What is Improv Sewing? I think that you will get as many answers to this as the number of people you ask. This is really unhelpful when you are trying to understand a technique. Therefore, my suggestion to you is to find an improv technique you like to start with. Learn it and before long, you will find ways to adapt it to make it your own. Furthermore, by just grasping this you will save yourselves the years of confusion about improv sewing I went through.

Next, you need to decide if this type of sewing is for you. Many of my pupils start by thinking it is definitely not for them but love the completely unique look that they achieve. I have found that over time I developed my own improve style. Very like handwriting, to beginning with it is inconsistent, but then I found my groove. Let me help you find your groove.

Colour Palate for Improv Sewing

Let’s get started! Begin with a colour palette you want to use. I tend to use colours I like or a photo for inspiration. For my Improv Colour Pop Quilt, I used a range of base colours that I liked. Over the years I have realised that I like rich colours with lots of depth and I generally don’t warm to paler shades. This is demonstrated by the colours in this quilt which was made to raise money for Young Quilters in the Quilters Guild of the British Isles.

Looking at a photo and only looking at the colours rather than the image is a very different and exciting way to develop a colour palate. The picture attached was taken in Kew Gardens last month. It provides the most wonderful starter palette of yellows through to burnt orange and onto brown and then into greens. 

Fabrics for Improv Sewing

I like to use plain fabrics for Improv Sewing and will sometimes include a small print, low volume fabrics to add interest. Conversely, I would rarely use large print fabrics. I find large print fabrics distracting as my eye is looking and guessing what the full print would be. Small prints are a gentler way to add interest to your Improv Sewing.

Getting Started with Improv Sewing

Start with a simple pattern you know well. Why not start with a log cabin pattern. Below is a diagram of a traditional log cabin pattern. For Improv sewing, put away measuring equipment and choose colours and log widths at a whim. Whilst the pieces are small, finger pressing the pieces flat after sewing is totally acceptable, once they get over 2” wide or long I suggest you iron them.

Aim for a particular size for each one to reach, say 5” square, and move onto the next one. Later, when you have a batch made, you can cut them back to the set size. You can add strips between them, leave them as is or do whatever you like. In the video below, let me show you how I turned the picture of the Autumn tree in Kew Gardens into an Improv picture.


This is such a fun and easy activity to do.  It easy to enjoy and as you grow in confidence the designs you can use in this way are endless. If you would like to learn more about Improv Sewing I have a class making the Colour Pop Quilt in January.