Sustainable Quilting through the Art of Improv | Modern Abstract Textile Art

Sustainable quilting through the art of improv | Modern mini abstract quilts featuring blue fabric scraps from the Double Windmill quilt | Shannon Fraser Designs #modernabstractart #miniquilt #sustainablequilting

Do you ever stop to consider your quilty footprint?

Sustainability is something that comes to mind frequently around here, especially as it relates to my studio.

If you’ve seen any of my IG stories, then you know being in nature is a huge source of joy and inspiration. Something I want to protect and preserve as much as possible.

As my sewing and quilting grew in frequency, I became more and more aware of the carbon footprint all the fabric, thread, notions, etc. I use and how they contribute to our environmental problem.

Which is why I’m pretty stringent on keeping my scraps and, this is the key, using them!

Modern improv mini art quilt featuring blue and yellow fabric scraps leftover from the Double Windmill quilt. Bring sustainability into your quilt practice with improv | Shannon Fraser Designs #modernart #miniquilt #handquilted

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There’s a few reasons for this:

First, I want to maximize my fabric dollars. I’ve already spent money to bring the fabric into my studio and whatever is left after my sewing project is done, I consider to be a bonus. More mileage out of a purchase than I had expected. It’s a fun position to be in 😉

Second, I want to prevent as much of my project trimmings from ending up in a landfill. While 100% cotton and linen (the substrates I typically use) are among the most biodegradable fabrics (decomposing in as little as a week to 5 months), I still want to limit how much ends up needlessly in the garbage.

Third, there’s something to be said about the freedom you feel when working with ‘bonus’ fabric. It’s liberating.

Since I quilt on the regular, I’ve accumulated a lot of scraps. If you quilt, you know exactly what I mean when I say they just seem to multiply!

Thankfully I’m in no hurry of rushing my way through them as quilting is definitely therapeutic for me and, for now, I don’t see myself ever not stitching. But I digress.

My point is that I do my best to figure out ingenious ways to use up remnants from a quilt project.

Environmental concerns aside, there’s just something about scraps that really intrigues me. And one of the best ways I’ve found to use them up in through the art of improv quilting.

Blue and yellow modern mini abstract improv quilts featuring fabric scraps and hand quilted with pearl cotton thread | Shannon Fraser Designs #sustainablequilting #noscapwasted #fiberart #miniquilt


Take these mini abstract quilts I made for my dad.

I had some leftover HSTs from the Double Windmill Quilt I made him for his birthday. He was so thrilled with it, that I thought a perfect companion to the quilt would be some wall art featuring those very same fabrics.

I had a few half square triangles leftover and the HSTs kept calling to me, so that’s where I started.

I just took the HST and sliced it where I felt it needed to be sliced.

It felt good cutting into a perfectly good HST just to see where I would end up!

After my slicing session, I designed a layout that eventually resulted in this little pretty.

Modern quilted fiber art featuring shades of blue with a pop of yellow | Shannon Fraser Designs #handquilted #textileart #miniquilt

Don’t you love that pop of yellow?!

It’s probably one of my favourite bits.

The second piece I made him, showcases the HSTs being used in their original form. That was my starting point for this little cutie.

Modern mini improv quilt featuring shades of blue Kona Cotton with a pop of yellow. Hand quilted for added texture and dimension | Shannon Fraser Designs #artquilt #miniquilt

While I made each one unique with a very different starting point, they’re were designed as a pair. They’re totally cute each on their own, but I love how they look together.

One has way more order than the other.

Together they bring out the best in each other.


In case any of the materials caught your eye, here’s what I featured in these modern abstract mini art quilts:

*50wt thread in 2000 for piecing


Blue and yellow Kona Cottons featured in the modern abstract mini improv quilts made using orphan blocks from the Double Windmill quilt | Shannon Fraser Designs #sustainablequilting #sewsolid


Here are the general rules I gave myself for this project:

  • I had to use existing leftover HSTs as the starting point.
  • I cd only use the coordinating fabrics from my original Double Windmill quilt.
  • They had to be mini size to fit in a frame.

From there it was just a matter of tuning into my instincts and seeing where I ended up!


If you’ve never dove into your fabric scrap stash to whip up an improv mini, my question is “whatchya waiting for?!”. This is such a glorious technique to let loose, have fun and use up your scraps. Don’t overthink it, just dive in and see where you end up. That’s all part of the improv fun!

Consider using an orphan block as your starting point. It could be a log cabin block, an HST, a block gone wrong – anything can be a starting point.

Add in a maximum of 3 to 4 solids or prints that would mix well with your orphan block.

Set a target size.

Then just have fun slicing and stitching.

You’ll be amazed at how liberating the process is, all while doing your part to help save the planet 😊

If improv has you intrigued, sign up for the workshop wait list newsletter to be the first to know when the improv workshop launches! 

Blue and yellow modern abstract mini improv art quilts hand quilted and made using fabric scraps for a sustainable art project | Shannon Fraser Designs #modernquilter #modernfiberart

For more inspiration on making your quilty practice more sustainable through the art of improv quilting, check out these improv projects I’ve made featuring just fabric scraps:


How do you bring sustainability into your creative practice?

Happy quilting!




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