I’ve had fun teaching Artful Improv classes the last few weeks! So I decided I should do a roundup of some of the wonderful work that has been created in my recent classes.

Artful Improv is the name of my book: Artful Improv: Explore Color Recipes, Building Blocks & Free Motion Quilting, and you can get your very own copy from me here, or from Amazon, or from your favorite quilt shop, I hope.

I teach several classes related to the book, including Artful Improv – Permission to Play! and Focus on the Improv Block. My next classes will be held at the Quilters Unlimited Annual Quilt Show in June 2017 at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA. I’ll be teaching my Autumn Stripe Table Runner in a half day class on the morning of Friday, June 2, and Artful Improv – Permission to Play! as a full day class on Saturday, June 3. There are still openings, and you can register at the QU website at http://quiltersunlimited.org/quilt-show/2017-classes/

Improv Blocks from Class - Cindy Grisdela

Improv Blocks Vienna VA 2017

Janet's Angled Improv Block - Cindy Grisdela Improv Block Class

Janet’s angled Improv Block Vienna 2017

This past Wednesday was Focus on the Improv Blockwith the Vienna Chapter of Quilters Unlimited of Northern Virginia. Nearly 20 students learned the basics of creating improv log cabin style blocks to design a small quilt top around. These photos, as well as the featured photo at the top of this post, came from that class.

One of the things I enjoy the most about teaching these classes is helping each person explore her or his own creativity. The blocks and the quilts created in my classes always look very different from each other, and most are very different from my work as well. You can see that well in the two block photos above.

As a teacher, I want to give my students the tools and the confidence to design their own work without strict rules or patterns to follow.

One of the students in Wednesday’s class, whose blocks I unfortunately didn’t get a photo of, wasn’t entirely comfortable with the improv technique. But she persevered and ended up with something she was happy with at the end. I told her I looked forward to seeing what she did with the techniques and she replied that it probably wouldn’t be anything like what I expected. I thought that was wonderful! Incorporating these techniques into your own practice is what I’m hoping for when I teach.

Last month, I traveled to South Carolina to be the featured teacher at the Quilters of South Carolina Spring Meeting. I taught two classes there and gave my “Playing with Colors” lecture.


SC Student work in Artful Improv class - Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Student blocks from QSC Artful Improv class - Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Student Artful Improv units at QSC Spring 2017

These photos are from the Artful Improv – Permission to Play! class. In this class, students learn to piece four or five different improv style blocks from my book–including Improv Blocks, Angled Stripes, Curved Blocks, and Inset Strips. Then they can choose to focus on one or more elements to design their own art quilts.




Student green quilt top in progress - Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Improv Block with green background in progress at QSC 2017

Student quilt top in progress

Student quilt tops in progress at QSC Spring 2017


Not everyone chooses to work in solids and that’s fine. The process works just as well with patterned fabrics like batiks or any commercial prints. If you love it, it will work with Artful Improv!

This group was very creative and came up with some interesting designs.

QSC Summer Breeze class - Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Summer Breeze class at Quilters of South Carolina Spring Meeting 2017


The second class I taught in South Carolina was my Summer Breeze wall hanging class. In this class we focus on making smaller Improv Blocks and set them with asymmetrical borders like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. This is a more project oriented class, but there is still quite a bit of flexibility for students to design their own work.

Student blocks in process in Cindy Grisdela class

Student blocks in process for Summer Breeze wall hanging class at QSC 2017

The morning is spent making the Improv Blocks and the

Student black, red and gray Improv blocks

Black, red and gray Improv Blocks in process at QSC 2017

afternoon is designing.

Bright colors were popular in this class, but not for everyone!

Another class I taught recently was my “Playing with Crayons” pattern, which is not strictly an improv class–it’s more of a color study and it’s fun to teach because I love color so much! This class was with the Nimble Fingers Quilt Guild in Rockville, MD.

Mary's Crayons Quilt Top - Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Mary’s Quilt Top from Cindy’s Playing with Crayons class

Mary did a good job playing with the colors in her quilt top!

Students in my improv classes are sometimes a little nervous about the idea of creating without a pattern, but they always relax when I tell them in the beginning that there’s no way to make a mistake! You might not like each block you make, but you always have the choice to add to it, or cut it up and use it for something else. One student recently pieced an improv block and she didn’t care for one side of it, which was lighter than the other side. I suggested that she simply cut the part off that she didn’t like, and add something else. After she did that, she was pleased with the result!

I see my role as a teacher to encourage creativity, however each student might define it. I’m scheduling now for 2018-19, so if you’d like me to come teach for your group, take a look at my lectures/workshops page and choose a class! My 2017 teaching schedule is up on the right sidebar of this site.