Ugly Quilts

Aloha, y’all.

I have a confession. Sometimes I make ugly quilts. On purpose. Not for nothing though. That would be crazy, right? 

You may be asking yourself, “Why would anyone intentionally make an ugly quilt?” Believe it or not, there are several reasons. When I made Churn Dash Aflutter, I was living in Alaska with my two daughters while my husband served an unaccompanied tour in Korea. Money was tight so I challenged myself to create a quilt top using nothing but my stash. I wanted to make the kind of quilt my great-grandmother might have made. Something practical and warm using whatever materials were at hand. I had a small amount of one gorgeous fabric, the butterfly print, and that became my starting point. From there, I focused mostly on color, so some of the other fabrics aren’t true quilting fabrics, but they do kind of match. Also, I didn’t have a good quarter-inch seam at that time so my churn dash points are cut off. Lesson learned. Overall this quilt is ugly, yes, but it has its good qualities and I love it despite everything, because of the memories it evokes.

My latest finish is ugly as well, but it’s also quite beautiful in it’s own way. I call it Found Treasure. I didn’t even make most of it. A stranger did. See, I have this quirk. I cannot leave fabric at a yard sale or thrift store. If I find it I buy it, and occasionally I score real treasures, like these colorful strips – sometimes called Chinese coins. 

When I pulled them out of the bag, I thought, “How sad. Someone spent a lot of time making these strips and for whatever reason, didn’t finish them.” I set them aside for months but kept thinking about them – and their maker. Finally, I knew I had to finish this unknown woman’s quilt. Maybe her spirit was compelling me. Maybe I’m just weird. Whatever.

It took me several months to come up with a design, then a few more to sew the top. I set aside the finished flimsy for over a year, but eventually, I got started on the quilting. I worked on it here and there until this month my quilt guild had a day-long sew-in. That gave me just the time and motivation I needed to “git er done.”

I have a name for my ugly quilts. I call them Picnic Quilts. They’re the kind I don’t mind taking to the beach or on a picnic – if I EVER decided to go on a picnic. Which I probably won’t. Ants. Flies. Need I say more? But that’s what I call the quilts anyway, because Ugly Quilt is an over-simplification for these wonderful, beautiful, slightly unattractive creations.

Have you ever made a Picnic Quilt? I’d love to see it.

[NOTE: Better pictures to come in a few days. It was too late when I finished to get any good ones and I just couldn’t wait to write about it. :)]


Friday Five

When it comes to quilting, I love all the things. I WANT all the things. I buy as many of the things as I can afford, and maybe a little more. I justify this because I don’t buy jewelry. I wear flip flops almost exclusively, so I don’t spend much on shoes, and my annual budget for makeup is minuscule. I am mostly a low-maintenance gal, except for this one area.

As I was sewing today, I was thinking about my most favorite things of the moment and decided you probably want to know about them too, so here they are in no particular order…

Dritz Quilting Crystal Glass Head Pins I’ve never been infatuated with a pin before now, but these are just gorgeous. The picture doesn’t quite capture their luminescence. A friend had some at a recent sew-in and – after deciding it would be rude to steal them from her – grilled her like a cheap steak until she told me where to buy my own. I included the link above so you don’t have to resort to desperate measures.


This current WIP, which was a UFO for a long time, but which I recently got back into. I should finish it this month and it will only have taken two years. Yay. I call it Chaos Theory and I adore it. Is it bad form to tell people how much you love your own work? I hope not, because I just can’t help myself. I love it. This is Block 15 of 16, so I’m almost there.

Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea, 50 Tea Bags This tea is not technically a quilting supply BUT… I’ve been drinking the shit out of it while I quilt and it’s damn good, so I’m counting it. It’s also a hell of a deal over on Amazon. I bought three boxes and I’m thinking about buying more just in case there’s an unexpected zombie apocalypse or something. I mean, anything could happen at any time and I like to be prepared.

Accuquilt Studio Dies Working on Chaos Theory has made me appreciate my Studio cutter more than ever. All those 2.5″ squares and half-square triangles would take eons to cut with scissors or a rotary cutter, but with these two dies I can cut enough squares for several blocks in about 10 or 15 minutes. 

Modern Quilt Magic: 5 Parlor Tricks to Expand Your Piecing Skills – 17 Captivating Projects This book by Victoria Findlay Wolfe is really, really great. Look at this pillow I made from it. It’s so cute and even though it has partial seams, it was super-easy thanks to VFW’s wonderful instructions. As soon as I finish Chaos Theory, I am going to make a king-size quilt to go with my new pillow. Hopefully in a more reasonable time frame. BTW, I also love her double wedding ring book. I haven’t attempted that yet but she gives me hope I can do it one day.

Thrifty Quilting

Some of my quilting friends will cringe at what I’m about to tell you, but – like the honey badger – Scrappy Camper don’t care.

I just bought a boatload of fabric from Walmart.

I HAD to. It was only $1.00 per yard. ONE. Dollar.

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The orange piece – while not the most attractive fabric I’ve ever seen – was just 75 cents per yard. I bought all of it, and I’d do it again.

I’m not insane. Like all quilters, I do love designer fabrics. Tula Pink, Michael Miller, Kaffe Fassett, all make my heart go pitter-patter, but at $10-$15 per yard, I can’t buy as much of it as I’d like. I save those for my special projects. Here then, are my top five tips for thrifty quilting, and how I use those lower-priced fabrics.

1. Walmart

For a while, Walmart quit carrying fabric and I was sad. I find their fabrics to be decent quality and even at regular price, it’s about $5-$6 per yard. Then, of course, there’s the $1 per yard sales.

2. Thrift Stores

I have found amazing fabrics at my local thrift store. Excellent quality quilting fabrics, entire bolts, bags full of scraps. All for a great price. The two prints above were in a big stack of quilting cottons I picked up for about ten bucks.

3. CraigsList

Oh, how I love CraigsList. I check it on a regular basis. I once scored two HUGE cardboard boxes of scrap fabrics for $30. HUGE.

4. Yard Sales

This is a little morbid, BUT…I once went to a yard sale where a widower was selling his wife’s stash for $2 per yard. All of it was quite expensive quilting cotton from our local quilt shop. I bought as much as I had cash for. My husband will probably be doing that one day.

I also once bought a garbage bag full of fabrics and inside I found several coin strips, including the one pictured above. I put them together with some of my low-volume jelly-roll strips to make a quilt top. Even though it’s not that attractive, I love it, and I often wonder about the person who made the strips. Did she die, or just get tired of sewing? I’ll never know.

5. Closet

Men’s plaid shirts make beautiful quilts. The fabric is often very good quality, and who doesn’t love a plaid quilt? I haven’t made one yet, but it’s on my list.

You can also check out my Pinterest board, Thrifty Quilting, here:

So, then, what do I do with these thrifty fabrics? As mentioned above, some of my finds are excellent quality and can go into my best projects. As for the rest, I like to use it for:

  • Quilt backing
  • To test new pattern designs
  • For utility quilts
  • Small projects like notebook covers, wallets, etc.

What are your thoughts on thrifty quilting? Yes or no?