Category Archives: Improvisation

Correlation {a finish}

I am not very good at following through on activities that require something every day, whether its following a diet and tracking, or doing a 30 day or 100 day challenge. However, I was given an opportunity to participate in a 100 day showcase, and decided to take it. I had this idea that had been percolating for a while.


The idea and initial limits were:

  • Use a variety colored angled blocks together in one quilt
  • Use of two colors and white per block
  • Angles for each color were cut without planning (improvisation).
  • Use my Denyse Schmidt Free Spirit solids box that I had been saving in a draw for years.

The process of creating blocks was very interesting and a few additional design decisions were made along the way:

  • By day 20, I already felt overwhelmed by the angles and color and thought it needed more balance. So, single white blocks were incorporated into the design to provide much needed negative space. I think this is a great example of how to use negative space and how it can interact and be part of the overall design.
  • I added two additional block modifications. I included 3 blocks with one color and white, more as accent pieces. I also included 3 blocks with just two colors and no white.
  • I alternated the direction of the blocks to create some great negative space designs.
  • I also started positioning them on a diagonal gradient like a scatter plot / correlation (hence the name and relates to my day job).

I loved how it turned out. I love the color, the balance and the fact there’s always something to find in the blocks. Check out #100daysofcoloredangles for progress shots.


For the quilting, I knew I was going to use straight line quilting. I also though about the quilt as a single block, so the quilting was done at angles like one of the original single block designs. I taped out the angles I was going to use, and leveraged the 1″ think tape as border lines for the 1/2″ quilting lines. In each area the lines follow various angles. IMG_5156

The binding was matched to one of the accent pieces, which I am super pleased with how that turned out.

I have multiple ideas now for additional quilts of this nature and will probably make one or two more. It was fun and very happy to add the easier negative space blocks to the quilt. It made the 100 days much easier to complete.


Name : Correlation
Design by myself
Fabric: Kona White; Denyse Schmidt, Modern Solids, Free Spirit
Binding: Kona Aruba
Dimensions:  55 x 60″
Quilted: Straight Line 1/2′ quilting with Aurifil 2021.


News + Finish {Sunday Best}

It has been a busy 30 days or so but for super exciting reasons. First off, I did my first quilting webinar last night. It was about the skill I learned this year – hand piecing (hand stitching blocks). If  you are an MQG member you can check it out here. I had a lot of fun doing it.


Also, I published my first Article for the MQG “Inspirational Sources for Quilt Designs”. If you are an MQG member you can read it here.

Best of all, I also have a finish in time for Quiltcon submissions – Sunday Best.   It took me forever to start quilting this one, as I just was not inspired by anything. Finally, I had an idea on how to quilt the orange peel block….and the long quilting journal began. I used a domestic sewing machine and walking foot for all the quilting.

My goal for quilting, was to add interest, while ensuring it complemented the top and did not distract the viewer. For the stripes up the top of the quilt I used straight lines with varying widths from matchstick quilting to 1/2″.

I decided to choose two different designs for each of the main triangle patterns. The design above on the left (with nested triangles) I used for all of these triangles in this section. For the next set of triangles, featured below, I used a sectional design like slices of an orange. It makes this cool pyramid effect.

For the black and white sections of the quilt, it reminded me of a checker’s board so I used a 1″ grid design.


With using the matchstick quilting at the top, I felt that I needed to balance the dense quilting somewhere else. I decided to use it in this block, the background fabrics, that reminded me of a seed pod.


And yes, all those thread ends, did need burying. It took around 9 hours for this task but I did it over 3 sessions. For those that are interested in how to bury threads, I learned from this tutorial from @ crazy mom quilts.

I finished off the quilting with 1/2″ black and white binding. I can’t tell you how in love I am with this quilt.



Name: Sunday Best
Original Design – Improvisation
Fabric: Various Solid from my scrap bins, Black and white stripes
Backing: Lecien Fabrics (Black and white), scraps from the front
Binding: B+W Striped Binding (1/2″ white stripe)
Dimensions: 46 x 53″
Quilted: Various designs, domestic sewing machine with a walking foot. Used Aurifil #4658 and #4060 wt. 50

Just in case, you can find the design decisions and the information about the top, in this post.

What Shade Are You: Rails {a finish}

REPOSTING from RJR Fabrics “What Shade are You” Blog post today.

Today, on “What Shade are You” I would like to share with you on my design journey and inspiration for my quilt “Rails”.


I am Michelle Wilkie. I can be found on Instagram @ml_wilkie, or on my blog Factotum of Arts.

I was so excited to be participating in What Shade are you, and when I received my bundle in the mail a multitude of ideas came to mind. The colors are so vibrant.

