For the 2016 Block of the Month we are going to exercise our improvisation muscles. We will be exploring nine different shapes/techniques, creating a slab of improv patchwork each month that will come together to become a one-of-a-kind quilt. Ruler free, ruler assisted, wild and crazy, simple and controlled…you get to decide and set your limits and comfort level for each technique. The finished quilt will measure approximately 60” x 80”. For anyone who wants to scale down from the original 60” x 80”-ish size (before the optional border), the three different section sizes are: 15”x 30”; 20” x 30”; and 30” x 30”.

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood will be a really good reference for use throughout this project; I know several of us have this book from Sherri’s visit to our guild last February. If you don’t already have it, it contains lots of good information for troubleshooting problems as well as exercises for getting started with improv patchwork.

Click on any of the month titles below for more detailed information and pictures. Thanks Matt for putting this year’s BOM together! Please use #SeaSLABBOM when posting pictures of your progress online.


For January we have an easy and fun task, curate your fabric! Choose about 7 yards (for the quilt top only). Suggestion: 2-3 yards should be background/filler fabric, using this fabric throughout your slabs will help unify the pieces and you will be able to use this fabric, if needed, to join the slabs without it being obvious.


Now, we are going to start off with a fun and easy technique for February, Strings! The strings slab needs to finish approximately 15” x 30”. Whether you start by sewing together strata and cutting it up and re-sewing, or looking at traditional structured strip piecing designs such as rail fence or spider web, this is a great place to venture into going ruler free…but if you’re not ready for ruler free improv, think about foundation piecing or pulling strings to be sewn together at random from a bag.  This should be a fun and easy introduction, don’t be intimidated and have fun with it! The inspiration for my strings slab (lower right corner of my sample) came from vintage string quilts on eBay.


The February strings slabs are looking great! Remember to share on Instagram using #SeaSLABBOM so we can see and be inspired by your beautiful work. The goal of this project is to try new techniques and to get us thinking about how different shapes and blocks are constructed in patchwork.

This month we are going to explore triangles. Think flying geese, half-square triangles, stitch and flip corners on a square (or other shape), triangular shapes surrounded by background fabric, or triangular shapes sewn directly together to create interesting jagged shapes. The triangles slab needs to finish at approximately 15” by 30”.

Here are a couple of tutorial links to get the ideas going for improv triangle shapes:
Ants to Sugar – Little Tents
Little Ms. Sew-Unsew – Improv Stripped Geese

We will be assembling the slabs once they are all constructed, so don’t worry too much about each slab matching up with the one made before it. There will be many different ways to assemble the slabs. I found it helpful to keep the scale of the piecing and the ratio of main to background fabric in mind when constructing each one.


The slab for April will be gentle curves. It is a slightly more challenging improv technique and one I had to learn to make the sample. This tutorial by Anne of Play Crafts posted to the Lily’s Quilts blog is the tutorial that helped me finally get it.

If you want to be a bit more adventurous with this curve slab you could try out this tutorial by Spontaneous Threads.

The April slab needs to be approximately 20″ x 30″.


The slab for May is crazy piecing, a great opportunity to use some of the scraps you have created from making the slabs from previous months. For my crazy piecing slab, I started with a four or five sided shape and added strips and chunks of fabric until I had pieces the sizes I wanted.

This tutorial from Victoria Findlay Wolfe is a great way to get started on this crazy piecing slab.

The May slab needs to be approximately 15″ x 30″.


The slab for June is Squares. For the example I cut a variety of squares from my fabrics, joined the squares into pairs, joined those pairs of squares into four patch units, and then assembled those four patch units into the slab.

If you need a more structured approach and you have your copy of The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood handy, this would be a great time to try out the Score for Floating Squares.

The June slab needs to be approximately 15″ x 30″.


The slab for July is pineapple. Don’t worry, improv pineapple blocks are not as scary to make as you are thinking. Start with a center square, add strips to the sides of the square as you would to make a courthouse steps log cabin block, and then add triangles over the corners stitch and flip style and trim.

This tutorial by Jacquie Gering shows how easy it is to make these.

The July slab needs to be approximately 15″ x 30″.


The August slab is quarter circles/drunkard’s path. This is a great opportunity to practice, or try out, piecing curves since the pieces don’t have to line up exactly and you can trim off any excess fabric left over after sewing the curve. Here is a tutorial for sewing improv curve blocks from Lindsay Conner for the Craftsy Quilting Blog.

The quarter circles/drunkard’s path slab needs to be approximately 20″ x 30″.


The slab for September is an improv adaptation of a traditional block of your choice, choose as simple or complex a block as you want. Now that we have practiced piecing a variety of improvisational shapes and techniques, you’ll have all of the skills you need to tackle any block. The goal of this slab is to get you thinking about how your chosen block is constructed and how to adapt it in your own improvisational way.

The improv block adaptation slab needs to be approximately 30″ x 30″.


For the October slab there are two options.

Option 1: Choice/Intent/Inspiration. Any of those words get your attention or spark an idea? This option would be a great opportunity to add an additional touch of your personal improv style.

Option 2: Lone Star/Diamonds, which was my inspiration for this slab. I started with pieced strip sets and sliced and reassembled to experiment with diamond shapes and angles.

The October slab needs to be approximately 15″ x 30″.


November will be assembling your slabs and troubleshooting unruly patchwork, we’re almost finished! Above is one possible layout for your slabs.

If you have Sherri Lynn Wood‘s The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, there are some fantastic tips for putting improv patchwork slabs together and resolving any bubbles or wobbles that might occur. When laying out your slabs, look for areas where you can make colors bleed together to create interesting shapes and movement.

Optional Border: If your quilt is an odd size or isn’t quite big enough for you, add a border to one or more sides. Choose an element or two from your slabs that you really enjoyed making and recreate it as a border. For my sample I chose the square in a square made in the beginning steps of the improv pineapple


December’s task is finishing your SeaSlab BOM quilt. We made it! I hope you learned a few new techniques along the way, I definitely did.

“Quilt as desired,” that dreaded phrase…Here’s how I approached the quilting for mine; my eye was drawn to the pineapple slab in the center right, so I decided to make it a focal point with the quilting. For busy pieced quilts like this, I like to use a quilting design that creates an overall “screen” of texture.

If you have scraps left over from your slabs, you could consider piecing them together and giving this two (or more) color binding tutorial by Ellyn of Ellyn’s Place a try.

Please share your progress and your finished quilts on Instagram using #SeaSlabBOM

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