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MDL Mini Quilt Challenge {Improv Piecing}

Earlier this month I shared my fabric pull and test block for the MDL mini quilt challenge. Since then I’ve had some time to work on some improv piecing for the quilt top and I wanted to share how that process evolved for me. In order to do that, I am going to back up a little bit and share the inspiration photo for the challenge and more about my design process.

Woodside Mill by Mark Mulfinger

Woodside Mill by Mark Mulfinger

The theme for this challenge is Greenville’s Textile Heritage (Greenville, South Carolina). The textile boom of Greenville began around 1880 to 1890 when southern farmers transitioned from shipping their cotton to New England to processing it here in the Upstate into finished goods. Soon Greenville was dubbed the “Textile Capital of the World”. In about a twenty-year span, sixteen cotton mills were built within three miles of downtown Greenville, including the Brandon Mill, home of the Greenville Center for Creative Arts, and the Woodside Mill pictured above.

Fabric Pull

Fabric Pull

As a quick refresher, we are all to use Kona Cotton Grasshopper and any shade of black, gray, and white (be it solid or in prints). Based on my stash, my fabric selection ended up being all Kona Cotton solids (no big surprise).

Concept 1

Concept 1

I was attracted to the water tower in the photo and started looking into what a design might look like. The first concept I drew was too realistic and representative, but it’s really important for me to start sketching to get ideas flowing.

Concept 2

Concept 2

Knowing that I wanted to pair down the design, I decided to introduce my color palette. After bringing color into my design, I was able to develop a block shape based on the water tower legs. It was here that I decided that I was going to approach each block as improv with intent.  The goal for the top blocks are to be narrower than the strip below with the blocks at the bottom being wider. The inset strips finish at 1/4″.

First Pieced Blocks

First Pieced Blocks

To start, I decided to keep everything in a single color horizontally except for the green tower legs that will form in one column vertically. Note that I did use a ruler to cut but I tried my best to not use the markings and cut my angles more free form.

Testing Out Alternate Block Idea

Testing Out Alternate Block Idea

After piecing the first blocks, I wanted to test out other color options for the blocks. I tried making a block that brought another color from the row above down into the next row. As soon as I put it up on my design wall it felt like the wrong choice for me.

Just Keep Piecing

Just Keep Piecing

And by the time I finished piecing all the blocks for the third row, I knew that I liked the strong color blocking. While I have done improv piecing before, it is interesting and different for me to enter a project without a really firm plan. It was nice to be able to see my rendering was slightly different and deviate from it and test out another approach along the way. As this is a mini quilt, it was an especially low time investment to sample out a new idea, too.

Ready for Quilting

Ready for Quilting

I now have a piece quilt top that is approximately 20″ wide by 18″ ready for quilting. Prior to pin basting, I layered the quilt top on the batting and used my hera marker to add some reference lines for quilting. The diagonal cross braces from the water tower will be reappearing as quilted lines, and I have some plans to add hand quilting detail as well. My current plan is to do all the quilting, block the mini, and then trim it down to 15″ square and bind. I am debating if I can add the hand quilting after the quilt is bound without distorting it too much as I’m concerned that the trim might make some of the details I want to add with the hand quilting unravel. Thankfully I have a bit of time to decide how to proceed!

8 thoughts on “MDL Mini Quilt Challenge {Improv Piecing}

  1. barbara says:

    I love what you’ve done! Now for me to try the 1/4 insert!

  2. patty says:

    This looks great!

  3. Jennifer Strauser says:

    I love this. It is really fascinating how much impact you manage to put into such a small piece. Your thoughtful constructions are always inspirational to me.

  4. I really love your photos showing your Hera marked quilting plan. Really will showcase your beautiful design

  5. aquilterstable says:

    I find this SO intriguing and visually pleasing. Cool to see your original inspiration and I really like where you’ve taken it!

  6. Great interpretation. I love the extra piecing that gives it another dimension – very creative.

  7. Izzy says:

    I love where you went with this challenge! It was so interesting to read about your process too. The finished mini is going to be stunning.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)