My original bundle, had a couple additional colors but the final fabrics I chose were:

Cotton Supreme Solids:
Optical White
Turks & Caicos
Electric Blue
Sunny Delight
Tangerine Dream
Chilli Pepper
Shell pink
Raging Ruby

Additionally, I used some C+S fabrics to add some interest within the solids:
Sprinkle in Corduroy
Dottie in Fedora
Dottie Cousins in Natural

I get inspired all the time from the world around us. For this quilt, it was no different. My husband is from Mannheim Germany, where we both lived for a few years before moving to the US. My inspiration for this quilt came from the Neustheim Train Junction.


The lines fascinated me. I loved the idea of using improvisation strip piecing to try and mimic these strong direction lines. It was an interesting experience bending the fabric to make the gentle curves. Some tips:

  1. I started this quilt at one end and added in one direction, using strips to mark out where I was adding curves that would intersect with other lines.
  2. Use a lot of starch to get the pieces to lay flat and press often.
  3. Make sure you trim your threads and additional fabric as you go, especially when using white.
  4. Lastly, I glue basted this quilt while it was on my design wall. I pressed each layer to fix it to the one beneath. This technique was important as it helped the top to adhere flat to the bottom layers and hold in place as it stretched out some of the puffy areas.

Here’s a close-up of the quilt top. The predominant colors are blues, yellows and white, however as I stepped back with each addition, I decided to add pops of colors. This adds balance and richness to this quilt that helped also break up the stark bands of color. You can see the use of red, purple, pinks, and orange.


For the quilting, I used Aurifil 2410, 2021, 2120, and 2783. I used irregular-spaced wavy lines that flowed with the fabric strips, to complement the colors and design of the quilt. In the binding, I also added some interest and continued the flow of color by inserting a piece of C+S print and a small blue strip to my white binding.


This was so much fun to play with such vibrant colors. I loved the overall finish that the Cotton Supreme Solids provided. Thanks to RJR fabrics for the opportunity and to you for stopping by.

Stop by my RJRFabrics and ml_wilkie (on Instagram) for a giveaway later today.

Home {#makedoquilt}

The more improvisational piecing I do the more I enjoy it. The freedom and the ability to change on the fly is so relaxing and liberating. Any chance I get to create a quilt using improv. and new techniques, I will jump into action at the moment. For example, when Sherri Lynn Wood created a challenge recently (#makedoquilt), using only discarded clothing and textiles from your home, closet and scrap bin or picked up at yard sales or thrift stores….I was in!!

I had some of my most favorite t-shirts and trousers that had been screaming for a second lease on life. All my pieces (especially shirts) are very graphic and I knew would work in exploring the possibility of making a t-shirt quilt modern, and resulted in this quilt “HOME”.

Project Limits

  • Reduced color palette – neutrals with a pop of red, yellow and blue
  • Text cut into smaller pieces (abstract view)
  • Mini Quilt – want to keep it small enough to explore ideas.
  • Use textures to add interest

Design Choices


Last Wednesday, I had just laid out an initial layout for this quilt and immediately thought I needed to add more neutrals and/or negative space. I added some more neutrals into the middle of the quilt. I also decided that the HST’s needed to move for balance, so these were moved towards the bottom.

Still not completely happy with this, as I thought it was still too busy. I played some more and added some larger white t-shirt pieces but realized I needed texture.  I added a large portion of this white shirt with ribbing, added more corduroy, linen and the strip down the middle (which had a pop of color).

One of my favorite areas is this, which I love the addition of the corduroy with pocket remnants and the words “home”. The corduroy has this natural wear pattern that looks like a ombre coloring. The home t-shirt was my one from New Zealand and truly means home to me, even though I have not lived there for 18 years. I love what it brings to this quilt, it ties it together for me.


The final additions and layout play, which involved rotating the quilt 90 degrees, lead to this final quilt top. I am so ecstatic over the final result. I love the balance of texture vs. color and very pleased to be able to infuse the modern aesthetic.


I am going to keep the quilting simple by using straight lines. I have some scrap binding in denim and a light grey stripe which in the spirit of reuse I will include.


As I had never made a t-shirt quilt before I used some new techniques (for me), such as:

  • I used Pellon 911F (fusible) stabilizer for the back of the t-shirt material and the white stretchy textured shirt. I ironed this on following the instructions to areas I wanted to use. I then cut the fabric. It made it easier to cut, stopped stretch, and stopped any rolling of the fabric maintaining the shape.
  • For the wool trousers, I used fray check liquid on the edges to avoid any fraying. I still used 1/4″ seams but may consider 1/2″ seams in future if I get any instability. As this is going to be a wall hanger and not used regularly I thought 1/4″ seams would be fine.
  • The corduroy and a couple of areas of the t-shirts were multi-layered. I trimmed and thinned out the bulk so that sewing the seams over these areas were easier. This should also help when quilting.

Let me know if you have any other questions. This was a lot of fun, definitely worth participating. Check out Sherri Lynn Woods Instagram (@sherrilynnwood) account for more details and prizes for the challenge (it runs for a year).



Orange Creamsicle {WiP}

I have a few active projects at the moment but I think I am most excited about this one, “Orangle Creamsicle”.

