True Confessions: Cacophony/Euphony

I had a wonderful time teaching at Quilter’s Affair  in 2017. My students were brave fun souls.


I know it is difficult to create in an environment that is not your own.


Many of the students had limited fabric selections, borrowed tools, and new neighbors. (If you want the full story including awesome quilts in progress, you can do that here.)

I tell my students that claiming you don’t have the right fabrics, tools, space is a form of procrastination. 


Working with limited resources can be a great way to challenge yourself. What can you make with what you’ve got?


This is a woman’s metaphor. It’s what we do. We are not known for conquering and pillaging. We are about seeds and starters, raw ingredients, handfuls of scraps. And that is a good thing—it is being tenacious.


My students so inspired me that I decided I would try an experiment on myself.

The Stitching Post sells small scrap bags for eight dollars. I decided to buy one. I wanted to see what I could make using only the scraps from this small bag.


Once I was home, I sorted, pressed, and assessed my materials.


I began building bits.


The process starts with a blank canvas.


Bit by bit, I filled the void with color, pattern, and repetition.


The last open space is always the most difficult to fill. It is a bit like a Rubric’s cube. Sometimes sliding one bit into place knocks the rest of the composition out of kilter. I move the bits, I assess, and then I move them again.


I think this quilt is a success for what it is—a composition built from the fodder of a scrap bag.

True Confessions

 I love this quilt, but I doubt it will ever be shown beyond my website and blog. It has already been rejected twice.

The same is true for the quilt Solar Blue

Solar Blue

I am not exactly sure why these pieces are consistently rejected. As in never been accepted.


I see them as abstractions of the traditional quilt, and I find that idea very interesting.


Or to put it another way, I use patchwork as a language for telling a visual story–about making do, about creating with limitations, about creating color, and pattern, and repetition with what I’ve got.


I find these pieces to be the most interesting work I am doing. Or to put it another way, the work I am most excited about making are the pieces that jurors and judges are least interested in showing.


What’s up with that? I don’t know. This won’t stop me from making them. My comments are simply a confession and a question. Neither need to be taken too seriously.

I should also tell you that this piece was made in response to a prompt given by Cloth in Common an art quilt group I belong to. You can read about the orgins of the group here. I

I had a great family vacation in Hawaii, I wrote a blog post, and I have got good works on the design wall right now. How are all of you doing? I hope the New Year is treating you right.

This entry was published on January 20, 2018 at 1:29 PM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

23 thoughts on “True Confessions: Cacophony/Euphony

  1. These pieces have been rejected because you’ve shown them to wrong judges! Your story and photos made a light bulb go on for me. I’ve got a pile of scraps, that have been waiting for me to feel like they include everything I need to make a “proper” quilt, with just the right balance of color, value, scale etc. Of course you know those rules. Every time I sift through them, it seems like something’s missing, then I just kind of lock up and get discouraged. You’ve gotten me excited again; nothing’s missing but my sense of adventure and challenge. Thank you–this “judge” says your submission is inspirational and deserves to be seen. It’ll be on display in my sewing room while I work on my next scrap quilt.

  2. on said:

    I liked getting to see how you put things together.

  3. Jeannie Bench on said:

    I love scrap bags – and the “making do” is right on! I made most of my children’s clothes, when I was young and broke, with remnants and scraps, and was so happy with what I created. I still can’t pass up a scrap bag. This was a great blog entry! Thanks!

  4. This was a very inspiring post Maria! I love creating with imposed limitations. I think I’ll follow your lead and make some scrapbags from my own scrap bin and limit myself to using those pieces. I waste way too much time searching for the perfect fabric, and this should be freeing. I might even get really brave and close my eyes when I fill my scrapbag. Thanks!

  5. Great post, Maria! I really enjoyed seeing your process and your quilt evolve. I’m at a point where I want to take some time and make quilts that are just for me, just to see where that takes me! Good luck.

  6. Jackie Heupel on said:

    Great quilts, Maria. I listened to a post about working with limitations just yesterday, and here is one of my favorite quilters (You!) showing how well that can work. Scrap bag here I come. Thanks for this post!

