Improv Handbook

Never-Before-Shared Improvisational Quilting Techniques Revealed in Groundbreaking New Book

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters breaks free from the copy-this-pattern structure and introduces an innovative approach to patchwork not found in other books. It is the first comprehensive guide to the process of improvisational quilting.


Available April 28, 2015 ~ Pre-order now!

And Enter the Pre-Order Giveaway Here

In The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilting I present a flexible approach to quilt making that breaks free of old rules and expectations in a fun, accessible way. It’s a comprehensive guide to improvisational patchwork featuring:

  • over 15 innovative ruler-free sewing techniques
  • tips for accessing intuitive color
  • mind tools that cultivate presence, spontaneity, and risk taking
  • experiential design exercises on scale, line, borders and more
  • 10 “scores” for visual improvisation that free quilters to create quilts unlike anyone else’s

The “scores” are not step-by-step instructions like a traditional quilt pattern, but parameters, leads and limits that allow improvisation to occur—much in the way a lead sheet provides a jazz musician parameters for improvising during a performance. The book features my quilts and a gallery of 22 quilts chosen from among the hundreds submitted by volunteers who tested the scores before publication. All of the quilts made from a single score presented in The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters will have common threads, but each will look different because it reflects the maker’s unique interpretation. My hope is that first-time and experienced quilters alike will gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to explore and transform personal patterns in quilting—and in life—through the process of improvisation, and that the book will be groundbreaking for many.

STC Craft | A Melanie Falick Book
U.S. $27.50 | Can. $31.50
Paperback with flaps | 176 pages, 9″ x 10″
ISBN: 978-1-61769-138-6

Early Rave Reviews

‘I could learn allot from this book – I want to buy it’ –Kaffe Fassett

‘Refreshing, inspiring use of colour and pattern and educational – a must have book.’ –Brandon Mably

‘The whole look and feel of this book is glorious.  You want to turn every page.  You want to read it like a novel… there are life lessons here as well as quilt lessons.’ –Bonnie K. Hunter, Quiltville

‘If improv scares you check this book out because it lets you think about improv in a different way. This book makes you want to let go of control! –Stephanie Kendron, Modern Sewciety Podcast

‘One of the best quilting books I’ve ever read. Why? Because this book empowers readers to tap a creative vein and improvise with scissors and a pile of stash fabric.’ –Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, Craft Sanity review / Listen to the Craft Sanity Podcast: Sherri Lynn Wood Talks Improv Quilting. Read about Jennifer’s process of improvising from a score featured in the Improv Handbook.

‘As someone who enjoys improv quilting, I found myself pouring over Sherri’s book day after day, quickly jotting down notes and techniques to try with my next project.’ –Lish Dorset, Made & Remade Blog Creative Genius series: Find Your Inner Improv Quilter with Sherri Lynn Wood

Test Quilt Galleries

Over 250 people signed on to test quilt the ten scores for The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters –without visual references, and 165 quilts were completed and submitted for inclusion into the book. We could only choose 22 of these quilts to be printed, but I hope you agree that all of them are worthy examples of the scores, each in their own way.  The critical feedback of the test quilters helped shape the final outcome of the book.

The test quilters and their AMAZING quilts will be unveiled one score at a time during the online blog tour of The Improv Handbook in May 2015. Eventually all ten test quilt galleries, one for each score, will be available on this page. Stay tuned!

Join the Improv Handbook community online to share your own work and for more improv inspiration:

About The Author (Me!)

SHERRI LYNN WOOD is an artist working in Oakland, CA. She is the recipient of
the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painters and Sculptors, and a two-time
MacDowell Colony Fellow. She has been making and improvising quilts as a creative
life practice for twenty-five years, and blogs about it at Teaching
credits include Penland School of Craft, QuiltCon, and numerous modern and
traditional guilds across the country.


27 Responses to Improv Handbook

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  8. BrightHeart says:

    Rereading for the third time the Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, and ordering her reference books out of the library. Finding all the nudges that tickle my roots; the haunting colors of the lost Espri Amish quilt collection, the high flying modern art of the Quilts of Gee’s Bend, somber Native African textiles that show the hand of the maker, all these have called out to me. They share a compositional grace, starting in one place and moving through inspired changes. I am grateful for this well curated journey into creative flow in quilt and fabric. I have been quilting for 40 years at an amateur level, and although I have taken classes and workshops galore, until this text and exercises came across my table I was paddling out of sight of shore. Now I can set out to where I didn’t know before I was going.

  9. Pingback: improving improv | embodhiment

  10. Susan Simone CFMQG says:

    Thank you for the wonderful class yesterday in The Villages. I’m really a beginner quilter and you’ve opened my eyes to a new world of design and fearlessness.
    I’ve taken many classes in various forms of needle expression over the years but yours was by far the most enjoyable.
    Thank you for giving us your precious time and stay well

    • sherrilynn says:

      Thank you so much Susan, that is so nice to hear. You all were a marvelous class and audience. I so enjoyed my visit to The Villages! Best wishes to you on your improv patchwork journey!

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  12. Connie says:

    just, I loooove your quilting and techniques and sharing. I have done this for years and share with fellow quilters, especially novices that there is beauty in imperfection (a la wabi sabi), and there is no ‘right’ way to design. For every unique quilt is a unique person who will appreciate it. Van Gogh and Matisse and Warhol are incredible different; all still incredible. I do a lot of controlled chaos quilts. I will be buying your book, “The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Patty says:

    Hi, love the ideas I peek in the web from your book. Is there any chance to release it for kindle or as e-book? In Argentina, where I live, outside purchases are forbidden.
    Thanks and congratulations for, what seems to be a great book!!!!

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  15. coulom Bernadette says:

    Hi, and y think it is so difficult to you sending this wonderfull book to me.
    never mind y am just looking to the beatifull colors and different way to marry them together.
    you work is amazing!!!

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  18. Linda Fleming says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this book!
    I see that the local library has ordered it…

  19. Dear Sherry, don’t you think in make a video class (you could sell the class in Craftsy) of how to make your petal quilt! As you know, I live in Brazil and I would loooooove to take a class with you, but unfortunatelly I don’t know how could I travel to US. But if you could have an online class or video class, I could attend it! What you think?

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  21. DreiPunkteWerk says:

    Your book is my wish for mother’s day :-)))
    Best regards,

  22. Chrissie Devinney says:

    I am so excited to try something new with my quilting – this looks like a perfect thing for me to use up some of my much loved scraps/stash. I just pre-ordered on Amazon and I looking forward to reading the book. Bonnie Hunter gave it a glowing review.


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