Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ugly Squares

Poor me. I haven't had time to visit a quilt shop to buy fabric for awhile since I made the quilts from my book. I really really don't NEED any more fabric right now, you should see my baskets of leftovers. The projects I'm making now for the new Doll Quilt Club will all mostly be made from my scraps or fabric I already have. I did stock up on quite a few bundles and fat quarters at the Quilt Festival in Chicago in April and have barely touched those yet. Still, I have to admit I was pretty restrained.


I so loved some of the antique quilts on display and bought some prints that I thought would look nice when I reproduced them all . . . Hah! In another 50 years maybe. Unless I reproduce them in doll quilt form. My habit is to look closely at my favorite antique quilts and try to pick out the fabrics in them I love and then go find similar ones of my own. Ignore the rest. Do you do this too?


Side note: I don't think I ever showed you this bag from that event. Many of you that were there probably bought one too. I don't usually buy the bags--I already have so many that I bring my own--but this one was so vibrant and striking that I had to have it.


Anyway, whenever I go to a large show I always see a couple of vendors selling pre-cut squares and I can never resist. I'm lazy, I love pre-cut anything. And most of time the packages are terrific. These wonderful pre-cut 2 1/2" pink and blue reproduction squares will be great for making my scrappy little quilts.


But every year I also pick up a couple of pre-cut packets at a certain different booth just because I think they'll come in handy for making scrap quilts. And every year I forget that, aside from the pretty one on the top and the pretty one on the bottom, most of the other squares are UGLY prints. I always fall for it.

I opened the package with "Assorted Civil War Reproduction Squares" already and so can't remember which square was on top to fool me so I could show you. Most of them are not fabrics I've ever seen in shops. I feel a little guilty saying this, but I'm sorry, these are not prints I would choose on my own.  Maybe because I just am not that fond of brown and green.
  

When I buy fabric, I have to love it, and that's probably why I gravitate toward blue and pink and red reproduction prints. There were a LOT of brown prints in the package that I would never have bought alone. Some of them were BIG prints. Some of these other prints are okay--but I would never have bought a yard of any of them.




So the truth may be--and don't think I don't know this--that maybe I just don't like to actually reproduce  typical antique quilts from the Civil War era with so many of their madders and browns, I just reproduce the parts of them I love, and so they're not really authentic. Is that so bad? I've always said I'm INSPIRED by them. And then I throw in my blues and pinks and reds.

What I decided to do was, instead of being disappointed with the squares I bought, take them all in stride and pull out some of my own "lovely" reproduction squares and just mix them up with the "ugly" ones. I started to sew half-square triangles. Paired an ugly one with one that wasn't so ugly. And then started making a simple little scrappy triangles quilt.


These are my lovely prints! NOT ugly.




This is a scrappy triangles doll quilt I made years ago. Before I knew you were supposed to match your seams . . . LOL, so don't look too closely. The point is, I chose and LOVE each of the prints in this quilt. If I make one with  prints I really DON'T love and didn't choose, will it still turn out ok? Will I like it?

 

If you look at antique quilts, many of the really beautiful ones were also sewn with "ugly squares." We're really spoiled today. Women from long ago didn't have the choices we have, they had to make do with what they had. Or maybe they truly loved those prints and you do too and I'm the oddball here.

                            
 I LOVE this antique quilt. Look at all the UGLY prints:


I think I'm definitely starting to think outside of my box a bit. And this may be the lesson I need to learn: like babies and puppies, THERE ARE NO UGLY PRINTS! I really think my ugly squares and my chosen squares will all come together nicely and make a beautiful scrappy quilt in the end.  How's that for making do?

23 comments:

Momma Made This said...

Great post, Kathleen! This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I can't remember where I read or heard this, but it has stuck with me and applies to so many things, not just quilts. You need some ugly colors (or prints) to make the pretty ones stand out. I remember teaching a quilter to appreciate black in her quilts; she hated black and wouldn't even consider it. Years later it finally became one of her favorite techniques for making her beloved bright fabrics really pop. I've been adding brown to my collection last year and this years (as limited funds allow) to fill gaps in my palette. As you said and showed above, old beautiful quilts have some really ugly colors thrown in. Old (and new) beautiful paintings have some really ugly colors in there if you look closely and break it down. And a fabric by itself might look horrendous, but when paired with another fabric, or surrounded by many other fabrics in a scrappy quilt (my fave!!!), then it looks great! It's no longer "ugly."

I love this topic! Thanks for bringing it up!!!

~ Ronda

Meredith said...

I called myself on my blog recently the queen of medium with a few dark knights. I seem to have a shortage of lights. Nice post. :)

Susan said...

I've been living overseas for 13 years now. There was no quilt shop in the country when I got here, and it was incredibly difficult and expensive to get hold of fabrics. Even so, I was lucky enough to discover a quilt group that met not too far from my house. At one of the first meetings I attended, I suggested that we have a fabric swap, and trade the fabrics we don't like. All of the ladies looked at me in SHOCK and one of them said, "What do you mean, a fabric we don't like?" It was then that I realized, that because of the difficulty and expense of obtaining the fabrics, no one would ever think of any of her fabrics as too "ugly" to use, let alone consider swapping with someone else. From that time on, I have learned to value every scrap, and know that each one has its beauty. If you put it in a quilt with enough other fabrics, it takes on a beauty of its own. I also think about what Bonnie Hunter (Quiltville.com) says: "If it's still ugly, you just haven't cut it small enough yet."

Bonnie said...