  7. Kristi Willard on said:

    I enjoyed class with you at Sisters because I learned so much. Improv seems to be where I’m happiest. Also, great idea for a bag challenge!

  8. Nice work! Both are quite interesting, I’ll have to give that ”make do” style a try.

  9. Hawaii! That sounds wonderful! I love this post, Maria. And I love the idea of making do.

  10. Sheila on said:

    I’m so encouraged. I too like to come home with a $5 scrap bag from my lqs and have at it. But, as you’ve noted, this approach is not for everyone, which is odd to me as well. (I know we all know and love the Gees Bend guilts.) Oh, well, us scrap users are just before our time. I will continue, because I agree with you, using a limited palate of materials can be very rewarding. Cheers.

  11. Oh my goodness – I love the quilt you made from a Stitchin Post $8 scrap bag! Those bags are magical, I posted about an awesome bag find in the past (though my friends told me not to mention it was from the Stitchin’ Post and give away the secret – ha!)

  12. I also love this quilt! I feel most inspired and like I love quilting when I am making something from scraps. I love the look of beautiful matching fabric classic quilt designs, but I don’t love making them as much and often feel like they are a chore. Right now I am quilting a quilt that I made from a swap challenge where we sent each other a bag of scraps weighing a certain amount (can’t remember what it was) and the challenge was to make a quilt using 90% of the scraps and not adding more than one other fabric. I had great fun with it!

  13. suewalen on said:

    It’s so funny that I just opened your new post, and there is a person doing what I just did. I’d almost forgotten that I ordered a “blind” bag of scraps from an online dealer, and then forgot about it….until it arrived. A bag full of UGLY. Big ugly scraps….like end-of-bolt pieces. Why did I do that….especially since I already have a wall of Ikea cabinets stuffed with fabric! I don’t know if I can make anything from these scraps, but you’ve inspired me to try. I think….. Sue


  14. Vickie on said:

    I would say keep on your journey. The judges are just lagging behind!

  15. This quilt is rad. I embrace the making do way of things. Once it was necessity. Now preference. I have to work my creative muscle more and it feels so good .

  16. I love your scrap bag quilt. Don’t get me started on quilt shows and quilt show judging :/ Make what you love. There is a whole world out there that will love what you love.

  17. I love the way you see things Maria. That small bag of scraps had so much potential when turned over to you for a few dollars in exchange. You quilts are ART quilts. The traditional quilt judges and the modern quilt judges are behind the times. They fail to stand back, and soak it in, like you should with any piece hung in a gallery. All they want are perfect points and perfect straight lines and evenly spaced quilting; so they can not see the form. I love both of these projects and I am glad you were inspired to make what you love.

  18. It doesn’t matter what the judges think. Your work inspires so many of us. Love your spirit. Keep diving in! I’m still settling into my new town, home and studio space. Taking me much longer than I thought it would to get to the point where I can really work. But that is OK. New beginnings. Onward and upward. I so enjoy your posts.

  19. > I tell my students that claiming you don’t have the right fabrics, tools, space is a form of procrastination.

    This is sooooooo true.

    Also true, some of my most favorite things have come from some tight constraints, and working around problems. I’m trying to get better at not being stymied by those problems but finding a way around.

    Happy new year!

  20. I agree, I think those rejected quilts were shown to the wrong judges.
    Judges are not impartial!
    Thanks for your encouraging words.

  21. Love seeing those photos from Sisters…the ironing stations were interesting in the chem lab, but we made it work! I really like your scrap bag challenge. When I work with interesting constraints, I often become very fond of the results because of the process I engaged in during the creating. Of course, that is very personal because we are the only ones that really understand the struggles and solutions that went into the work. This would be a fun guild challenge: we could exchange bags of scraps. Sometime other people’s scraps look more interesting than my own!😊

  22. Thanks a bunch for showing what you’ve made from scraps not your own! Most inspiring! My guild has a “free” pile at meetings and I’ve started collecting gems—bits and pieces of fabrics I’d probably never buy. It’s time to start making something with them!

  23. Hi nice reeading your blog

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