Decoding Your Story: Cyndi McChesney

Decoding Your Story: Cyndi McChesney

May 10th 2024

Welcome to Decoding Your Story! We're excited to introduce our latest endeavor: a series of community blog posts delving into the captivating narratives of makers in our C&T and Creative Spark community.

Get ready to dive deep into inspiring tales, forge stronger connections, and celebrate the kaleidoscope of creativity that defines our crafting community. Join us on this exhilarating journey as we fuel passion and ignite imagination among our fellow crafters!

In our second installment, we're thrilled to feature Cyndi McChesney, the talented C&T author and Creative Spark Instructor. Discover her current projects, uncover the wellsprings of her inspiration, and explore what drives her to bring her creations to life.

What project or creation are you currently immersed in making?

  • I am currently working on a series of panel patterns which will be easily adaptable to other panels of the same size.

When it comes to art, what specific form or genre are you championing, and why does it resonate with you?

  • I love the creative process of quilt making and encouraging people to create something unique and personal so that they can utilize all that they know about the process of making a quilt while using a panel as a jumping-off point to creativity and play. It is incredibly rewarding when someone who doesn't believe they are creative suddenly discovers that they just didn't know how to let their creativity out to play! As quilt makers, we have a lot of skills and I like to nudge people to step out of their comfort zone and use those techniques and skills to make a quilt that shows who they are.

Can you share a recent inspiration that fueled your creative process?

  • Whenever I am drawn to a panel, the content and the color fuel my creative process. Instead of simply adding borders I like to let the panel talk to me and generally try to interject a little of my quirky sense of humor into the process of designing something fun that highlights the panel and leaves room for me to try my hand at doing something unusual and creative as well. I have the most fun creating Row by Row quilts and Montage small art quilts, using panels. Wildly different in style, both offer me an opportunity to stretch my quilting brain and express some fun in the process. 

Image captionSurprise Party Row by Row - Don't Count the Candles!

Have you encountered any challenges or obstacles in your creative endeavors recently, and how are you overcoming them?

  • The biggest challenge I encounter is when I am not inspired by the panel. I have a process of brainstorming and sometimes this process seems to stall if I am not excited by the subject or color palette of a panel. Rather than stash them away, I tend to hang them up and live with them, studying everything I can see, collecting fabrics, brainstorming and trying to determine which style might work best for the panel in front of me. Sometimes that can take a while and requires frequent breaks, but eventually an idea will present itself.

What motivates you to continue pushing boundaries and exploring new artistic territories? 

  • I am motivated to continue pushing boundaries and techniques using panels because I fell into this genre of quilt making quite by accident. Over the years I've had a lot of people scoff at the idea of creating anything more than a quilt with simple borders or frames around panel images UNTIL they see the kinds of things I have had the pleasure of creating. Each time that light bulb goes on it inspires me to keep pushing toward new ideas and expressions. 

Can you share a glimpse into your creative process, from ideation to execution?

  • My process begins with the selection of the panel itself. I usually try to choose a panel that has a theme or images that appeal to me and even before it comes home with me I study it to see if I have any feeling about what style of quilt or project might emerge or what I could do with that panel. Once I get the panel home it hangs on my design wall as I do a brainstorming process which I have outlined in both of my books. During the time that I am brainstorming and jotting down ideas, the end product is percolating - will it be a quilt, a bag, a table runner or something else? If it is leaning toward becoming a quilt what style quilt will it be or can I come up with yet another way to use it in a quilt that I haven't tried before (I have some ideas currently that I haven't quite figured out how to bring to life). Then I begin sketching, graphing and creating a road map to how I will produce the project and finally get into the sewing!

Image captionX marks the Spot! Ahoy matey!

What advice would you give to aspiring artists who are just starting to find their voice and style?

  • Stretch, explore, play. Don't take yourself or your work too seriously - some of the most surprising and best things come about when you play and experiment. Let your voice come through your work, your sense of humor, your emotions.

Get ready for a thrilling ride as we continue to unveil the fascinating stories from our vibrant creative community! Stay tuned for a wealth of insights, tips, and advice that will deepen your connection to your craft and inspire your next masterpiece.

Read other Decoding Your Story blog posts on the C&T Blog: 

Christen Brown


Cyndi McChesney has been quilting for over 40 years. She has enjoyed a wide-ranging, fulfilling career in the quilting industry as an author, quilt shop owner, custom quilt maker, and instructor throughout the US and Canada at national shows, guilds, and quilt shops. She lives in New Kent, Virginia.

Shop Cyndi's booksFun with Panels and Playful Panel Quilts, at C&T Publishing. 

Check out Cyndi's Creative Spark online coursesPanel Palooza and Wild for Panel Quilts