Category Archives: free form quilt

Reversible tray cover using improv piecing and embroidery

This tray cover is made using patchwork improv blocks as well as embroidery. The cover is reversible.

If you’ve never done any improv patchwork, don’t worry, check out this 2 minute video and learn. Using paper as a stabiliser is optional:


Scrap fabrics in coordinated colours.

Embroidery pattern

Embroidery stitch: stem stitch (watch video).
Measure your tray
All the measurements are for my tray. Yours will likely be different so you will have to measure it in the following way.
First measure the inside width and length.

My tray has different heights around the sides so I need to  measure both sides separately.

Measure from the base of the tray all around on each side. One of the sides on my tray has a bump and it is higher. This is where I will measure the height.

Then measure the height on the side.

The measurements of my tray:

  • 12 1/4 x 16 1/4 inches for the base
  • 12 1/4 x 5 for the higher side
  • 16 1/4 x 3 3/4 for the lower side
All the measurements from now on are based on the measurements above. You will need to adjust yours.
Making the embroidery side of the cover 
For the embroidery only side cut:
  • one rectangle 12 3/4 x 16 3/4 inches for the base (I added 1/2 for the seam allowance)
  • 2 rectangles 12 3/4 x 5 1/2
  • 2 rectangles 16 3/4 x 4 1/2
Trace the words in the middle of the larger rectangle. “L’heure du thé”: Tea time.

And embroider them. I chose a variegated thread to add some interest.

Making the improv blocks

The foundation of the improv blocks is based on the size of the embroidered words.

Given the size of the tray, I worked out that I needed 4 improv blocks: 6 1/2 x 8 3/4 inches each.

To start cut 4 rectangles to fit the 4 words in them:

  • tisane: 5 x 2 1/2
  • thé: 4 x 2 1/2
  • chai: 4 1/2 x 2 1/2
  • infusion: 5 1/2 x 3 1/4

Now is when you start building the blocks. I basically just added strips around the main rectangle starting with a little strip on the opposite direction to give the blocks some interest.

Start cutting wonky strips. The length of my strips were 10 inches. Always use inches longer than required for your final rectangle so you will be able to trim your blocks to size.

You can see the process that I followed in the next photographs.

First I added some strips to the main rectangle to make it a full piece and then added the strips to the sides.

I used fabrics with lots of contrast.

My blocks are not big enough so I kept adding strips to each side until the blocks were big enough that could be trimmed to size, i.e. bigger than the required 6 1/2 x 8 3/4 inches each by at least 1 to 2 inches.

When you reach the required size, stitch the blocks together.

The embroidery is placed alternating longer and shorter words so that the visual result is more balanced.

Stitch all blocks together.


Do the embroidery before trimming.

Trace the words on to the middle rectangle.

Embroider the letters using matching thread. I used a hoop because the results are a lot neater. I find a small hoop easier to use than a large one.

The embroidery is finished.

Embroidery closeups

Quilting the sandwich

Do not trim the rectangle yet.

Cut a piece of batting as large as the rectangle.

Pin in place. No backing fabric is used.

Quilt. I used stipple quilting.

Then trim to size.

Trimming the back of the cover

Now that the front and back rectangles are done, we need to assemble the cover.

First trim the embroidered tray cover side using the quilted side so that both rectangles are the same size.

Adding the flaps 

Take the rectangles you cut at the start.

Pin them to the side and stitch.

Do the same with the other sides.

Press seams open.

Do the same with the improv side.

Sew and iron with the seams open.

Adding the ties

Cut 8 pieces of ribbon 9 inches long each.

Place both sides of the tray right side facing together.

Place one ribbon about 1 inch from the edge on each of the 8 sides as per picture below.

Pin well.

Stitch all around leaving a 3 inch opening to turn cover inside out. Trim the corners.

Turn inside out.

Iron well.

Top stitch on the seam line around the rectangle and then top stitch around the outer edges as close to the edge as possible.

