Monday, February 24, 2020

How to Do Assembly Line Improv Piecing

Last fall, I completed this improv pieced scrappy Rainbow Cross Quilt, which is hanging at Castle Church Brewing Community in Orlando, FL.
I loved making this quilt. I've done plenty of improv piecing, but putting this together was a challenge--deciding what layout to use (hint...none of the layouts in my original post!), and then actually assembling it. I also love how it turned out--it really seems to glow!

While I was making the quilt, I decided to put together a tutorial for making improv pieced slabs. At its most basic, you can do this by sewing small pieces of fabric together. But when you're making a larger quilt (like mine), it's possible to make the slabs using more of an assembly-style approach. 

Here's how I do Assembly Line Improv Piecing:

1. Cut strips of fabric, ranging in width from 1-1/2" to 3-1/2". The strips don't have to be full length, but the longer the better. Sew contrasting strips together lengthwise.

2. Cross cut the strip sets into random widths, ranting from 2" to 5". Go for variety! Keep a line on your ruler aligned with the seam in your strip set to help keep things as square as possible.

3. Sew these crosscut segments to another strip (or two or three--variety is key!). Rotate the segments so that you create different looks. Press toward the strip. 

4. Trim these segments. Here's where efficiency comes in. Trim along the right edge of each segment.

5. Rotate each pieced segment and then cut the opposite side of the unit (or if you have a cutting board you can walk around, cut from the opposite side). This way you're not flipping your strip set back and forth as you trim off each unit.

Here's what your units will look like at this point. They're all different sizes, different widths of the various fabrics, etc. Variety!

6. Continue adding units to another strip, and/or start joining units together (see lower right in the photo below). Press and trim units.

7. Continue adding strips and pressing and trimming units. Rotate your units so that you're not creating purely striped units. 

8. Here's what my finished purple units look like. For my quilt, I made units that ranged from about 6" square to 8" square (and plenty of rectangles in that size range as well). Beyond being in that ballpark size, I didn't worry about exact measurements until I started joining rows together for the quilt.

After I finished units for each color, I started playing with layout on my design wall. Once I had it figured out, I sewed the units into horizontal rows, sometimes trimming the units, and sometimes adding more pieces. Then I sewed the rows together around the center cross. You can watch how I laid out the rows in the video below. 

I had a lot of fun putting this video together! 

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