Workshop 2021: Sandra Bruce: Material Matrix

“YAYOI”, by Sandra Brucebutton

For our 2021 retreat I will once again be teaching my technique, Material Matrix. In this workshop, you will be working on a photograph of your choosing (along with my OK), which I will grid for you ahead of time. After receiving the gridded photo back from me, you will use the photo to select the fabrics you will need to produce the quilt. I will be happy to help you “audition” possible photos by email. If you have taken a workshop from me before, you may bring an existing Matrix project to work on. If you have taken a workshop from me before and are ready to tackle a more challenging photo this is a great opportunity to do so. If you are new to Matrix, I request that you to pick a photo that contains an inanimate object, no human faces. An animal face would be an exception, although it needs to be a very simple composition. I would prefer that you start with something that will allow you to get used to the technique and give you success. Then you can go on to another more challenging subject. You are welcome to use any of the 3 samples that I teach at guilds for this workshop: “Sew Ready”, “Wake Up Cup”, or “Junior Cardinal” (see my website under “teaching” for photos of these). In general, what makes a good image for the Matrix technique? A good composition, variety in colors and values, a focal object, not too much detail, and above all, a photo that is sharp and in focus.

Here are 3 examples of good subjects:

Here are 4 examples of photos that are TOO complex and not good Matrix candidates. Too much detail, too busy….which translates into too many seams:

Of course we can have a conversation about possibilities.

The supply list for this workshop is pretty simple. About fabric: I encourage you to bring as many pieces of fabric as your suitcase will allow. You want variety, not necessarily quantity. It is fine to have quarter yard cuts, fat quarters, eighths and even scraps. Look at your photo carefully and bring as wide a range of fabrics as you can. This means solids, prints, stripes, and batiks, even polka-dots. Pay attention to values. Look at my Matrix quilts (on and notice the fabrics that I have used. Here’s the supply list:


  1. Sewing machine in good working order, with a 1/4″ foot
  2. Rotary mat and cutter, with a sharp blade
  3. Omnigrid ruler for cutting  (my favorite size is 2-1/2″ by 6-1/2″)
  4. Your gridded photo
  5. A neutral thread, 50 weight is best
  6. Sewing kit with the usual tools: scissors, seam ripper, pins, etc.
  7. A stack of 3″ Post-Its
  8. Pens or pencils for marking light AND dark fabrics
  9. Paper and pen for taking notes
  10. Your fabric

Here are a few examples of Matrix pieces made by my students to inspire you!

“Focus” by Rejeanne Santoro, “Saxaphone” by Colleen Pelfrey, and “Henry”, by Arlette Bond.
In my workshop I am a very hands-on teacher. We will cover many issues, including: what makes a good Matrix subject, how to grid your own photo, value and color, piecing tips, how to make a matched binding, ideas about quilting, and more. I hope you are inspired to take my workshop. Please contact me if you have any questions!