I’m just back from a fun visit to the Capital Quilters Guild in Raleigh, NC. I gave my Anatomy of an Improv Quilt lecture and taught two workshops, Fire and Ice Bargello and Improv Puzzle, to some very enthusiastic and talented quilters!

The Improv Puzzle class takes a free form approach to improv design. Students bring 8-12 fat quarters of fabric and an open mind, and we spend the day cutting and sewing units to create original designs. The “puzzle” part comes in where we put everything together using various techniques to fill in the spaces. There were 21 students in the class and they all did wonderful work. Below are a few examples. I’m grateful the students gave me permission to share their designs.

Lynne’s Improv Puzzle quilt – Capital Quilters Raleigh

Lynne had an improv block on hand, and used it as the basis for her puzzle design. She did a great job with the negative space.

Julie’s Improv Puzzle Quilt Capital Quilters

Julie was taking her first quilting workshops with me–I’m so honored! She used a controlled color palette and added the “spark” very effectively with pops of fuschia.

Marilyn’s Improv Puzzle quilt Capital Quilters

The first units Marilyn made didn’t speak to her, so she put them aside and began again with a new color story. I encourage students to “listen to their hearts” and work on trying to find their own voices. The pops of black and white add a lot of interest to this composition!

Christine’s Improv Block Capital Quilters

Christine wanted to create a small quilt based on one large improv block, similar to some of my compositions. She was open to changing her color palette as the design developed. Although I use mostly solids in my work, students have been very successful using prints, or a combination of prints and solids, in their improv designs.

Connie’s Improv Puzzle quilt Capital Quilters

Connie used prints and solids to great effect in her blocks. Connie was the workshop chair who helped me get where I needed to go–she did a great job!

Denise Improv Puzzle quilt Capital Quilters

Denise also used a controlled color palette and asymmetrical borders on some of her blocks.

Sue Ann’s Improv Puzzle quilt Capital Quilters

And Sue Ann decided to use improv techniques to put together an assortment of leftover blocks from previous projects–it worked!

Bargello Designs Capital Quilters – Cindy Grisdela

The Bargello class is more pattern-based, but each quilt made in that class was unique because of the different fabric choices students used. They all did a great job with their projects too. Depending on the fabric choices, some interesting secondary patterns emerged in these quilts.

One of the things I enjoy most about teaching improv classes is helping students explore their own creativity–whatever that means for them. Sometimes students are a little hesitant about improv because there’s no pattern to follow. Usually everyone relaxes when I tell them in the beginning that there’s no way to make a mistake in my classes! Mistakes are merely design opportunities in disguise.

I appreciate the warm reception and eager students at Capital Quilters in Raleigh–it was a joy to visit and I’m really proud of these students!

I’m scheduling classes for 2021 now, so if your guild is interested in having me lecture and teach, you can see my current offerings here and send me an email to start the process!




  1. Sally Maxwell on September 22, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    The improv using SueAnn’s leftover blocks is very interesting. I wonder where she’ll go with it. I’m also interested in the combination of pattern vs straight color. These are all great beginnings!

    • Cindy on September 22, 2019 at 6:44 pm

      Thanks Sally–I hope they’ll share the results with me when they are finished!