We’d like to say that there’s no such thing as ugly fabric, just fabric that you haven’t found the right project for. But we’d be wrong. Sometimes there’s just one cut that doesn’t cut it…for anything.
Given how stashes are built, that’s not surprising. Be honest now. Haven’t you at least once bought fabric you had no specific use for and no actual idea about what it could become? You just bought it because its print and colors began searing themselves into your brain and you could barely see anything else as you clawed through your purse to find your debit card and hand it over to the nice lady at the counter.
A lot of times these instinct buys become the fabri-personality of projects that totally make our hearts sing. Other times, though, we end up with stash dawgs, fabric that just refuses to morph into anything with potential. Every time we consider pulling it for a project, we just shake our heads and wonder what we were thinking. And we stuff it back in the box or drawer.
That ugly fabric might also have found its way into your sewing room as part of someone else’s de-stashing. You know, when a friend tells you she cleaned out her sewing room and “has a few things to bring over.” Many times such thoughtful gifts have fiber gems, but every so often, you’ll find a ticking textile bomb.
Well, we’re gonna set you free: It’s okay to not like something in your stash. Tastes change, and so do stitchy interests and project intentions.
Now, there are some things you can try, short of pitching that ugly fabric into the nearest trash bin:
1. Wrap a present in it. Furoshiki, the Japanese art of wrapping gifts in fabric, is a perfectly green and great thing to do with a fabric cut that you’d like to divorce from your stash. Add some ribbons, dried flowers or other natural accents, and your ex might achieve a new level of chic.
2. Make cloth napkins for everyday use. More green-ness. You don’t need a gorgeous swath of Amy Butler or the hand-dyed look of Marcia Derse if you’re just wiping spaghetti sauce off your kid’s chin. Cut the offending fabric into 16- or 18-inch squares and clean-finish the edges. Use with abandon!
3. Practice your free-motion quilting. Make a few sandwiches with some batting scraps, fire up ol’ Betsy (or whatever you call your machine) and start doodling. Most quilting teachers will tell you to use muslin, but if you’re not gonna use that orphaned FQ for anything else, who cares?
4. Test a new block pattern. If you’re not sure about that Wonky-Flying-Geese-married-to-a-Nine-Patch idea, then by all means make a tester. Chop that bad baby up with some other fabrics, and learn a new technique. (And hey, if the block’s not that bad, turn it into a potholder and toss it in your gift stash. When the office White Elephant exchange comes around next December, you’ll be ready.)
5. Donate it to a charity quilt effort. And before you call this a quilt-ethics foul, just remember what’s ugly to one person may have hidden beauty in the eyes of another. Plus, charity quilters seem to be extra blessed with the talent to make even a stash dawg look good.
So take heart. And take a box when you go into your sewing room to round up all the dawgs. If you’re not loving it, liberate it! And just think of all that room you’re freeing up in your stash for something wonderful.