Ugly Fabrics

Women's Work Valentine's Day Napkin
Women’s Work Valentine’s Day Napkin

After putting the used napkins from last week in the wash I pulled out new ones. I had rearranged the napkin drawer in order to circulate in some that hadn’t been used in awhile. One was folded back to front and I immediately had an ugly fabric reaction. It really isn’t hideous fabric, but not my colors. The print is interesting. It is a classic design. I don’t think this particular shade of pink has really ever been my color, but I bought it at some point in the past so I must have liked it or had a use for it.

This napkin brought out a whole slew of ugly fabric feelings and thoughts. I was especially reminded of things I had heard I must do.

-Buy a little ugly fabric.

-Put a piece of ugly fabric in your quilts so your nice fabrics will look better.

-Sew ugly fabrics as backs.

You know how well musts work with most people.

I went through about 5 seconds of buying ugly fabric. Then I decided that, for me, that is a seriously dumb idea. I am not spending my hard earned money on ugly fabric when there is so much great fabric out there. I don’t have enough money to buy the fabric I love (bolts of Philip Jacobs prints, please). I also don’t want to devote precious space to ugly fabrics.

The other thing is that ‘ugly’ is relative. My ugly fabric might be your favorite color. I am not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. Ugly for me will be different than your ugly. Buy your favorites.

Also, what I think is ugly today might not have been ugly to me 10 years ago. Tastes evolve. Also, as a new quiltmaker, you might be trying out different styles to find what suits you. You might also mix what you like. I don’t buy many repro prints, even the cheerful 1930s prints. They just aren’t for me. However, there is a blue in the Civil War arena that I love and periodically I will buy an FQ of one print. I am careful, though to make sure it is more blue than beige.

I worked on a quilt called Thoughts on Dots when I was having a big, fat creative block. This quilt was so painful to make, because I was forcing myself to sew. I was forcing myself to work through the creative block.I had a small child who was going through some stuff. DH was going through some stuff. It was a tough time. I moved around 6.5″ squares for weeks. I finished the quilt top and decided to use some ugly fabric for the back. To be thrifty, I decided to use fabric I wasn’t going to use for a front. The ‘ugly’ fabric isn’t hideously ugly, though it is beige. I interspersed the beige with leftover squares, so the back isn’t completely beige and hideous.

We act like we will never see the back so backs can be a dumping ground for ugly fabrics. Thoughts on Dots is on our bed, so I do see the back pretty often and I sincerely dislike it every time I see it. This is why I have used small pieces of beige for donation blocks. I don’t want beige in my fabric closet. This quilt is nearly the sole reason I use a lot of Philip Jacobs prints for my backs. I have decided I want to enjoy backs as much as my fronts. It doesn’t mean that I buy special fabric for the backs. It means I use fabrics I like from my fabric closet. Those Philip Jacobs prints are so well displayed on a back that I can’t possibly NOT use them now.

I also should have realized that being thrifty didn’t mean I had to use that beige fabric. It isn’t as though there has been a shortage of fabric at my house in a while.

My final thought is that everyone should just use the good stuff immediately. Don’t buy it and save it for some other day. That day is today and you will love whatever you make even more if you can see your new favorite fabric immediately.

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

10 thoughts on “Ugly Fabrics”

  1. I could not agree more. Why should spend my money or my time on something I do not like. But, we may not agree on “ugly.”

  2. Yes to everything you’ve written here. Now the question is, are you going to get rid of those napkins so you don’t have to risk having an ugly fabric reaction every time you see them?

    1. The one shown is one of my Valentine’s Day napkins, so if I get rid of it, I might have to make some other Valentine’s Day napkins. We’ll see. The napkins are actually very nice quality. Cathy said it would go with her Desert Rose china so she would be happy to take it off my hands.

  3. Having been a TRUE SHOP-AHOLIC I have a ton of fabrics that may or may not be ugly but definitely fall into the WHAT WAS I THINKING category. I have been dividing my stash into two sections. …. LOVE THE FABRIC, use for family quilts and WHAT WAS I THINKING, use in experiments and donation quilts. I often trial a block or technique in a quilt I later donate to various charities or organizations. I work hard to make them beautiful and desirable but I am happy to know … I WILL NEVER HAVE TO LOOK AT THEM AGAIN. i also do not have to feel guilty for spending money I should not have at the time…… My family quilts are full of the fabrics that speak to my soul cause I will see them again and again.

    As to the back I only buy 108 inch backing as I hate piecing a back… I do at some point post the leftovers together but I try and challenge myself to making and interesting back at that point.

    GREAT POST as usual.

    1. I wonder about some of my fabric purchases as well. I think sometimes the fabric looks better in the store because more like fabrics are around it and I don’t have those groups at home. I have become more cognizant of fabrics outside of ‘my’ palette. I ask myself what they can be paired with. There are some nice small projects, so if I just love a piece outside of my palette I can make a 1 hour basket right away and not have to let it languish and wonder what I was thinking.

  4. My taste in fabric has evolved greatly. Partly because I was exposed to new fabrics and ideas as local stores popped up with brighter colors and I discovered the quilting community on the internet. I’m using my “ugly” (no longer my style) fabrics for testing pattern ideas and donation quilts. I know someone will love them.

    1. Good idea to use as test blocks and pattern ideas. yes, I can’t sew fast enough to use the fabrics I love, though I am trying to get to fabrics I buy sooner, so I still love them. Fortunately, I don’t dislike all of the fabrics I bought in the past. Many of them are tone-on-tones which work well for many projects.

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