Top 10 Ways To Create A Greener Art Quilt

When it comes to celebrating Earth Day, art quilters and mixed-media fiber artists are lucky: for us, it's easy being green.

Not that we don't love a bin full of crisp, new fat quarters, but finding creative ways to use reuse and recycle textiles and fibers–thus reducing what goes into the trash–is in our creative nature.

We've written about green art quilting methods in many issues of Quilting Arts and even run a very popular "Go Green!" reader challenge, the results of which were featured in the August/September and October/November 2008 issues.

And several of our Quilting Arts WorkshopTM videos, like Texture Transformation with Natalya Aikens or Expression Session with Alisa Burke, demonstrate how to recycle "trash" into art.

Still, in case you need reminding, here are my 10 favorite ways to make greener fiber art.

  1. Resist and dye the natural way.  Low-immersion plant dyeing saves water and energy; soy wax (for batik) doesn't give off nasty fumes. Flour paste resist is fun and earth-friendly. (Do always wear a mask when dyeing, especially when using powdered dyes.) Rusting with water and vinegar gives fabrics color, pattern, and interest, and gets that rusty junk off the streets!
  2. Use found fibers. Don't trash that holey linen tablecloth, stained silk shell, and even your dryer lint or used dryer sheets. Cut out the good parts of old fabrics and over-dye or distress them. Paint or print on used dryer sheets or dye-catcher sheets
  3. Needle-felt by hand or machine. The tiniest bits of yarn, thread, roving, fabric, and straggly bits of yarns and threads needle-felted together, felted woolens. You can also needle felt colorful dryer lint (hint: wash and dry a new, vibrant beach towel).
  4. Reuse old curtains. Sheer panels make excellent silk screens. You can print with lace curtains: just glue the lace to a firm surface, apply fabric paint or ink with a roller, and press evenly on your accepting fabric.
  5. Make use of found objects and papers. Remember, if you can make a hole in it or wrap a wire around it, you can attach it to your quilt. (For example, Karen Fisher's quilt at right was made from cut-up soda cans.)Leftover pieces of wrapper paper and tissue can be turned into fabric paper for stitching.
  6. Not playing with a full deck? If your game of 52-pickup is has dwindled to 37 or so, use those spare cards as ATC backs.
  7. Give "failed" projects new life. Paint, print, or stamp over them. Cut them up and reassemble them. Or simply cut them into ATC- or inchie-sized and bind with a zigzag stitch.
  8. Speaking of stamping… Pretty much anything can be used as a stamp. Old kitchen tools (never again to be used for food prep), well-washed foam meat trays, corks. Before you throw out something that has outlived its original purpose, consider its potential as a stamp.
  9. Swap and share. Do you need more dark tones in your fabric stash? Before you hit the stores, consider hosting a swap with quilting friends who may need more of your mid-tones or lights. Do you always end up with more dye than you can use? Next time, host a dye party and share the rainbow instead of pouring it down the drain.
  10. Send a message. If you care about the environment, use your art to communicate a message with words, imagery, or both.


There are so many ways to celebrate Earth Day in fiber art. How do you make a quilt earth-friendly? Leave a comment below!

Happy Earth Day,



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13 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways To Create A Greener Art Quilt

  1. I hand quilt during the daylight hours so do not use electricity, not only saving on energy but my bank balance as well, our electricity charges have gone up higher than the recent volcano in Iceland!
    Val from Down Under

  2. My sis and I are the recipients of MANY upholstery samples and are looking for new ways to use them. They are too beautiful to toss. So far we have made tote bags, purses, cell phone ‘bags’ to hang from neck when walking (ipod, etc), working on ‘tied’ quilt to carry in auto for picnics, etc. If any new ways, please let us know! Thx!!/j

  3. Last year I went to a tailor who makes wedding and evening dresses in September which means the end of high season of weddings in Turkey. They gave me all the leftovers of fancy fabrics with no charge as they were throwing them after every season I was happy and they were happy too.I visit tailors time to time in order to save the leftovers.I give most of them to friends who are attending some sewing or quilting courses.

  4. Most of the suggestions regarding recycling takes me back to the days of “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” Having lived through the depression it was a common thing for my family to recycle everything, especially clothing and fabics of any kind. What goes around, comes around, again.

  5. Most of the suggestions regarding recycling takes me back to the days of “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” Having lived through the depression it was a common thing for my family to recycle everything, especially clothing and fabics of any kind. What goes around, comes around, again.

  6. I kind of afraid to give out my idea because people may deplete my source, hahaha. I am going to Salvation Army and store of that kind and buying old wool skirts and jackets (not many people wear them anymore)… I felt then then use them in quilts and other projects of wool and save a lot of money, and it gets them off the street.
    Johnnie from , Wyoming

  7. I have been saving t-shirts and jeans for many years now and have quite a stash. I have recently used many of the t-shirts to make quilt blocks and I am in the process of making appliqué and reverse appliqué designs for some of the blocks using fabric paint and stencilling. This is my way of keeping clothes from the landfill and having a fun and creative project.


    If you would like to see the progress please pop on over to my blog.
    Thank You.

  8. Last year, Pokey, as program coordinator, for my Guild I planned and executed a Go Green Challenge. We exchanged bags of stuff to recycle, reuse, repurpose from our studios to make something for the following spring. The grand revealing was last June and we had about 20 projects presented to the guild. I was so proud of the 26 women who undertook this challenge and were able to make a quilt or wall hanging or mixed media project to share.
    My bag of stuff was the biggest challenge! It contained 2 covers of old leather purses, lace, netting, beads cut off dresses, leather samples, yarn, ribbon …but very little fabric! What a mess of musty stuff! I threw it under a chair for all of winter not to be seem until April!
    Using my best resource, Beryl Taylor’s Mixed Media Explorations, I used everything in my green bag. I created a fabric paper background and embedded the lace and netting from old hats in it. The leather became a small tree applique with a bird in it. I created tags, embellished and crotched the yarn, made prairie points with the little bits of fabric, added the beads, and created a crown out of the old black fabric with sequins on it. I machine quilted and hand embroidered parts on black felt. Voila! a masterpiece! That’s my Earth Day story. There a pictures on my blog posted last year.
    Donna Funnell Ontario Canada

  9. As a new reader I’m enjoying your newsletters… I have a question tho. Above, you referenced several times an “ATC”. What is that?

  10. I loved your fabric swap idea. I’ve written my quilting buddies and we will do this soon. Your “likes” change and if you have been collecting fabrics for years you tend to end up stuff your just not that crazy about any more. Great idea.

  11. Stock Market Advice MarketClub Education Page Click Here MarketClub Videos page Click Here New!! Support the Blog For those of you that hate Paypal you can send a check: John C. Dvorak, Box 339, El Cerrito, CA 94530 Blogroll 2005 Personal Portal- — handy

  12. I believe you can create a quilt from any thing and you don’t need an expensive fancy sewing machine to do it with. I have collected wool (100%) garments and washed, dryed, cut up and made beautiful quilts, velvet is very nice for quilts, as well as batik, my next project is going to be a silk quilt. Happy sewing to all.
    Gail K from AZ