Hum, I didn't know you could but 2 1/2" squares. Heaven help me. I don't need to buy more fabric... I thought a lot of the fabrics in the ugly pile were fine... Just mix them up a lot. I think you'll like your finished triangle piece especially if you border it with a fabric you really love! B.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Bonnie, I'll send you my leftover ugly squares. I do try with the browns but only brown prints I LOVE. There's a pretty pink and brown quilt in my next book. And if not pink, then I still have to put in lots of blue to balance them, LOL.

I'm learning a lot from you guys!

Annemieke said...

I'm happy for you that your story has a happy end. I mean I also think the fabric squares you like and use, look even nicer if you put in 'less beautiful' fabrics next to them. I think they look very pretty all together on your photo's. I bought your last 2 books and I'm very much enjoying them. Didn't yet find out how to put my photo's on the: 'small quilt talk' site. Could you help me please?
Groetjes
Annemieke

Karen said...

I kept looking back to the photos of fabrics while I was reading your post and I can't seem to find any "ugly" fabrics. I recognize several of the prints and have some in my stash as well. I think that they will each find a way into a small or large quilt and look beautiful when it's completed. Your half square triangles look great and I look forward to seeing the quilt when it's finished.

Elyte said...

I think we have just witnessed an epiphany here - a moment of sudden revelation or insight. I will look at my uglies from a different angle in future! Thank you.

Katell from France said...

Yes we are spoiled today !...
What I see in my classes is that a quilter is either a cold-colour person or a warm one. You (and I) love blues and pinks and fresh reds, others will ever prefer browns, rust, yellow-greeens, and so on. And our preference is the same for quilts, clothes and home !

katrien said...

Great blog.I also love antique quilts .I also have a lot of reproduction fabrics and civil wars.I like them so much.

Anonymous said...

Kathleen,
I find that 'ugly' prints are must haves--they make the most interesting quilts. I think it is why we love antique quilts--they used a bit of everything. Becky

Diane said...

You've had a "lightbulb moment." A few stinkers in the mix will add interest to your quilt. You may not even notice the colors themselves, once they are pieced with your favorites. They'll contribute a contrast in value, a variety in pattern, a sparkle.

Do you recall which vendors sold 2 1/2" squares?

the ark said...

I like that you use your favorite colors in your "reproduction" quilts. You are preserving the history of the quilts and the stories behind them while also adding in a little of OUR history with different colors/patterns.
Thank you for the great blog/patterns/books/pictures/inspiration!
Tricia

Pat from FL and MI said...

Kathleen,
I own yardage of a couple of your ugly prints! That pink/brown stripey one caught my eye right away as one of my favorite stash fabrics! It is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it. I think even we traditional quilters do slowly evolve our boxes. Not sure we ever come out, but we do continue to grow.

taylorsoutback said...

Love your line of thinking - I am also somewhat conservative in my approach - but the more we study the antique pieces, we learn about ourselves at the same time. This too is my year to stretch my color choices - kind of scary - but I think all of our quilts will grow with us and discover that what we thought were "uglies" gives the piece so much more movement and interest.
Thanks for a great post - have a lovely weekend!

Kathleen Tracy said...

I sometimes wonder how we come to prefer certain colors or prints? It occurred to me that I still may be "rebelling" against my mom's brown sofa, green shag rug and gold pillows from the '60s. HER thing, her colors, not mine. I wanted to be different. And my daughter tries to be different from her mom too.

Wendy said...

I think it's in the eye of the beholder, some of your ugly's I have in my stash and love them. I have learned that if I think it's really ugly don't buy it, I'll never like it no matter how small I cut that piece.

Tennye said...

I love your post, I too have a problem buying fabrics that are not ones I like. I have gone out of my way though, to once in a while, just on purpose buy what I call ugly fabric. It makes such beautiful quilts. LOL I read some where that if you buy ugly once in a while it will expand your thinking and your creativity. Lets face it when you think ,it is ugly, you have to be creative to use it in your quilts.
Thank you for your blog I love to read it when I have time to read.

Sandra Henderson said...

I love this post. Since I live on an island with no bridges, stores, mail, nothing, I have to work ONLY from my stash. This has given me some quilts that I think I would NOT have otherwise created. I do feel like the pioneer women and so many quilters way before me, in having to use what you have (and I"M very blessed with a great stash!). I am constantly reminding myself to "loosen up" about my quilting and enjoy the process. I have gotten to the point where I also don't obsess about perfection in seams, stitches,etc. I strive for it, but I don't let it paralize me into not finsihing something. So glad I found your blog! I'm going to put it on my page so I can see when you post soemthing new. :)

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

My quilt group just did a 2 1/2" strip swap, and we are all to make quilts from these. Some of the strips were ridiculous, but you are right - they don't look so bad once they are mixed in with the good stuff. I'm liking my quilt more and more.

Glenn said...

I like your work. Very nice!

sissyjane said...

I'm very picky about my fabric, and have a difficult time finding fabric I love. My favorite store is three hours away, so try to go there when I am in the area. Thankfully my Grandchildren are nearby, so I have an wxcuse.

Angie said...

At Christmas time, I was given a gallon Ziploc bag filled with precut, pretraced Dresden Plate blades, that at first I thought were horribly ugly! I spent probably 9 hours separating them up into like-fabric stacks and then started putting them together into 4-color DPs....some are absolutely wonderful, others have had to grow on me, but it's going to be a beautiful quilt when done....All hand pieced just like they did in the past....I can't wait to see it finished, and know that each plate will have a personality of its own and be beautiful all together!

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