Inspiring Improv + Aurifil

We first introduced you to Nicholas Ball here on Auribuzz back in June. We were celebrating the release of his book, Inspiring Improv, and took the opportunity to chat with him a bit about the book and to showcase some of his stunning featured quilts. (check out the post HERE)

Inspiring Improv truly presents like a high end coffee table book, designed to capture a reader’s attention from the very first look. But it’s much more than that. Nicholas details, from start to finish, the process he uses to create his improv quilts. He works through stages of inspiration and planning, details go-to tools and methods of color selection, and works through his preferred techniques.

He also shares his love for his favorite thread, Aurifil 50wt.

Earlier this month, at Festival of Quilts, we launched his first curated thread collection, designed to coordinate with the quilts in his book, providing the inspiration, quality, and utility needed to set readers off on a magical quilty journey.

L to R: Sarah Ashford, Karen Lewis, Nicholas Ball, Jenni Smith, Sheena Norquay, & Jo Avery at Festival of Quilts 2019

Today, we learn a bit more about what this collection means to Nicholas and shout news of that delightful burst of thread and color from the rooftops! <3

Inspiring Improv
100% Aurifil 50wt Cotton, 12 Large Spools (1422yds each)
1147 – 2930 – 2235 – 6722 – 5009 – 2395
4030 – 2140 – 4020 – 2600 – 4093 – 1125

To view this info on our website, click here. For purchasing, please contact your local Aurifil Dealer.

Your book, Inspiring Improv, released this past April. Since then, you’ve been working with a slew of designers to showcase the techniques. What have you loved most about these collaborations?​

When I began to compile a list of designers and quilters to help with the Instagram book tour, I really wanted a cross section of sewers.  There ended up being a great mix of people.  Some had already fallen in love with improvised sewing and didn’t need to be asked twice, whilst others came from a much more traditional background and had a slight hesitance, dare I say it a dislike, of improv.  What I found most exciting was how everyone took to the techniques, with some sewers surprising themselves.  The message that improv is different but doesn’t have to be daunting is the one of the fundamentals of the book and I was so grateful to have a crew of awesome makers to help me spread that.

We’ve seen some pretty remarkable projects — what is it like to see so many other makers using your book to create new art?
It so fantastic!  I really enjoy teaching and seeing people tackling my techniques and using them to inspire their own creativity.  When I’m at a workshop, it’s wonderful to see that spark, that moment the student realises that this is something that they can do and do well.  The greatest joy for me comes when quilters run with my methods and make something that even I had never thought of.  Lots of people have been using the hashtag #inspringimprov to share their creations and I like nothing more than to scroll through and spread the love.  It’s also interesting to see what people take to.  Whilst I enjoyed making all the projects for the book, I naturally have my favourites.  It’s great to see so many other sewers enjoying these too.  The have been a lot of re-imagings of the Shoal quilt on Instagram, which has been wonderful.  The curve and triangle techniques are probably my two favourites, so this quilt is special to me.  All these new versions make me want to start another one immediately!

Your debut Aurifil collection released earlier this month, at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England. What makes you most excited about having this new collection out in the world?
People have commented that by having my book, they feel like I’m in their sewing room, guiding them through the projects step-by-step.  I hope that the Inspiring Improv thread collection can do that too.  People are different, and choosing threads and fabrics is not as easy for some sewers as it is for others.  Colour is so subjective and can be overwhelming.  This curated collection takes the guess work out of selecting colours for the book’s quilts, as each one is perfectly paired to a project.  Some are the exact shade used for the corresponding quilt’s quilting, whilst others I’ve chosen to add a little something extra.  I’m really happy with the way the collection works alongside the book and am excited to see how it inspires people’s quilting choices.

Why is the connection between your work and Aurifil so important?
I’ve always been a firm believer in quality.  I tell people to buy the best they can afford, and no where is that logic more important than with our thread choices.  I talk in the book about how thread is the very thing that holds our quilts together.  For the sake of longevity, why compromise on quality?  Aurifil has been my choice for almost six years now.  It’s strong, produces very little lint and comes in that oh-so-important wide range of colours.  There’s a weight for every project, which not everyone is familiar with.  There can be an attitude that “thread is thread”, but I speak from experience when I say that is simply not true.  Aurifil gives me the confidence that my projects are going to be the best they can be.

Can you tell us more about the colors in the collection and how they are connected with the projects in your book?
After working through the techniques, the book features twelve quilt projects to put your new-found skills into practise.  When I began thinking about what threads to include in the collection, I initially though about curating a set of my go-to colours, which would feature a lot of neutrals.  I decided that a more selective approach would make for a better collection and began thinking about matching each of the quilts to a single colour that embodies the inspiration behind the project.  That’s where the fun started!  It was exciting and somewhat challenging to choose a single shade for each quilt in the book.  I looked to the inspirational notes I’d written as a starting point and the resulting twelve colours really sum up my love of finding inspiration from such a wide range of sources.  There’s a vivid green inspired by my love of house plants.  A beautifully warm orange inspired by the amber-coloured sap of Yosemite’s redwoods. A deep purple inspired by red cabbage.  A golden yellow inspired by Japanese pottery.  As well as being perfect for quilting, there are also two colours in the collections that work as great neutrals for piecing, so the whole set is really versatile!

If you had to pick one go-to color, what would it be?
I bet everyone that gets asked this says “oh, that’s tough”, and it is!  The choice of Aurifil shades is wonderful.  If I had to, I’d say 2600.  I use it for piecing and quilting when I don’t want the colour to distract from the quilt top.  It really is the most versatile colour in my opinion, so I guess that’s why it made it into the thread collection!

Your collection features 50wt — why is that one your favorite?
This medium weight blends into seams perfectly and is great for quilting when you want the quilting to add texture, but not see the stiches too much.  2600 in 50wt is my dream thread combination.

What’s coming up next for you — where can we find you this year?
Lots of teaching!  I’m traveling the length and breadth of the UK, with lots of introduction to improv workshops.  I’ll be on the road with Bernina (my day job) and attending the Knitting and Stitching show in London in October.  I also have the cogs whirring away quietly in the far reaches of my brain.  Lots of exciting things planned, so watch this space!

Website —  Facebook  — Instagram

Nick is fabric addict from Cardiff, South Wales. When he’s not knee-deep in fat quarters and bias binding he’s to be found with his nose in a good fantasy yarn, walking his pug Samuel or traveling to a far-flung wedding.


  1. This collection is so perfect for my quilting exploration! I love all the warmth of the oranges,ambers,yellows and the burst of the coolness in the blues family. My favorite neutral is also 2600. Off to explore using my growing collection of 50 wt for that perfect quilting texture you mention. Yes to quality (supreme Aurifil any weight) threads!!
    Totally enjoying your evolution Nicholas! I’ve got to buy your book.

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