I really needed a project over the summer, which did not bind me to my sewing machine. I needed a hand sewing project but I did not want to do an EPP project, as I already have one on my WiP pile.


Remember this reject block from Sunday Best? Well, this block was saying to me it needs its own quilt to belong to. I decided that I would experiment and see if I could hand stitch improv blocks. Yes, the actual piecing by hand.


The limits/boundaries I currently using for this improv quilt are:

  • Hand stitched blocks
  • Mostly orange with additions of red, pink, and yellows.
  • Accent pieces (filler) can include aqua (which makes everything pop more).
  • While the seams seem to be matching so far in the middle, I am open with accepting the blocks centers and row seams to match – let it naturally fit together.
  • Blocks are approx. 12″


I am really enjoying this project and the process. I am about a quarter of the way through and excited to see how it turns out. What hand sewing projects do you have at the moment??


Sunday Best {a finished top}

A few weeks ago, I was stressing out about so many things – work, quilt projects, household tasks, kid things. I decided that I needed a creative reboot and find a project that involved little to no planning, no stress….just free playing around.

I have been inspired by Luci Summers’ “Quilt Improv: Incredible Quilts from Everyday Inspirations” and Sherri Lynn Wood’s “The Improv Handwork for Modern Quilters”  for a while. I thought an improv project would meet my goal. I have to say, I loved every minute of this project.


I added some limits:

  • Only use colored solids from my scrap bin to help me reduce my scraps
  • A single addition is added each Sunday, spending no more than 2 hours to ensure I didn’t over think things or plan too much…go with the flow of that day
  • At some stage (around week 2) decided I would used strip pieces and black/white stripe fabric for fillers.

Week 1

This first week I just wanted to start really simple, so I did some strip piecing by cutting irregularly strips (no ruler used) and placing them in a bag. I pulled out a piece and stitched them to another and continued until the bag was empty. I continued with this method “brown bag method” until I landed up with this strip. I did trim with a ruler once all sewn together.


Week 2

My love for the strip piecing continued, but this piece was inspired by the rail fence block. I played with the vertical and horizontal placement. I was slightly short on a couple of blocks, so I used the black/white stripe fabric as a filler. The saved the off-cuts from the block sections, thinking I could use them as filler pieces later on.


Week 3

I have mentioned previously how much I love Tapa cloths, I actually have 4 in my room. One of the designs is this diamond/double triangle, which inspired this addition. Most of these triangles were cut out of a 5″ charm pack that was in my scrap bin. I then played with the border and realized that I had some colored pieces that were not big enough to do both sides….this lead to the mixed borders around the triangles.


This addition is one of my favorites, and may lead to a new quilt design.

Week 4

Black and White solids were called for this week. It was Mother’s Day weekend. I was feeling down. I was thinking about my Mum and whether this could be her last mother’s day, and then feeling the additional guilt for not having her quilt finished yet.


I started with just wonky flying geese but they didn’t seem to fit. I added some of the HST off-cuts of the flying geese and loved the chaos look they provided to the flying geese. This is what, I finished with.

Week 5

Inspired by Frank Stella’s art work, I decided to play with curves this week. I had so much fun creating the orange peel – like block. I wasn’t done with improv curves though, and added a second block, inspired from my tapa cloths.  After adding these two blocks, I realized that the column layout didn’t work as well. I decided to change the layout some.


Week 6

From week 3, I had a lot of left over triangles. In order to not have additional scraps, I stitched them blindly together (brown bag method) to make HSR (Half Square Rectangles).


Week 7

There have been several quilts lately, that inspired me to make these stripe 45 degree angled blocks. This addition is my favorite part of the quilt. I love how they fit horizontally across the bottom, complementing the columnar piecing from the previous week.


Week 8

I  struggled this week. I had a couple of ideas and neither were working in this gap. One idea was another circular block but I think the color palette I used for the block made it not fit with the rest of the quilt. Don’t get me wrong, I love the block but think it needs its own quilt.


The other idea was various small log cabin blocks. Again, they did not look right. I decided to call it a day. I took the day off for my birthday this week, and gave it another go. Something made me cut up the log cabins and sew them all back together. That was it….a perfect addition to my crazy quilt.


Week 9

At this stage, I was feeling that the project was winding up. I pieced all the left over strip scraps and added the left column strip. Off-cuts from this, and having the old TV end of program sign stuck in my head, lead me to adding the black/white circle block (based on my phased circle block). Lastly, it was just finalizing layout and adding the filler pieces (which I also added for balance).


Week 10

This final week, I conquered my fear of partial seams (not easy when stitching really large parts of a quilt) and stitched it all together. It’s now a finished quilt top, measuring ~ 50 x 52″.


I am totally in love with this quilt. I am thinking, right now, of matchstick quilting it, using yellow thread (or may be various colors). I have to mentally prepare myself though for matchstick quilting.

For now though, I loved this free process so much I have already started another improv project (using that circle block from week 8).

Linking up with Amanda Jean @ Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday.