Category Archives: Improvisation

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).