Tag Archives: improv quilt

Embellishing with English paper piecing (EPP) video tutorial

With a few fabric scraps you can embellish lots of objects such as the napkins on the video.


These are the napkins I made with improv EPP.

Embellishing with EPP video tutorial

Denim purse

My other project. Perfect for a Christmas gift.

New book out on December 3

“Turnabout Patchwork. Simple quilts with a twist” is all about playing with blocks – making a block, slicing it up, and turning or repositioning the pieces to make a completely different block (sometimes two smaller blocks) to yield endless quilt tops.

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Or preorder on Bookdepository and get it delivered for free.

Preorder Turaabout patchwork by Teresa Mairal Barreu - TeresaDownUnder

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Denim purse tutorial


How to make hexagons

Notes: all seam allowances are 1/4 inches.  Add the seam allowance to the pattern line.

This pattern is made for a 4 inch wide frame. If your frame is wider or narrower, just place frame on top of the pattern and draw proportionally around the lines, inside or outside, adjusting for the width of frame.

Cut all your pieces,as per instructions on the pattern, adding 1/4 in seam allowance.

Sew 9 or 10 hexies and stitch in groups. Learn how to sew hexies.

Pin each hexie group to each denim side.

Stitch to the denim with a hidden stitch.

To remove paper hexagon turn over the denim piece, make a few cuts, trim excess denim fabric and remove paper.


To make the lining, pin pieces together, in twos, and stitch along the line.

The lining is now ready.

Now stitch the exterior in the same way, alternating denim and pattern fabric.

The exterior is done.

Now with the lining inside out and the exterior inside out, place the exterior inside the lining.

Stitch along the top edge leaving a 2 inch opening to turn purse inside out.

Turning purse inside out through the opening.


Now it’s time to stitch the purse to the frame, or glue it.

The hardest part is to stop it from moving. I used pins but you could thread and large stitches that go from the lining to the exterior and wrapping around the frame.

Then just stitch the frame to the purse using stranded cotton or some strong thread.

I addes a self covered button to cover the point where all the pieces meet which was a bit untidy.

It is a cutte frame and it is a good size too. It could be a make a small make up bag.

Upcycled denim pants travel bag with improv patchwork

Upcycled travel bag tutorial

This is not only a bag with improv patchwork but also a sort of improv travel bag too. I don’t have any clue about how to construct pants or any garment. The way I went about doing this was rather approximate as you will see. I am not going to give any sizes of fabric, jeans or whatever because it will depend on the size of the pants you use. Before you start, align the top of the waist jeans together and pin. Believe me it makes things better if you do this.

I started with an old pair of jean. This pair in particular had pockets lower than the start of the legs. I wanted to preserve the pockets so I cut the pants lower than the pockets.

Then I cut each leg bit individually as per picture.

I pinned both sides, from each leg together. The point of this exercise was to get a straight piece of jeans. I drew a straight line of where the seam should go.

I stitched along the line.

I turned the pants around and did the same thing on the other side. In both instances excess fabric needs to be trimmed off.

This is the resulting piece from step one.

Now trim both front and back as per picture. Make sure the rectangle is the same height on both right and left side.

Improv patchwork

There’re many of ways of doing improv patchwork. I have posted tutorials on improv patchwork before. For this bag,  I stitched pieces of fabric together of approximately the same length until I got a bigger piece. Then I put it aside.

I continued to stitch bigger pieces from smaller pieces.

You will need to trim pieces as you continue to piece. For instance I stitched a rectangle on an an angle in the piece below.

Then I trimmed it to fit with the rectangular shape of the larger piece. I usually try to get to a rectangular or square piece because then it is easier to assemble the different pieces.

By this stage I thought I’d have enough for the bottom of the bag.

I started to assemble the pieces and trimming them into a rectangle.

When you trim your pieces they can be reused to square other improv pieces. Do not throw anything away.

Prepare the denim pants.

You need to decide how big you want your bag to be and then decide on the size of your improv patchwork piece. My improv patchwork is about 7 inches wide by the width of the pants. I made a large strip/rectangle and stitched it into a tube. Then I placed the pants inside the patchwork tube and aligned the bottom edge.

