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Summer Scraps

In her latest blog post, Resident Artisan Laura Brown reflects on summer and some fun new directions in her quilting.  

Posted on September 1, 2022
by Laura Brown

Summer often feels short and fleeting; this summer has felt full and varied with travel, bonfires, hikes, stargazing, jumps in the lake, and weekly square dancing lessons. I have also been working on my improvisational quilting in an effort to use up the tiniest scraps in my collection. This type of quilting is very different from my usual way of making a quilt. I usually start a quilt with a set of parameters: I might start with two fabrics in particular, make a series of blocks with them, then put them up on the studio wall and see what needs to happen next: a lighter or darker value? A contrasting or complimentary color? A second kind of block or more of the same?

I like the order of traditional quilt patterns with their repetition and variation, but I also admire the quilters who are able to create order out of the chaos of a scrap pile. This has always seemed a little mysterious to me, so this summer I started experimenting with ways of making improvisational quilts. There isn’t really a formula for this kind of quilting, except to start sewing pieces of fabric together, but I found it worked best for me to start with the very smallest pieces and plan just a few steps ahead, staying flexible and responsive to the material as compositions evolve.

Working with so many small pieces makes for busy-looking compositions, so I kept the quilts small enough to fit in my pocket, like a secret security blanket. 

In July, I assisted Gwen Westerman for her Landscape Quilting class, and brought only my scraps with me. While most people in class made quilts large enough to fill a wall or cover a body, I kept my landscape small, about 8” x 10”. Gwen taught us to start with the foreground of our compositions, so I made that first, and then balanced it out with relatively larger pieces for the background and sky

Somehow, even though I have been working diligently through my scraps, I still have so many to use! I am sure they will make their way into more projects this winter, and they even inspired a new class I am offering during Fiber Week in February called From Scraps to Substance: Traditional Patchwork Reimagined. Scraps, along with other salvaged fabric and used-up garments, are also welcome in class in the beginning quilting class I am teaching in November: Nothing New: Make a Quilt from Old Clothes. Questions about either of these classes? Email me: