Bit by Bit

I am a bitmaker. You could also call me a piecer, a stitcher, or a rescuer of small scraps. Over the years, I have made many quilts this way.

_D1A9306.jpgSomething compells me to take tiny bits and make the big.

013.jpgI believe in scraps—I want to find them permanent dwelling spots in my quilts. What do they say in the animal shelter world?  I want to give my scraps forever homes.

What makes some of us to be scrap lovers and users? (I know you are out there stitching right along with me.) I don’t know exactly. What compells a cook to roll leftovers into other culinary treats? What compells some individuals to start their gardens with seeds? I think for some of us, making the most of what we have is incredibly satisfying. Just what can I make with limited resources? What potential resides in those itty bitty cotton squares, and how can I manifest that?

thumb_IMG_7964_1024I arrived in McCarthy this summer with five zip lock gallon bags filled with remains of previous quilts.

thumb_IMG_7371_1024I also allowed myself one tub of solid colored fat quarters and a selection of pima scraps I scored on Ebay. I brought very little yardage and no black—which was a mistake. 

thumb_IMG_7957_1024 It is forcing me to try new things. Navy is a new favorite.

I organized all the bits and began thinking about how to reinvent them.

thumb_IMG_7915_1024I have left over pieced bits that appeared in other quilts, but were not completely used up.

thumb_IMG_8199_1024Can you find them in the quilt Boulevard?

Boulevard 32H x 48W.jpgI sorted out the small pieces into strips, strip sets, and tiny pieces. This is a tidied up version of what that looks like.

thumb_IMG_7969_1024As I work, these piles become great jumbles—mounds of mess. Occassionally, I force my self to reorder things. This keeps me tidy AND it tells me things. For example, I can tell I am not using enough yellow.

thumb_IMG_7951_1024.jpgOne of the great things about being a bit maker is that new bits—new material—are always growning. It’s like a sour dough starter.

I like to work on about six quilts at a time. For some reason, this suits my brain. Usually one quilt is completely in the construction phase, and is a no brainer—all I do is stitch and stitch. While I am doing that, I can think about the quilts that are not moving along as smoothly. I love holding all of these ideas in my head at the same time. It is a meditation. Cut-Stitch-Press. Begin again. Cut-Stitch-Press.

Of course, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes, I will look at a pieced bit and think “Who are you? What are trying to be? Because I can’t remember.” When I am at my best, I take notes on these things.

thumb_IMG_8088_1024The last time I was in McCarthy working with bits, I was preparing my Quilt National submission. I am hoping the juju of these mountains works again, and my bits manifest my dreams.

My life has been crazy busy and to be here in McCarthy, here in my tiny plein air studio, here with my bits, here in the hot never ending day light of our approaching solstice fills me with joy.

The making of these quilts is a meditation on piecing, an exercise in tenacity, and a contemplation on process as art.

thumb_IMG_8196_1024That’s my sweet spot.

This entry was published on June 17, 2016 at 2:49 PM. It’s filed under My Process-Quilts, Quilt Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

32 thoughts on “Bit by Bit

  1. Blankenship Beth on said:

    Maria, What a beautifully illustrated, thoughtfully written post!

  2. Mickey Beebe on said:

    What a nice post. I liked what you said about scrap lovers. I like scraps too but I don’t think I have as many as you!

  3. Great post, Maria–it really resonates with me and has me thinking about what I can do with my scraps!

  4. Harriette Tuttle on said:

    I enjoy your posts immensely, They are well written and take me to another realm. Your analogies are so creative. Thanks for the nice “quilt break” in my day.

  5. Diane on said:

    Like a sour dough starter….perfect!

    • I have been volunteering in the kitchen and gardens of the Wrangell Mountains Center and it certainly has affect my writing. It has got me thinking about the art of those things too.

  6. Deborah Bright on said:

    You are so freaking cool, Maria! What a great post!

  7. debby on said:

    I am always so happy to hear from you! It’s funny that you wrote about scraps, because the other day I was sorting fabrics, and I had a huge pile of smaller pieces. I piled them up, planning to give them to the thrift store. But in the end I decided I liked them too much and I put them all in a bin in the closet. Ever since then they’ve been calling to me. I think it’s time to do some piecing. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Enjoyed your post and seeing what you are up to in McCarthy. Bits and strips and pieces are my happy place, too, and I often find them less intimidating than large pieces of yardage. Hope the magic happens again for you !

  9. Petra on said:

    Maria–this post was so beautiful in writing and in imagery. I think there is a children’s book waiting to be written about the scraps that found forever homes.

  10. Petra- Thank you! I have been having Grant sightings out here but no Petra. I would like to see you!

  11. As always, your writing and accompanying photos inspire me. Always a hoarder of bits, my quilting life has led me to creating with those bits. There is something so satisfisying to retrieve pieces that I thought I wouldn’t ever use, and piece them into something new and happy. My bits have gone from “fat eighths” to less than an inch in size. I find that the bits make for perfect improvisational piecing.
    Your bits become works of art and challenge me to work harder. I look forward to seeing your magic.

    • Mary, you are right. I think there is something about bits that encourage improvisational piecing. They go together! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I very glad you enjoyed the post!

  12. Cindy Beal on said:

    Love this post! Makes me want to be at home diving into my bits!!!! Thank you!

  13. sewserena on said:

    I love all your posts but this one spoke to me especially. What a unique gift or opportunity it is for you to limit yourself to certain fabrics in a studio where that’s all you have to use. It seems to me the limitation gives one more freedom to play and discover. I would love to have an experience like that someday. Thanks for sharing!

    • Serena- I think you are right. It is a really fun challenge for me. The make it work part of me takes over. I do hope you get a chance to do the same. And I would love to see what happens!

  14. Libby on said:

    I like to work on about 6 quilts at a time! Thank you for giving me permission to frame this as a way of working through design issues!

  15. Thank you for this look into your studio and process. Ha, I know what you mean about the great jumbles. I’m in the middle of 3 different things and fabric bits and yardage is strewn EVERYWHERE. You’re inspiring me to make more of my own bits.

    Also your pictures of McCarthy are gorgeous. Sigh. I’ll come back to visit again someday. Happy solstice!

    • Happy Solstice to you too Carrie! I just moved my studio back to Anchorage, so I am in the process of regrouping again. Order is good because it helps you see, but chaos is better it means you are creating! At least for me. Thank you for stopping by!

  16. Pingback: The Really Really Scrappy Quilt | debby quilts

  17. Helen on said:

    I have been making scrappy quilts a-la Victoria Findlay-Wolfe (I know she has been looking over my shoulder all these years), and make them into “Kitchen Sink” blocks. (everything in it but the kitchen sink). Heaps of work but wonderfully economic charity quilts. After seeing your beautiful quilts, I must try and tidy up my scrappy Kitchen Sinks into a more orderly appearance. Cheers from Adelaide, South Australia

    • Helen–Years and years ago, I taught a class called Kitchen Sink Quilting. I known call the class Authentic Patchwork aka Kitchen Sink Quilting. I am a big fan of that method of designing quilts. It is a great way work! Thank you Helen for stopping by and commenting!

  18. Mary D on said:

    Maria I love the moniker bitmaker. So descriptive and so true of me. I love my scraps. I am always thinking about what I can make with them or sewing them together for later or thinking ‘how small is too small to use’. As I was browsing a 2013 Quilter’s Newsletter mag, I spotted an antique quilt titled ‘Diamond Mosaic Coverlet’ of the Mary Dennis Cann family and thought “those are some really small diamond blocks. It’s a testimony that the love of scraps runs long and deep. I love your prose and enjoy your blog.

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