I pinned well.

I stitched along the edge leaving 1/4in seam allowance.

That’s it. The bottom is attached. I pressed the seam well.

Then I turned the bag inside out and pinned along the bottom edge to make the exterior sac.

I stitched all along the bottom edge leaving 1/4 inch allowance.

Time to box the corners of the bag. My photos aren’t great on this step so if they don’t make any sense please check Sew 4 home tutorial. Place the bag as per picture below and mark 2 1/2 in from the corner.

Stitch along the line and cut off excess fabric.

Do on both sides and voilà! Done!


Usually I stitch the lining by machine but this time I don’t want to stitch the lining all the way to the top of the bag but just up to the waist band so I hand stitched the lining. Also I added batting to the lining for the same reason I hand stitched it to the bag.

I measured the bag and cut 2 lining pieces in quilting cotton. I squilted both pieces separately.

Then I placed both pieces right sides facing together and stitched around 3 sides leaving the side that will go up open.

The lining also needs to have boxed corners. Do as you did for the bag.

The handles are heavy duty and store bought. I’m tired of my handles and straps deteriorating within a few months of using a bag. Place the handles about 6 inches apart. Pin. And stitch now.

Place the lining inside the bag, fold the top in and slip stitch around the waist.


This is it.

Big enough as a weekend bag or a beach bag.

Finishing the semi improv 9-patch quilt

This is the entire finished quilt.

See all tutorials that make this quilt.

And the quilt back.

Quilt top

Now you have completed all blocks it’s time to arrange them.

Lay them on the floor and place them in a way that is pleasing to you.

Stitch together in rows.

Back of the quilt

Get 6 charm squares and the little strips of fabric left from the trimming of the charm squares we used for the top. Cut a few extra trimmings in the strip colours.

Cut seven 4 1/2 in x 5 in rectangles in the background fabric.

Now take one or more trimmings.

Cut the cream rectangle in two. Choose a random spot where to split the rectangle each time.

Place the trimming in between.

Do this for each of the 7 inserts. Then stitch the trimmings.

You can add more than one trimming.

Now stitch charm squares and inserts in a row. Iron flat.

Now cut two pieces to stitch to each side of the strip. Each piece should be 19 3/4 in x 52 in. Stitch and iron.

Assemble the quilt sandwich and quilt using your preferred method.

I used free motion.

I also used a very quick way to make the binding by machine.

Detail of quilt

Semi improv 9-patch quilt tutorial – Finishing the improv blocks

After the first improv iteration, we have so far completed 12 blocks. The blocks are uneven and need trimming and completing.

The final size of each block will be 12 1/2 inches.

Finishing the blocks

Trim all blocks to 11 1/2 in square.

Take all the little strips of fabric you kept from your charm squares and scraps of solids cotton fabrics.

Take a piece of solid fabric and cut a strip that is at least 13 in long by 1 3/4 in wide.

Cut the strip at random intervals and stitch the little 1/2 in x 5 in strips left over from the initial charm squares you used to make the blocks.

You can stitch the strips using a 1/8 in seam allowance.

You need to repeat this one for each block.

You can add more than one little piece or even make one little strip out of two different fabrics.

The more variety, the more interest you will add to your quilt.

Can you see the second strip is made out of two different strips of fabric?

I made the coloured strips all at the same time.

I used mostly coordinated fabrics but you can mix and match.

Depending on the angle you used when cutting your strips across you may need to straighten the final strip.

Now pick up a block and attach the strip to it.

Pin and stitch.

Trim the strip.

Press seam.

Trim to 12 1/2 inches.

To finish now cut a 12 1/2 in x 1 1/2 in strip of background fabric.

Stitch. This will square the block to 12 1/2 inches. You are done with your first block.

For the next block attach the strips in the opposite way, ie start with a 11 1/2 in x 1 1/2 in strip of the background fabric.

Then attached the coloured strip.

And trim to 12 1/2 in square.

Alternating longer and shorter coloured strip will add some more improv features to the quilt. Do as many of each as you like rather than half half.

Detail of finished 12 1/2 inch blocks

Next tutorial the quilt is put together.