October 27, 2019

House of Cards | A Modern Improv Quilt

House of Cards | Modern Improv Quilt | Shannon Fraser Designs #modernquilt #improvquilting #aurifilthread #creativechallenge

Have you ever gotten mid-way through quilting a project and realized you hated the direction you were in?

All the hours put in and you feel like you’ve just ruined your quilt top?

And so, you decide you’re going to change it up, even at such a late stage in the game?

That’s what happened to me with this quilt!

Read on to find out how I found myself in such a quilty pickle!

House of Cards Quilt in the Wild | Modern Improv quilting | Shannon Fraser Designs #artgalleryfabrics #modernquilt #quiltsinthewild #aurifilthreads

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This one all started after I finished my Geometrical Flight Plan quilt and had the fabric scraps sitting there tempting me to play.

If you’ve been around for awhile, then you know I love switching things up from working on more structured quilt patterns and then letting loose and letting my creativity just flow with some improv.

It keeps me balanced.

Pieced House of Cards quilt top | Modern Improv Quilt | Shannon Fraser Designs #piecing #quilttop #color #artgalleryfabrics #modernquilt

And I definitely needed the play time after all that template testing for the Flight Plan quilt pattern – ha!

I mainly do improv with solids, but here I totally went for it will all those bold and very graphic prints in the Geometrical Bundle Up from Art Gallery Fabrics. 

Backing for the House of Cards quilt | Modern Improv Quilting | Shannon Fraser Designs #artgalleryfabrics #geometricalbundleup #quilt #modernquilt


As an Aurifil Artisan, we have some challenges we can sign up for. This month’s happened to be about using 5 or more thread colours in one project. I knew instantly this quilt would be perfect for that challenge.

I already had most of the thread colours I needed on hand and then added in this gorgeous Jade colour.

Aurifil Threads used in the House of Cards modern improv quilt | Shannon Fraser Designs #aurifilthread #color #thread #quilting


It often happens during the quilting process that I’m on the fence as to whether I’m going to like the end result. There’s something about that quilting stage that I get unsure about my choices. Sometimes it comes down to my capabilities. You have a vision, but your skills aren’t quite up to par yet. So disappointing.

But here, while I didn’t love my lines, I was actually questioning the execution of the idea. I wasn’t thrilled with it.

I was super pleased with my thread colour choices.

But it was my execution of it all that I wasn’t loving.

And so, I decided after quilting about 2/3 of her that I was going to change directions.

This was a total first. Normally I just stick with it and hope for the best.

But not this time.

This time I went from quilting straight lines in an organized pattern: 3 lines of yellow, then 2 lines of orange, followed by another 2 in light turquoise, then 4 of jade and 2 pink. The spacing was all very specific too. All things I love. It just didn’t seem right for this improv quilt. It felt busy. And inharmonious.

I wanted the texture from the quilting, but not glaringly obvious stand out lines.

Quilting details on the House of Cards modern improv quilt | Shannon Fraser Designs #modernquilt #quilting #color #modernquilters


I share this with you so that you know not all quilty experiences end up where and how you hoped they would. I’m still very happy with my quilt. I just know I could have done better.

Had I had more time, I would have unpicked a lot of my stitch work, but I’m kinda thankful for that deadline. It means that this quilt is done, and I’ve learned something.

There’s no shame in changing directions midway.

That’s ok.

Not all quilt journeys need to end with a quilt you love.

That’s ok too.

I did learn that I enjoyed the detailed quilt work I added in the last 1/3 of the quilt. Despite all that thread burying (tips on how to do that here), it was quite an enjoyable process. Not as fiddly as I initially thought it would be. I find this encouraging for future quilt projects. I won’t let the thought of lots of thread and bobbin changes + thread burying deter me from taking on a more intricate quilt design.

Binding the House of Cards modern improv quilt | Aurifil Thread creative challenge | Shannon Fraser Designs #aurifilthread #artgalleryfabrics #modernquilt #binding


Here’s an overview of all the materials and notions I used to make the House of Cards quilt:

50wt #2021 Aurifil Thread for piecing and hand binding 
My go-to batting 
Thread gloss - for hand binding 
Needles - for hand binding
This ruler for plotting my quilt lines 

Click here for a full list of my essential tools and notions.

House of Cards Quilt | Aurifil Thread & Quilt in the Wild | Modern Improv Quilt | Shannon Fraser Designs #aurifilthread #quiltsinthewild #modernquilt #quilting

There’s nothing demure or simple about this one. And despite the quilting challenges I faced, I love how she came together.

I look at her and there’s instant happiness.

I hope this quilt encourages you to see “problems” as opportunities to learn, grown and expand on your quilty skills. I could have given up and just put her aside. I could have just kept going with my initial quilt design. But sometimes you just gotta shift gears and go for it!

Happy quilting!


PS I’ll be knocking this one off my Q4 FAL List

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  1. I sometimes find the same feeling when I am doing a lot of straight line quilting. When it just doesn't jive with the quilt top, I like to mix in some free motion quilting between some of the lines and that has helped me in the past.

    1. Thank you so much for the tip, Yvonne! I'm going to try that next time I encounter this quilty problem!! I feel better knowing I'm not the only one who's struggled with this 🤗

  2. The finished quilt looks awesome Shannon! It's happened to me a few times as well. I've unpicked quilting stitches and I remember one time, I hated the quilting on the first block on a quilt and then drastically changed direction but left that block as is. Definitely an interesting design "choice". :-)

    1. Ha! But it makes it unique, right?! Thanks for sharing that you too have changed your mind about the quilt design you were going with and opted to change course. I think it helps us all remember that nothing is set in stone and there’s nothing wrong with switching things up – even mid-way through a project 😊

  3. Shannon, will there be a pattern for Modern Imorov Quilt for sale. I was inspired with the Aztec Table Runner I now have your pattern (thanks) and also the Sonata fabric supplied by Hawthorne Supply.

    1. I don’t have a pattern planned for the House of Cards improv quilt, but I am working on a creative series that might help you use your fabric scraps from your Modern Aztec table runner! Stay tuned 😊