MQG Make-A-Difference Challenge 2023

Two years ago, I participated in the MQG Make-a-Difference Challenge and this year I thought I’d give it another go. This year the challenge was used to raise money for Wild Earth Allies and the theme was biodiversity. In the previous two Make-A-Difference editions there were limitations on which fabrics you could use. The first year you could only use solids and last year only Moda Bella Solids. I am glad they let this requirement go and encouraged participants to use their own stash. It is a much more sustainable option to make use of what you already have. I did not buy anything new to make my quilt.

Front view of a quilt representing Evolution for the MQG Make-A-Difference Challenge 2023.

I am a scientist and when I think of biodiversity, I immediately think of evolution. The process that made our planet so biodiverse. I wanted my quilt to represent the process of a single species evolving over time into many different species. After millions of generations some of the new species may still look more or less like the original, while others have acquired so many additional traits that it’s hard to see that they are related.

Construction of Evolution

I started by cutting 2.5 inch wide strips from the blue fabric (Windham Ruby&Bee Cornflower, left over from last year’s Quiltcon fabric challenge!). I cut these to insert small pieces of colourful fabrics, a mix of solids and prints. Starting with red and gradually increasing the number of inserted pieces and different colours until I had an entire rainbow at the top of the quilt.

Design process of a strip based improv quilt. At first there are blue and white strips with colourful inserts but at some point the white strips have been discarded.

At first I intended to include the idea that life started in the oceans and later came to land, but I liked the quilt better with only blue background fabric. After I finished all the rows I switched around some of the fabrics. In some spots I wasn’t entirely happy with the colour flow or the spacing between the iserts. Some of the lower strips weren’t as long as the ones a the top (due to less inserts) and I replaced some of the blue fabric at the sides to make the quilt as wide as possible.

Back of a quilt showing grey and purple fabric.

Quilting & Finishing

For the back I liked a purple stripey fabric, but did not have enough so I combined it with some grey. The batting is Hobbs Tuscany Cotton Wool. Before I started quilting I printed a picture of the quilt and put it in a clear folder so I could draw some designs using whiteboard markers.

Picture of a quilt top in a clear folder with quilting designs drawn on top.

I wanted the focus of the quilt to be on the piecing and also guide your eyes from the bottom of the quilt to the top. I often use a thicker thread for quilting (30wt), but I feared that would be a bit too much here. A while back, I bought some Wonderfill DecoBob spools to use for English paper piecing. This is a very thin (80wt) polyester thread and I decided to try it for quilting. It looks lovely and the grey blends quite well with all the different colours!

Detail shot of Evolution showing the colourful fabric inserts and straight line quilting on a blue background.

The quilting design represents a genetic bottle neck. This could be a flood or a disease that wipes out a large part of a population leaving it less diverse. Over time, the survivors, through evolution, can give rise to more biodiversity. I used painters tape to keep an even distance between the quilting lines. 

Walking foot quilting in progress. Next quilting lines are indicated with painter's tape.

For the binding I used a light grey fabric of which I had just enough left to cut enough binding strips. It’s from Karen Lewis’s Blueberry Park collection and I have used this fabric to bind multiple quilts. I am a bit sorry that it’s now gone, but glad that I had enough to bind Evolution because it works so well.

Side shot of a quilt, showing the quilting texture and rainbow colours that were used.

Quiltcon Super Scrappy Challenge

One of the best parts of this quilt? Because I used 145 different fabrics to construct the quilt top, I can also use it for the American Patchwork & Quilting Super Scrappy challenge for Quiltcon 2024! For this challenge your top needs to have at least different 30 fabrics so Evolution is good to go.

Finished Make-A-Difference quilt top photographed from the front and back. The back shows all the pressed seam allowances.

There were many beautiful quilts entered for the MQG Make-A-Difference Challenge and I found it really hard to vote for just 1 favourite. You can view the top 10 quilts here.

August 12, 2023

Emmely Treffers

About Emmely

I am a sewing enthusiast from the Netherlands. I live in the Leiden area with my husband and two daughters and I am currently working as a senior researcher in molecular virology. With my quilting patterns and sewing blog I want to infect as many people as possible with my love for sewing.

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  1. Mariss Stevens

    What a remarkable quilt. A visual delight with an intricate design and message. I am disappointed that it did not earn a place in the MQC challenge. It is such a clever and clear illustration of the evolutionary process — told through perfect piecing and use of colour

    • Emmely

      Thank you! There were many pictorial quilts this year and it appears those were in general more successful than the more abstract ones like mine. I didn’t expect to win and am just pleased that I managed to create what I had in mind.

  2. Kate Chiconi

    This is a wonderful piece of work. I love the scientific rigour applied to what is traditionally viewed as a ‘soft’ skill, and to such spectacular effect!

    • Emmely

      Thank you! It was fun to combine my two interests.

  3. tierneycreates

    You succeeding in the challenge! Amazing quilt!

    • Emmely

      Thank you! I always love a good challenge.


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