Monday, January 25, 2016

X Marks the Improv Block Tutorial

The X Marks the Improv quilt was such fun to make that I thought a block tutorial was in order. It's a great block if you're just beginning to dabble in improv, yet provides a design striking enough to attract a more seasoned improv quilter.

This block measures 12.5”x 24.5”, and consists of 2 or more smaller blocks. The smaller blocks can be various widths – 4.5”, 6.5”, 8.5”, or 12.5” – and sewn together, they equal 24.5”. The height of each segment is 12.5”.

To make each block, start with a piece of fabric at least 1” larger on all sides than your desired finished size. Cut a contrasting strip 1” wide and longer than the diagonal dimension of your starting fabric. Rotary cut your ‘background’ piece diagonally.

Insert the 1” strip and sew the 2 halves back together; press.

Cut your block diagonally in the other direction, add another 1” strip, and sew the 2 halves back together; press. 

Note: When sewing the final seam, it can be tricky to get the 2 arms to line up. I place my 2 pieces right sides together, pinch about a ¼” seam on the back where the ‘arms’ meet, then flip open so I can see if they line up. If not, adjust a bit until they do, then pin. Alternately, I sometimes place a pin along the ¼” seam-line and then lift to check. Even so, things don’t always line up perfectly, and that’s ok. Just make it as close as you can without stressing over it. 

Trim your block to your desired size, keeping the middle of the cross as centered as you can, being sure to allow for seam allowances. In the example below, my (unfinished) block will be 6.5” x 12.5”. I place the top right corner of my ruler about in the center of that arm, with the 3.25” and 6.25” ruler markings approximately where the arms cross. This isn’t an exact measurement, but gives you an idea of how to keep the cross centered in your block.

Depending on the size and shape of your beginning fabric, your  ‘x’ may or may not land at the exact corners of your block and either is fine. That just adds to the character of the block. Make 2 or more blocks, as needed to make your full block strip 24.5” long.

Sample block: widths of 8.5” + 4.5” + 12.5” sewn together equals 24.5” 
You've probably noticed that I took free license with the 'arms' of each block. Some are all of one fabric; some are pieced with one or more fabrics. The ones with tiny bits of another color are actually trimmings from a previous block. So get creative with those insets and it'll add alot of interest to your quilt blocks.

In case you missed it, here's a photo of the X Marks the Improv quilt.

If you try this tutorial, be sure and share by adding to the Quilting with A Quilter's Table flickr group or tagging me on Instagram using the hashtag #xmarkstheimprov!


  1. What a fun quilt! Thanks for sharing the tutorial. That's just how I did my Red X quilt. You're right, it can be a bit of trial and error to get the two split sides to line up. Your technique is great!

  2. I love these blocks! Quick question: once I quilted a quilt like this (with diagonal lines from the center) and I had all sorts of problems with the quilt stretching because I was quilting on the bias. Did you do anything special to keep yours from stretching or do you have any tips?

    1. Baste thoroughly! Spray basting may give you the best results, or the Sharon Schamber method:

  3. Thanks so much - definitely going to make this one!

  4. Great tutorial! I love that each block is different! I always say this...but I want to made these blocks!!

  5. Fabulous tutorial and quilt! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thanks for the tutorial; I'll be trying this soon.

  7. Great tutorial. The block looks quite complicated but your tutorial makes it easy. Brilliant.