Improv Crazy Quilt Photo Tutorial With A Repurposed Flannel Sheet


If you have some old sheets and some leftover fabric from sewing projects, consider repurposing them into an improv crazy quilt!

I used an old flannel sheet to make a crazy quilt from a bunch of scrap fabric that was left over from projects that I’d made over the past 30 years (yes, I’m a fabric hoarder) and it made a nice, heavy lap quilt.

It wasn’t hard to do, and since you have the sheet to use as a base to sew onto, it can be a really freeform improv quilt sewing project that you can do without a pattern.

scrap quilte easy photo tutorial

Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that will pay a small commission if they’re used to purchase something. To see the entire affiliate policy click here. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Improv crazy quilt

What is an improv quilt?

“Improv quilt” was a new term to me, but I came across it when I was looking up crazy quilt info. It seems to be basically the same thing as a crazy quilt as far as how people make them just by sewing fabric together in whatever random way they want to, and making design choices as they go.

It does seem to have a lot of overlap with a crazy quilt, but at the same time, it seems to be a little more regular as far as sticking within a square or using an idea of a template.

I found a few different ways to describe it, but the basic premise is to just do what you want to do as you go, which is perfect for a bucket of fabric scraps.

I didn’t have an overall design plan, so I started with dumping out my fabric basket and taking out the pieces that would be good for this kind of project.

Fabric scraps divided up by color

Sorting out fabric scraps.

I took out all the fabric pieces that would work for a quilt (cotton, mostly) and sorted then out by color to see what I had to work with.

At first I thought that I would do some kind of a spectrum design using patches of different colors that blended into each other, but when I started sewing the fabric onto the sheet I realized that I didn’t have enough of each color to make it look cohesive, so I decided to just mix it up.

There were also some quilt squares that were left over from other projects, and some pieces of an old quilt top that had been cut up for a different project, so I added those into the pile.

Click here to sign up for weekly new product announcements, sales, and discounts from our artisan members.Opens in a new tab.

flannel sheet folded over and stitched into a half-size being ironed

Can you use old sheets for a quilt backing?

Of course you can upcycle old sheets and use them for quilting! I had an old flannel sheet that was a weird color, and I decided to fold it in half to use it for this project.

This was a twin flannel sheet, and when I folded it in half from top to bottom it ended up being a good size to use for a throw blanket.

It was also as thick as a traditional cotton quilt batting, so I would be able to sew the fabric scraps directly onto the sheet and then add a backing to the whole thing before quilting it if I didn’t want the sheet to be the back of the quilt.

stitching a flannel sheet

I sewed the edges of the flannel sheet together after folding it so that I would be able to move it around and keep the shape intact.

sewing the first piece of fabric onto the flannel sheet

Start sewing the fabric onto the flannel sheet by sewing it right onto the top. Trim it along the edge so that you can keep it neater as you work.

stitching a piece of fabric on the flannel sheet

As you add the next pieces of fabric, sew them on right sides together, then fold them back to show the pattern.

Work your way across the sheet or just wander around, putting color where you want it to go.

turn the piece of fabric over to show the right side of the pattern

As you sew the pieces on and fold them back, you’ll start to create weird angles. Thats fine, but you might have to do some topstitching to attach pieces if you have to cover irregular spaces.

sewing up to a line where three pieces of fabric meet

This is an example…The piece that I’m sewing on was shorter than the grey one, so I had to do some piecing at angles and topstitching things instead of just stitching straight lines then turning the pieces right side out.

placing the fabric where it needs to end up to see where to stitch it.

Here’s an example of this kind of piecing. I placed this blue piece over an irregular open section. then turned the hem under to show where I would need to stitch it and flipped the fabric over so that the wrong side was showing.

turning the fabric over to position it to be stitched to the quilt

Here’s the fabric turned over and the stitching line is where I’m pointing (where the hem was folded.)

stitch the fabric into place

Here’s the stitch line after the fabric was sewn on.

fold the stitched patch of fabric over to cover the section on the quilt

And here’s what it looks like when I turned it back over to cover up the section.

fold the hem over on the loose side of the patch of fabric to prepare for it to be topstitched

On the other side, I now fold the raw edge under to create a hemline that won’t unravel.

stitched fabric after it's been turned over to create a patch on the front of the quilt

After that. I topstitched the blue piece into place.


Add the backing fabric.

the quilt with the binding edge showing before it's been turned over on the edge

When you’re done covering the entire sheet with the patchwork, you can either use the flannel sheet as the backing, or add a different backing to the quilt.

I got some green fabric that I had sitting around for YEARS and made a backing piece for this one.

Iron the backing and lay it down flat on the ground with the right side facing down, then put the quilt on top of it.

pinning the edge of the quilt showing the backing fabric that will be used for the binding

Pin the quilt top to the backing so that you can move them around as you quilt them together.

Since the flannel sheet was pretty thick, I didn’t add any batting to the inside of this quilt. If you want to add batting you can check out this article showing how I did that on an Irish Chain quit that I made.

the edge of the quilt and the backing fabric being turned over to create the binding

When you put the quilt on the backing fabric, leave a little extra backing around each edge so that you can make it into the binding, or trim it to match the quilt top once the quilting is done if you want a separate binding.

Start quilting the design.

Improv crazy quilt

At this point I started sewing wavy lines across the quilt length and width to make a random grid-type pattern. This was just straight stitches since I’m not good at free-motion quilting and I wanted to keep it simple.

This is also when my sewing machine broke and I had to stop and take it to the repair shop, so I don’t have photos of the process of doing the actual quilting.

But I basically stitched wavy lines all the way across the width, then all the way across the length, it wasn’t anything tricky.

If you want some tips on free-motion quilting, you can take a look at this article with some advice from the members of the Artisan Shopping Directory who sew professionally: Quilting On A Regular Sewing Machine: Tips For Beginners

To see the full Artisan Shopping Directory sections, including signups for discounts, click here.

sewing the binding of a quilt

Sew the binding and trim the extra threads.

I do the binding on my quilts by turning the extra backing fabric over and stitching them on the edge of the quilt.

I did a narrow binding on this one.

Improv crazy quilt backing with thread showing

When you’re done with the sewing, trim off any extra threads that you didn’t cut off while you were sewing.

Improv crazy quilt

And you’re done! This quilt took me a few days to do, working a few hours at a time. You can store this quilt by folding and throwing it over the back of the couch so that it’s available when you need it.

Since it’s going to be different size fabric swatches, the time that it takes will be different for everyone.

Doing a crazy quilt improv style is a lot of fun, and for people who are perfectionists it could be a good exercise in taking a step back and making things that are wonky on purpose.

Plus, it’s a good way to upcycle and repurpose old sheets, and to use up extra pieces of fabric that you have left over from other projects.


Kara Buntin

Kara Buntin has run a profitable home-based business since 1999, and has a background in art, theater design, and cake decorating. She's a top Etsy seller with over 53,000 sales on Etsy and her own website, and helps other home-based business owners with their business goals and SEO. She founded the Artisan Shopping Directory website to promote the artisans who are members of her EShop Success marketing program.

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts