Project Quilting 9.6: SCRAPtastic

It is hard to believe, but this week marks the 6th (and final) challenge of Project Quilting Season 9!  All season long, I've had fun with my own personal challenge of incorporating unconventional materials into my entries:  upcycled laptops, holographic film, paracord and hardware, UNO playing cards and office supplies.  Early into the season, I brainstormed a list of possible unconventional materials, which was a helpful reference as each challenge theme was announced.  One of the remaining groupings on my list was using discarded items (recyclables and trash) and this week's SCRAPtastic theme tied in perfectly!

Several weeks ago, there was a photograph making the rounds on Facebook depicting how sea turtles oftentimes confuse plastic bags for jellyfish.  The image stayed with me and inspired visions of a future quilt to raise awareness about the dangers of plastic debris pose to marine life.  Not only do marine mammals ingest the larger items causing illness, mobility issues and death, but as the plastic begins to break down it continues to wreak havoc on the eco systems by leaching chemicals into the water and absorbed by smaller organisms at the bottom of the food chain.

At the start of this project, I reflected back on recent visits to Mote Aquarium in Sarasota, FL and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA, and being totally entranced by the jellyfish displays. 
Jellyfish Exhibits at Mote Aquarium (top) and California Academy of Sciences (bottom)

During my Mote Aquarium visit, there was a new exhibit entitled: Sea Debris:  Awareness Through Art, featuring marine-life inspired sculptures created by artists from Washed Ashore.  The artwork was incredibly powerful as each large sculpture was made entirely from plastic and trash collected from the sea.  I also loved the outdoor signage leading visitors to additional exhibits housed in a separate building featuring a gradient of blue waves and various sea life creatures swimming upstream.
Awareness Through Art at Mote Aquarium

The first half of the week was spent gathering materials.  As I went around our home, I became all too aware (and ashamed) of how much plastic we have consumed.  While there were quite a few items that could have made a wonderful addition to my seascape, I made the decision to only use items that had already been used and were headed for the trash or recycling bins:  plastic bags, bottles, wrappers, soda 6-pack rings, soda can tabs, and bubble wrap.
Trash to Treasure

Over the course of the week, I also started noting several related news articles appear in my newsfeed about plastic debris and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

After reading these articles and learning more about the devastating impact all this plastic pollution is having on our ocean's eco systems (and the growing mound of trash consuming my studio), I was anxious to get started on my entry!  The first step of construction was to create a wavy background inspired by the Mote Aquarium signs.  A variety of fabrics using this year's Pantone Color of the Year UltraViolet were pulled from my stash.  Free form rotary cut rolling waves were turned under and top stitched onto the next layer of fabric using Karen Eckmeier's Layered Waves technique.
Layered Ocean Waves

Next some coral reef was added by adapting Karen's technique.  An extra layer of batting was added via Trapunto to the coral reef, with some detailed quilting that added texture and dimension (well worth the extra time and effort involved!)
Coral Reef Texure and Dimension Through Trapunto (front and back)

Once the trapunto was complete, the entire quilt top was layered and basted for quilting.  Light Delft Blue (#2720) Aurifil 50 weight was used to stitch a variety of aquatic designs into the background, including several pebble variations from my new Pebble & Play workshop.  The dense background quilting and outline stitching really helped the lofted sections of coral reef to pop.

Instead of a traditional binding, I did two passes of zig zag stitching all around the edge using the same Aurifil Light Delft Blue thread.  Initially I was concerned about how this edge treatment distorted the edges, but once complete, it added to the oceanic theme.

Now that my background was complete, it was time to start introducing the sea life.  Once I started to play with the materials, sea life creatures began to emerge:  sea snails, starfish, coral polyps and swimming fish.
Sea Life

The jellyfish were the trickiest to create.  I experimented with several different manipulations including shredding a plastic bag and some bubble wrap for the tentacles and layering various items to achieve a balance of transparency and opaqueness for the Bell/Hood.
Jelly Fish Tentacles

Here is a fun I-Spy game for you to play:  Can you spot all the Under the Sea Debris?:
  • Collar Tab
  • Shower Poof
  • Netting from a Potato Bag
  • Plastic packaging from Cheetos, Popcorn and Hall's Cough Drops
  • Guest Visitor Badge Clips
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Plastic Shopping Bag
  • 2 Plastic Bread Bags
  • 3 Bread Bag Tags 
  • 3 Bottle Tops
  • 1 Water Bottle Base
  • 2 Six-Pack Plastic Rings
  • Inflatable Air Bags/Packaging used in Amazon/Google Express Shipping
"Under the Sea Debris", Finishes 30" x 51"

I am linking this up to Project Quilting for Online Voting.  Be sure to check out all the fantastic & SCRAPtastic entries and VOTE for your favorites (hint hint:  mine is entry # 80).  In May, I will also link up to the Pantone Quilt Challenge 2018 (UltraViolet).

As I worked on my entry, I reflected on my own consumption habits and how I can reduce my environmental impact.  While I am very conscientious about composting and recycling, I need to be more mindful of how much plastic waste I create through my lifestyle and purchasing habits.  If you want to learn more about Marine Debris and how you can help make make a difference, I encourage you to visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris website for research findings, educational materials and take action ideas.


  1. A thoughtful quilt. I'm using too much plastic, too. We can both be on the lookout for ways to cut back. Thanks.

    1. Thank you Ann...working on this quilt gave me plenty of time to reflect on my lifestyle habits and reconsider my spending habits. Some areas may be more difficult than others--but every little bit will help!

  2. Very creative and pretty quilt. So colorful too. Love the trapunto.

    1. Thank you Danice...I had a lot of fun creating my under the seascape with some fun details including the trapunto!!


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