Tuesday, December 1, 2009

File this under “Good Lord, what WAS I thinking?”

Hi gang!

Let’s see a show of hands if you have ever been stopped in your tracks by a piece of fabric (or worse yet a collection of fabric) and immediately thought “Oh boy! I have to have it right now!” If you were able to let the feeling pass and move on without buying the fabric(s), then you can put your hand down. Otherwise, keep those hands raised. Did you use the fabric? Have you used all the fabric you have purchased impulsively? If so, put your hand down. If not, you know the drill – keep your hand raised! My arm is getting tired too! Last question – have you every impulsively purchased fabric(s) that you HAD TO HAVE, got it home, maybe even washed it, added it to your stash, forgotten all about it, come across it again and scream in horror “Good Lord, what WAS I thinking?” It’s absolutely the ugliest fabric I have ever seen! Who did I think I was making quilts for – Little Miss Muffet? If so, 1) we share the same quilter gene, and 2) you can put your hand down now – you have suffered enough.

Ok – there are more questions. I fibbed. How do you redeem yourself? How do you turn lemons into lemonade? And most importantly, how do you use up the fabric to make room for future purchases? The answers are community quilts, challenge yourself, and appliqué.

Huh? Let me explain.
First of all, ugly is relative – at least my relatives are (ba-DUM ching). Sorry I couldn’t help myself. Seriously, mediocre can be beautiful if it’s next to hideous . But place mediocre next to attractive and it suddenly becomes unsightly. An appliqué teacher I took classes from, Faye Labaneris, referred to this as the Cinderella Effect. The reason Cinderella was SO BEAUTIFUL was because she was always standing next to her ugly step sisters. So save a few (very few) scraps of some of the “uglies” to make the other fabrics shine. One of the best techniques to employ this strategy is appliqué because it’s very easy to throw in a tiny leaf or circle or … along with all the other pretty fabrics. In addition, according to another wonderful appliqué teacher, Mary Sorensen, once you have cut a shape (any size) out of a piece of fabric it officially becomes a scrap and you can toss it (or give it away) without guilt!

Most quilters that belong to guilds and small sewing circles piece quilts for donation to various charities. Many times these quilts go to children or developmentally challenged adults that truly appreciate the bright colors, dazzling patterns, strong values, etc. Another option is to give the unused fabric away. It’s a very noble gesture and no one has to know the reason you selected certain fabrics for donation. Community service projects are all grateful for donations. Schools and children’s organizations are also always looking for donated materials for art, craft, and sewing projects.

Is there a technique that you have always wanted to learn but were afraid of ruining $30 a yard hand dye, one of a kind fabric? Do you want the first time you attempt Y-seams to be on a wedding gift for your new daughter in law? Will you teach yourself free motion quilting on a quilt project intended as a family heirloom? Maybe, but probably not. Pick out your most distressing fabric purchase; mix it with something a little more palatable and have fun. The outcome does not matter. If it’s too embarrassing to donate to community projects, make it part of your pet’s bedding (I’m sure they will find it warm and comforting).
The blocks below are my donation (in progress) to Ocean Waves Community Quilts. I designed a few ice cream patterns for the guild to use for this purpose. I picked out “ice cream” fabric from my “Oh good Lord” stash and had fun. The appliqué is fused and I have just started the decorative embroidery on the edges.

I used this as an opportunity to play and learn more about “Balance” and “Focal Point”. The values are all strong and the patterns are all busy. My challenge - how can I combine these fabrics and still achieve a balanced arrangement that doesn’t give the viewer a headache?

Below are some of the block arrangements I played with.

I’m not sure I met the challenge but I get to use up ugly fabric (so I can buy some more), I get to practice my embroidery, I have fun, and patients at the Sunrise Center will get a colorful wall hanging or two to brighten up there recreation room!

Best Stitches!
aka The Savage Quilter
P.S. The fabrics are so busy that I had to edit the blog to post the photos further apart. Placed side by side they hurt my eyes!


  1. I was just speaking with someone about doing a guild program about "Holy cow, what was I thinking" quilts and fabrics. We have a woman who can use any fabric she finds who I'm trying to tap to speak. Any more ideas that you have for using it up? Thanks, Denise
    hurricane77 at hotmail dot com

  2. Great discussion on 'what to do with THAT fabric'. It doesn't even have to be horrible, just out of date or the wrong color, odd shade, hue or tint to be good for anything.

    Beth-Near Chicago