The tray is finished.

The reverse side of the cover.

Both sides are quite different. The improv side is rather busy whereas the other side is quite the opposite.

I don’t know which side I prefer.

Spanish lace bobbins holder tutorial


  • Cotton fabric: solids and inside print
  • 100% linen for the grey background fabric

The piece measures 10 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches. The top flap is optional and is 3 inches high.

The holder takes 48 bobbins, 24 on each side.

The inside pocket panels are 25 x 8 1/2 inches each. They are folded in half and sewn to the back fabric at 1 inch intervals.

Outside panel

Measurements chart – assembly diagram


  • E: 1 x 24 1/2 inches – cut one
  • F: 1 3/4 x 5 in wide strip – cut 4
  • G: 1 1/2 x 5 in wide strips inserted in between solid colour strips – cut 16
  • Colour strips are 2 inch wide. Heights below:
1A: 1 1/2 2A: 1 3A: 2 1/2 4A:1 5A: 1 3/4 6A: 3 1/2 7A: 1 1/2 8A: 3 9A: 1 1/2
1B: 2 1/4  2B: 2 3/4 3B: 1 3/4  4B: 3 1/4  5B: 3 3/4 6B: 1 1/4 7B: 1 3/4 8B: 1 1/4 9B: 3 1/4
1C: 2 1/4  2C: 3 3C: 1 1/4  4C: 2 1/2  5C: 3 6C: 1 3/4 7C: 2 3/4 8C: 3 1/4 9C: 1 3/4
1D: 2 1/2  2D: 1 1/4 3D: 3  4D: 1 1/4  5D: 1  6D: 2 1/2 7D: 1 8D: 1 1/2 9D: 1 1/2
  • The little white strip between the solid colours is 1 inch wide, i.e. 1/2 in when sewn. Cut 18 1 x 2 inch rectangles.

Each side is 5 inches high. Cut the following pieces in grey linen to fill in the gaps:

  • 2 x 1 inches – cut 11 pieces
  • 2 x 2 inches – cut 5 pieces
  • 2 1/2 x 2 inches – cut 1 piece

Stitch the grey pieces to the solids.

Now you need to stitch the strips in between the solids. From the assembly diagram above:

  • F: 1 3/4 x 5 in wide strip – cut 4
  • G: 1 1/2 x 5 in wide strips inserted in between solid colour strips – cut 16

Stitch together and trim each rectangle to 5 1/2 inches high.

Now cut the central strip to join both sides together.

The outside panel is now finished. Iron well.

Adding a flap

This step is optional.

The flap is 3 inches wide. If using one, cut a 24 1/2 x 3 in strip the same fabric as the background fabric and stitch to one side of the front panel.

Inside of folder

For the inside, you will need a backing fabric that measures the same as the outside you just completed if not using a flap.

IF USING A FLAP, cut the rectangle 3 inches larger.

Cut 2 rectangles:  25 x 8 1/2 inches each and fold in half and iron flat.

If adding a flap to the folder, make a tube with one of the rectangles by folding the rectangle in two with right sides facing together and stitching along the seam. Then turn inside out. See photo below.

Pin the rectangles in place and mark the stitching lines for each bobbin at 1 inch intervals.

Pin well as you mark the fabric.

Pay attention to the placement of the bobbin pockets if using a flap.

If not using a flap, place both pocket panels on each edge of the backing fabric. If using a flap, stitch the bottom of the bobbin pockets on the side facing the flap.

Stitch on each marked line to make the pockets.

Put the folder together

Cut a piece of fusible interfacing the same size as the front panel. The interfacing will add instability to the linen.

Place some ribbon aligned with the black strip on the front of the folder. The picture below shows the wrong placement because the flap will be folded and therefore the ribbon will not be in the middle of the roll

Place front panel on top of the pockets panel right sides together and pin in place. Mark a 3 inch opening where you will be turning the folder inside out.

