Category Archives: Improvisation

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??