign up now! If you sign up after July 24th, never fear: we’ve got a ton of other fun giveaways planned throughout the month of August!

And, as an extra special bonus, we’re going to be sitting down with the legendary Pat Bravo, fabric designer and co-owner of Art Gallery Fabrics, for a LIVE Zoom chat on Wednesday, July 20, 2022 at 1PM EDT (once you sign up for the QAL emails, you’ll get a link to the Zoom). We’ll be talking all about picking fabric, swapping tips and tricks, and diving into our own sources of inspiration for our improv sewing projects!

 

xo,

Amanda and Shannon


New Decostitch and Floral Elements Colors

Hello makers and fabric lovers!

With a new season upon us, what better way to honor the bright colors of spring with new shades of a couple of our most popular blenders: Floral and Decostitch Elements! These six new colors of each are perfect to add to your stash of AGF blenders since they make up a few missing shades between some, and they work well with others. 

If you’re unsure what blenders are and how to use them, check out this previous blog post that gives you great ideas on how to use these non-directional fabrics. 

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Introducing our new Floral Elements in Sweet Peach, Victorian Brick, Antique Rose, Chalk, Washed Denim, and Storm Winds.

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Introducing our new Decostitch Elements in Topiary, Airy, Timber Wolf, Desert Rose, Abyss, and Rosebud. 

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In addition to our new prints, we have also revamped a few of our patterns using the new colors. First up, we have our checkered bucket hat using a variety of different Florals and Decostitch to create this soft statement piece that is perfect to add to your wardrobe. For this hat we used our Florals in Washed Denim, Storm Winds, Antique Rose, Sweet Peach, Victorian Brick, and Chalk, and our Decostitch in Abyss, Timber Wolf, Airy, Rosebud, and Desert Rose. 

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To view the video tutorial for this hat, click here. 

We also have a PDF version of this hat pattern that we created with flannel if you would like to download that as well. You can find that here. 

For strip set 1, we used Floral Victorian Brick for fabric A, Decostitch Rosebud for fabric B, Floral Antique Rose for fabric C, Floral Sweet Peach for Fabric D, and Decostitch Timber Wolf for fabric E. For strip set 2, we used Floral Storm Winds for fabric F, Floral Chalk for fabric G, Floral Washed Denim for fabric H, Decostitch Airy for fabric I, and Decostitch Abyss for fabric J. We used Decostitch Desert Rose for fabric K, which is the lining. 

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BLOG_Elements_tote_2

Next up I have another statement piece for your wardrobe, this Artsy Tote that we made using a combination of new and timeless Decostitch colors in Cloud, Caffe Latte, Blue Minerale, Indigo Sky, Skyline Blue, Granite, Timber Wolf, and Abyss, in addition to our linen blend in Soft Sand. This tote has a combination of rectangles, squares, and half and quarter circles to form a trendy catch-all that can be taken anywhere you go; the beach, farmers market, the coffee shop…anywhere! 

To view the PDF pattern for this tote, click here. 

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BLOG_laptop_2

Last up are two new combinations of our Florals to make our favored Alegria computer cover. The first one includes Antique Rose, Sweet Peach, and Victorian Brick and the second one includes Washed Denim, Storm Winds, and Chalk. We used high loft batting to make this computer case perfect to protect what’s inside while also adding velcro to keep the flap closed. 

To view the PDF pattern for this laptop cover, click here. 

The excitement to sew with these fabrics was growing and I was so happy when I finally got to cut into these beauties. With spring upon us and summer coming quickly, I know that I will get a ton of use out of the bucket hat and tote bag, and I can’t wait to show these projects off to friends and family. 

I want to see what you make with our new Florals and Decostitch! Share your photos on social media and use the #ArtGalleryFabrics so I can share the love! 

 

Happy sewing everyone!