wonky improv circle block tutorial

Let's make improv wonky circles, shall we???  
(Acutally, 4 of these blocks together make the circle)

You will need:

  • Solid, 100% cotton fabric (4-7 colors per block).  If you have left over scrap fabric, that is even better!  Kona cotton is my favorite.
  • A cutting mat
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • A ruler
Please read Tutorial in it's entirety before starting.
Seam Allowance = 1/4"
Completed block will be 14.5" x 14.5".

1.  Start by cutting your first piece in a 1/4 circle with one corner at a perfect right angle.  There is no exact measurement for these pieces, but just make sure this piece is not too small to start out with. If the straight edges measure somewhere between 7-10", minimum, that should be a good starting point.  It tends to get smaller the more layers you add and the more trimming you do.

2.  Set the first 1/4 circle piece of fabric on top of the next color of your choice.  In the picture below, I have drawn dotted lines so that you can imagine where you will be trimming after you sew these two pieces together.  Make sure your 2nd color extends a few inches past your first piece of fabric (where these dotted lines are drawn).

3.  Pin the two pieces together if you'd like so that they don't move.  I'm not much of a pinner, so I don't have a pin in the picture, but it wouldn't hurt to throw one in there.  Cut the 2nd piece of fabric (pink) mimicking the curved line of the 1st piece of fabric.  

3.  Remove the fabric that is under the first 1/4 circle and put it in your scrap bin.  You will no longer need this.

4.  Choose a spot where the two pieces of fabric line up together near the center.  Mark these two spots with a pin on each piece.

5.  Fold the 2nd color fabric (pink) directly on top of the 1st piece of fabric (green).  The two pins should now be kissing.

6.  Remove the two {lovebird} pins that are now on the inside of the two fabric pieces and replace them with one pin on the outside that is in the exact same spot.  

7.  Pin and pin and pin along the edge of the two pieces of fabric.  

8.  Sew the two pieces together using 1/4" seam allowance. Hint:  It helps if you start with the 2nd color fabric along the bottom so that the machine has something to start sewing into at the beginning.  When I started with the 1st color (green) on the bottom, the thread jammed up a bit and I had to start over.

9.  Press seams towards the 2nd color.

10.  Trim up along the right angle.  

11.  Set the block on your next color fabric of choice.  Remember to imagine those dotted lines like in step 2 so that you have plenty of fabric to use.

12.  Trim away the corners about an inch from where your imaginary dotted lines are.

13.  Pin the block to the 3rd color (yellow) and trim both pieces together creating a new curve.

14.  Just like in step 4, choose a point in the middle where the two pieces meet and mark both with a pin.

15.  Fold the 3rd color (yellow) on top of the 2nd color (pink) and smooch the pins again.  

16.  Remove the pins from the inside sandwich and replace them with one on the outside marking the exact same spot.  Then continue along that edge pinning and pinning and pinning.  

17.  Sew the seams together and then press toward the third color (yellow).

18.  Trim up the right angle.

19.  Choose another color and repeat the process again.

Lay out on new color of fabric.


Kiss pins, then move pin to outside.
Pin, pin, pin.

Sew, then press open.

Trim to a 90 degree angle.

20.  Add another color or two and then trim it up to 14.5" x 14.5".  And wallah!

Now for a little tip:

When you cut the curves, it may be a good idea to use a chalk pencil to see where you want you line to be.  It is very easy for the lines to become more diagonal than curved.  Try really hard to make them 1/4 circles.  (I feel like my yellow lines above are too diagonal rather than circular.)

Two blocks together....two more on the bottom and you've got your improv wonky circle.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  If you are helping out with the Heroes Helping Heroes quilt, don't feel like you need to make an entire circle (4 blocks).  One block is perfect!




  1. Thanks for the tutorial, it seems easy; but we'll see how it goes :-) Can't wait to break into my solids stash.

  2. Question. Do you want us to make only one 14.5 x14.5 quarter circle block or four to make one entire circle block? Thanks

  3. oh! I think I want to have a go, looks like fun!

  4. I just finished my first ever improv curves thanks to your tutorial and I want to send it to you for your charity quilt :) Please email me with your address

  5. WOW... thank you!!!... this is so great!...:)

  6. This is soooooo clever!! Not at all how I imagined you'd be pitting it together before I started reading. Totally fascinating, and extremely an impressive way to work it out.
    I've had to rearrange the order of my "next quilts I'm making, 'cuz there's no way this is going at the end of that list!
    I think it's the one I'll make one block by one block, when I want a fun, creative and any color, any print break while making other quilts. Then I'll stash them into a zip locking baggie, till enuf pile up -- until it makes its way to the top of the list.
    Thank you, thank you!! It makes my quilter's heart smile and giggle at how clever and fun these will be to make!!

  7. P.S. Is there, by chance, a pdf, downloadable version of this? 'Twould make it simpler to make, being able to follow it offline.
    Regardless, Thanks again!

  8. I love your tutorial on improv circles. Can I share your posts with my modern quilt guild? We would like to make these for our next block lottery at our next meeting. Also, can I print copies of your posts to share with members of our guild. Thank you!
    Lisa Struck,email to. lisastruckphd@gmail.com

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