Thursday, March 02, 2006

The good side of ugly

If you have a sizeable fabric stash, you're bound to have some material that makes you scratch your head later and wonder…what was I thinking?

The bright orange batik with the lime-green streaks shooting through it…the print with demonic-looking teddy bears…the mottled, not-quite-brown, not-quite-gray neutral, reminiscent of something that's been left way too long in the refrigerator. If you bought the stuff, you realize you were either caught up in the excitement of a super-markdown sale, or else totally hormonal. If somebody gave it to you, you have probably long since reconsidered the wisdom of that friendship.

I'm going to assume that everyone does have some fabric like this, because I really don't want to believe it's just me. But the discovery I want to share is this…when cut into small pieces, even ugly fabric loses most of its ugliness. In fact, when combined with many other fabrics of an unattractive nature, the whole effect can become pretty darned terrific-looking. And that's important in sewing for community service -- because even though we're often using scraps and seconds by necessity, we should never, and I mean never, donate something that we wouldn't be perfectly proud to give to our own child, or grandparent, or to use ourselves.

So it was a wonderful surprise to run across this pattern for a scrap block that seems tailor-made for those "what was I thinking" fabrics. When stitched together, the block itself doesn't stand out, but the overall pattern forms a very cheerful mosaic. Individual fabrics - especially those cut into the narrow strips - shed their unsightliness and form quirky little accents here and there. My guild gladly added this to the collection of quilts we donated to our local youth group homes last week.

Lots of the fabrics in this quilt are from the guild's monthly swap of 5-inch charm squares. We have a different theme every month and each June, the theme is "Uglies." We have great fun going through one another's offerings and taking them home as our own. And with just a few swipes of the rotary cutter, many "ugly" charms were charming indeed, forming the perfect spice for this happy quilt.

Do you have other ideas for ugly fabric? Please share them! I'll be gone on vacation through mid-March, but will post, discuss and enjoy as soon as I get back.

And thanks for letting me share my thoughts around this guild project, which was really fun for a lot of us.

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