Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Thoughts on Sustainable Modern Quilting

Class sample silk pillow on couch next to one of my favorite lap quilts, both from Jacquie Gering classes

Later this year, I will be joining the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild as a guest judge in their show "An Exploration in Sustainable Modern Quilting". This show of sustainable modern quilts will hang from October 2018 through December 2018 in the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Community on the campus of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

As per the BMQG, "The vision for An Exploration in Sustainable Modern Quilting is to challenge quilters and our community to view and interpret what a modern quilt is and apply sustainable, environmentally friendly, materials and practices to create a functional quilt.The gallery show will allow quilters in the Colorado Front Range communities to have their work recognized for innovation and sustainable construction."

Part of the process leading up to the show is to reflect upon and think about sustainable quilting practices and one of my charges was to put together some of these thoughts and share some ideas for sustainable quilting. I initially was asked about this before Quiltcon and it dovetailed nicely with a discussion started by Scarlet Kumquat,  about the waste generated by quilters, here in the US and abroad in the textile factories that manufacture the fabrics we use to make our quilts.

Although I didn't specifically hear/ overhear/ or attend a discussions/lectures on sustainability practices,  there were several outstanding examples of quilts using up-cycled materials. The Pasadena Event Center had well placed paper and plastic recycling containers and refillable water stations for all those intrepid quilters and visitors that brought their own water bottles.  My own contribution to the sustainability movement , separate from my water bottle, was a small one, but given the number of people that took classes at Quiltcon, and who take quilting classes at other venues as well as online the cumulative positive effect of this small consideration could have a much greater impact.

Consider this: while prepping 6-12 x 18"  and 1-24 x 24" fabric sandwiches for a walking foot quilting class with Jacquie Gering,  I gave serious thought to the fabrics I was pulling from my stash. My class was all day and if I was going to spend the time leaning novel (to me) quilting techniques from the walking foot master, I wanted to make something usable from those class samples.  I suspect there are many of us, that once a class is done, relegate our class work/samples to a drawer or even to the dustbin. It was my goal to not only learn some cool quilting, but to actually make something useful in the process. The 12 x 18" samples became  reversible placemats (one set of 2 and one set of 4) and the larger sample, which I actually stitched out of remnant silk, became a gorgeous 20 x 20" throw pillow (to go with a soon to be completed quilt) for my daughter.  It didn't take a significant amount of additional time to prep and pull stash fabric to guarantee that my class samples became something more than just class samples. I had all the materials I needed; used batting trimmed and saved from projects just like this from larger quilt projects,  having to add only binding from stash fabric and a pillow form (that I already had) once I returned back to Colorado. Keeping with the sustainability theme the pillow back is made from remnant silk fabric I acquired from my once globe trotting mother in law, finished with a simple envelope back so that I didn't have to purchase a zipper. 
Front showing walking foot quilting

Added design to my walking foot class sample. Done in contrasting thread to see the stitching.

Pillow back made from remnant silk fabric

I'm just one quilter, and likely not the first to purposely pull fabrics for a class that were destined to be something more. But, I believe if we all give a little extra consideration to the process of learning, we could incorporate class samples and UFO's  into our sustainable quilting practices and make them part of the solution. 

So next time you find yourself pulling fabric for a class, think about the afterlife of your samples and give them a little love by reincarnating them into useful items to use or to gift. 
reversible class sample placements

each has a different walking foot quilting sample learned in class

Side note: for those fabric scraps and batting remnants that are just too small to use (some of you would likely disagree with this statement and I applaud the dissenters), here are some easy things to do that will keep them out of landfill. 
      1. Contact your municipal compost provider.  Many cities will compost 100% natural fibers  like cotton, linen, silk and wool.
      2. Consider donating larger cotton scraps to the Social Justice Sewing Academy . I keep a USPS prepaid box in my sewing room and place scraps from WIP's in the box. Once the box is full I mail it to them.
      3. There are lovely folks out there that make dog bedding for shelters and stuff them full of fabric scraps. It makes for a warm and comforting place to sleep for our furry friends and is another great use for fabric scraps. Search on line or check with your local shelters to locate the generous souls making these pet beds near you. 
      4. Don't forget to give your selvedges to those folks that want them. Find yourself a few IG friends that collect selvedges and once you have a significant amount package them up and send them to a new home. I once thought I wanted to sew selvedges, now, not so much. Just ask, you'll find takers.

If you have additional ideas, please leave them in the comments. I'll have a follow up post if I get some good ones. 

If you're making your quilts/other items from up-cycled clothing and other previously used materials, and share your creations on IG, please use the #secondchancemakes hashtag so we can all be inspired to consider other possibilities when we endeavor to begin our own creations.  


  1. Thanks for this thoughtful post. I was trying to turn some old blocks which were given to me into a small quilt to cover incubators at our local NICU - but I had lots of quilting problems using a new-to-me machine, and I didn't think I could donate the end product to the hospital. I did feel terrible at the thought of just throwing the thing out though - and now have discovered that a friend has a new puppy, so I'm sending it to him for dog bedding. It might not last long because the puppy is still at that destroying anything stage - but I feel a lot better about it having some temporary purpose rather than going straight to landfill.

  2. I just finished a quilt as you go log cabin quilt using 3inch batting strips and scraps. That’s one way to use up the batting we trim away from our quilts. Thanks for starting this conversation.


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