Stitch all around leaving a 1/4 in seam allowance.

Iron well and top stitch all around the folder.

The folder is done. You can see on this photo that the ribbon was repositioned to coincide with the black middle strip.


Front closeup.

The bobbins fit nicely.

The folder can be rolled open or folded in the middle. When used open, just fold the flap inside as per picture.

If used folded in half, use the flap to keep both sides together.

The roll is quite small if folded in two.

Et voilà!

I quite like it.

If you make one please share your photos of the finished product in TeresaDownUnder projects Flickr group.

Spanish lace

Image by Wikimedia

Putting the improv / free form quilt blocks together

Time to put all blocks together with some sashing and a border.

Block construction

Adding sashing

I made 4 strips of sashing, larger than required and then trimmed each strip as I added the sashing.

Making the sashing

Sashing is made of 2 inch cream strips with some touches of colour.

Place the cream strip below the colour strip and make a cut like below.

Pin well together and stitch.

Then place the cream strip on top of the colour strip and cut along the line.

Now put both coloured and cream strips together.

Pin well.

Stitch and iron flat.

Now do the same with another colour.

Cut together to make sure that cutting lines match.

The curvier the edge the more pins you will need to ensure the seam lies flat when stitched.

Iron the sashing well before sewing to the blocks.

Add sashing to blocks.

Pin one strip to the top of one block and stitch.

Trim excess off.

Stitch sashing to the next block.

Continue adding strips and trimming.


The border is 3 1/2 inches wide. Cut 5 x 4 inch squares and make a cut across each of them.

Cut now a narrow strip in a coloured fabric by placing the piece of fabric as per picture below.

Cut along each line on the sides.

Do the same for all squares.

Pin and stitch together.

Iron flat.

Trim to 3 1/2 inches.

Place the squares around the border and sew to strips of fabric 3 1/2 wide.

Stitch the border to the assembled blocks.

Make a quilt sandwich. I used calico for the backing and cotton batting.

Pin all three layers together.

Quilt the sandwich. I stipple quilted it.

Mount on canvas

My canvas is 90 x 70 cm (about 35.4 in x 27.5 in) and as you can see in the photo, the quilt is quite a bit larger so it wraps really well around the frame. Unfortunately some of the border stripes can’t be seen. Too late for me but you could make sure that in your border you add the little stripes closer to the blocks so they show.

After carefully placing the quilt over the canvas making sure it is centred (my quilt wasn’t perfectly square so on some areas there is more border showing than in others), staple the quilt well all around the frame.

Start stapling on opposite sides first.

Then staple in between the existing staples.

And then each corner.


I was going to add some fabric border around the frame but I’m undecided.

And now that it is finished, I am not sure it will work well as a bed head.

Improv / free form quilt blocks series – block 6 – tutorial

This  is the sixth and last block. It is constructed in the same way as my first free form mini quilt.


The block is constructed like a log cabin block.

Cut the strips of fabric with a pair of scissors or with a rotary cutter without using a ruler. Start with a small rectangle for the centre. Use strips made of different colours to build the block around the centre. The strips can be one single colour or the strip can be made of different colours joined together.

Keep adding strips of fabric until your block can be squared to 10 inches.

The sides of the block may get very wavy as you keep sewing. To straighten a wavy strip, you need to place the side of the block on top of the new strip of fabric, pin it, and cut around the edge of the block on the fabric below (see picture).You will end up with a wavy strip of fabric as per picture below.

To add the wavy strip to the side of the block, pin it in place matching the inside and outside waves really well. It can be tricky to start.

When you’re done with the block, square it to 10 1/2 inches.

So we have now a set of 6 blocks. Next time we will add the sashing and a border ready to mount on canvas.

Make some St Valentin’s craft today!

3 easy projects to do in one day!

  1. Scrappy heart potholder tutorial
  2. Love is the answer… hot water bottle cozy tutorial
  3. Heart pincushion tutorial