Why Are Some Fabrics Considered Ugly?

I am participating in the Brown Bag challenge which originated at Stash Manicure, but now has its own blog.  It used to be called an “ugly fabric” challenge, but people do not always agree on what makes a given fabric ugly.  The premise of this challenge is that you are paired with a partner.  You exchange two yards of assorted fabrics (in a plain brown bag) that you find ugly, are no longer in love with, or simply have no clue what to make with them.  Your partner then has until March to make something out of them, but may add other fabrics to the mix.  Sounds like a fun challenge, sure to elicit a few chuckles.

Ugly fabric! This is the set I sent to Suzanne for the Brown Bag Challenge. I wish her luck!

I gathered up two yards of fabrics, and realized they definately had a “muddy green” theme to them.  I have no idea when I acquired the big piece.  It has been shuffling around my stash bins for years.  The other pieces I rather like, taken by themselves. But seeing the set together made my gut wrench.  With an apology, I sent it to my new partner.  I failed to actually put it in a brown bag, but did stuff it in a brown envelope.

Ugly fabric? This set came to me from Suzanne, and included three nice magnets made from scraps and buttons!

On Monday I received my brown bag fabric set from Suzanne in Texas.  Carefully wrapped, tied with ribbons, then placed in an actual brown bag before mailing in a sturdy box, she outshines my mailing style by 400%!  She even included a lovely gift of three magnets made from scraps and buttons.  While she has outclassed me greatly in delivery, I think I may have the easier set of fabric to work into a quilt over the next few months.  At the moment I have absolutely no idea what I will be able to make out of them, perhaps inspiration will come with time! 

This really has me thinking about just what makes a fabric unattractive to people.  Much of it seems to be very personal.  If you hate purple, most purple fabrics will probably hit your “ewww” pile.  Some fabrics appear dated, old-fashioned, or retro. Those eras may be one quilter’s cup of tea, but another’s rags. 

Context is a part of it as well. Working on a small scale, as in the postage stamp quilts, even the most bizarre or hideous piece can be put to good use.  Yardage of neon green with giant bugs might cause panic, but a single bug featured in an I Spy quilt could be a delight.  Fabric featuring deer and bears may make some quilters cringe, but could be perfect in a quilt for a hunting cabin.

Still, there are certain fabrics that make me wonder what on earth the manufacturer was thinking!  It is hard to believe that someone got paid to design it. In the chain fabric stores, entire bolts of these are often found in the 70% off clearance racks before inventory time.  When they do not sell there, they ship them off to another part of the country (or world!) to try to sell.  Eventually, many wind up being passed off through donations to charities.  What happens to them then is anyone’s guess.

Note added 4/1/2011: You can see what was made from the fabrics exchanged for the Brown Bag Quilt Challenge here.

©2010, The Curious Quilter, thecuriousquilter.net, maryeoriginals.com.


About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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8 Responses to Why Are Some Fabrics Considered Ugly?

  1. Martin says:

    Oh my gosh! Poor Suzanne! Mary, how could you do that to her??? She sends you flowers, and you send her mush!

  2. Penny says:

    See…I think those are GREAT fabrics!!! One man’s trash….

  3. Donna says:

    Well, I like two of the green-ish ones, but I am with Mary, that larger piece is uniquely bad. The florals may not be spectacular, but are very spring-like.

    I emailed you three pictures! Hope lots of people do.

  4. Sarah C. says:

    I like the fabrics you sent out – very interesting, and they will certainly spark the imagination! And I will be sending you pictures of two fabrics I have on hand – absolutely the ugliest fabrics I’ve ever seen – and unfortunately I have it in two colorways, it’s 108″ wide, and there’s yards and yards and yards of it!!!

  5. coloradolady says:

    Mary! I got my fabrics today….A very interesting lot! But….I don’t think they are as ugly as you seem to feel they are…in fact, I have picked out a pattern and pulled fabrics from my own stash and hope I do the fabric justice. I am not very experienced so remember that! This will definitely have me working outside my comfort zone…and that is a good thing!

    The large piece once it was opened up reminded me of those photos the shrinks ask you what does that picture look like!! For me, that is the curve ball piece. But…once worked into a quilt, I think it will be much different, I hope!

    Thank you again, it is fun meeting someone new…and I hope to get started on this before the holidays!

  6. Deana says:

    I would have been in HEAVEN if you’d have been my partner. I really like those fabrics.

  7. Pingback: Brown Bag Quilt Challenge Completed | The Curious Quilter

  8. Pingback: Sorting and Cutting? Save Your ‘Ugly’ Fabrics! | The Curious Quilter

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