Ugly Fabric Quilt Challenge


In the 1990s I belonged to a quilt guild. Even though I’d taken a quilting class and read books about quilting and made a few quilts, I didn’t really know what I was doing until I’ll spent time in the guild. I learned so much from the presentations, from quilting next to other quilters, and from guild projects, such as progressive quilts and challenges.


One of the most interesting challenges (I don’t think I participated) was the ugly fabric challenge. I can’t remember the exact way it worked, but I think all the participants brought in lengths of dreadful fabric from their stashes to exchange. I can’t remember if you got to choose a fabric, or if it was just passed out in a plain brown paper bag, but the fabrics were decidedly less than optimal—an ugly color or print, an outdated design, or maybe the dye bled when washed. You had to use the challenge fabric, supplementing it with others from your own stash.

Surprise! The resulting quilts were not bad-looking. Some were actually gorgeous, with the hideous fabrics improved by lovely fabrics that surrounded them.

I wondered if quilters still did ugly fabric challenges. I found some examples online, but most were from as long as fifteen years ago. I thought I’d share some of what I found:

Beautiful leftovers

And now I have a challenge for you. If you are a quilter, you undoubtedly have a backlog of fabrics. If you’ve been quilting for decades, your taste in fabrics may have changed and you probably have some you regret. Maybe your stash exceeds your storage space, and you’ve promised yourself you won’t buy more fabric until you’ve quilted up some of what you already have, but you just can’t get excited about using drab material.

Now that you’ve seen what’s possible with undesirable fabric, take some of those uglies, admit they’re gross, and turn them into something beautiful. Mixing them with lovely fabrics in a traditional scrap quilt pattern will transform those ugly ducklings into glamorous swans.

Take pictures of your ugly fabric quilt, and post them on your blog or Flickr or Instagram. Then supply us with a link in the comments below so we can see what you’ve done. Try to do this before the end of 2019. (If you’ve already made an ugly fabric quilt, share that too.)

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