Monday, June 30, 2014

Unloved Fabrics... the Purge

Let's talk about those unloved fabrics.  First, a definition.

Unloved Fabrics - fabrics that you own, but no longer adore, having fallen out of love with (or having never loved at all) and now wish to use up as a tribute to their enduring usefulness.  Unloved fabrics are not ugly nor are they wrong, but they have been found wanting in this moment, in your eyes.

It is OK to unlove fabrics.

Let's move from a place of frustration (why did I buy these?  ugh, why can't I still be in love?) to a place of acceptance, a place that allows us to move on.  As long as you're still trying to force love, you're sabotaging your hobby.  Refuse to let guilt to take hold.  This is not about your feelings for the designer or the person from whom you inherited these unfortunates.  This is just about you, about a subjective aesthetic feeling.  And you can work with it, once you admit to your feelings.

So gather your unfortunates and repeat after me, "I do not love these fabrics."

photo by Completely Cauchy.  She's awesome.

 Deep breath.  Ok, now what can you do?
  • Use them in patchwork in small cuts - 2" finished squares, for example.  Small cuts tend to disguise prints so that one sees the color, not the print itself.  
  • Use them in patchwork that is values-based.  Value refers to the light or darkness of a fabric.  A patchwork pattern that relies on value also disguises prints themselves since the eye sees the entire value pattern more so than any one bit of patchwork.
  • Use them in patchwork that has strong repetition - a checkerboard layout composed of just two fabrics, for example.  Repetition tends to please the eye, regardless of the fabrics themselves.
  • Use them as pieces of a wild quilt back.  Sometimes quilt backs can be more about "personality" than preference.  What if you make a fun, scrappy quilt and then use up all your unloved fabrics pieced together for the backing?  Or, if you're making a bed quilt, use them for its backing.  Bed quilt backings are rarely seen, especially towards the bottom!
  • Use them to make a fast project that you can give away.  If you feel it's impossible to happily patchwork with your unloved fabrics, use them to make pillowcases for charity or Little Dresses for Africa or Britches for Boys.  You'll feel good about doing good with them and be able to focus on the usefulness of the fabric, rather than its shortcomings.  Also, some fabrics that make you cringe for patchwork really could work for a little girl's dress...
  •  Just get rid of them!  Think they're so nasty that no one would want them?  Think again!  Bundle them up and list them at rock-bottom prices on Etsy or through Instagram.  Donate them to a second hand shop or to a school's art department or an art therapy business in your town or found online (click on a state here).  Let them go, and good riddance.  Focus your attention on the ones you love.
Let's think of this as long overdue spring cleaning.  We'll come out on the other side with a fresh, clean, lovely stash that entices and inspires!

Getting specific, consider the Scrappy Trip Around the World phenomena.  This quilt, which can be made with scraps or yardage, is an unloved fabrics home run.  It has small cuts, lots or repetition and can be crafted to focus on value.

photo by Amy Smart

For example, Amy Smart at Diary of a Quilter used the same value/hue for the center strip of squares in her blocks, to bring unity to her finished quilt!

Are you game to join The Purge?  Turn those unloved fabrics into something you're proud to call your own?  You could make anything with your unloved fabrics, like a postage stamp quilt, a Scrappy Trip or maybe join me in The Purge quilt, a simple design for unloved fabrics which I'll be starting and sharing soon.  Or you could make something smallish to donate - totally up to you!  We'll set some goals and see if we can help each other along.  

Takers?

60 comments:

  1. Another idea is to use them to make practice sandwiches for FMQ. Make a quick block, like a four-patch, with those unloveables, and you have everything you need to try a new quilting idea!

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  2. I purged last week and took the unloved to my local guild sew in on Saturday - free for all! A lot of them went to new homes where they will be loved :)

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  3. Also, swap! Maybe your fabrics will be well loved by someone else who just happens to have something you'll love!

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  4. Very timely post. I just finished piecing a Suburbs quilt top (jerisew.blogspot.com) out of conversation prints. I rummaged through my fabrics and found lots of fun prints that I had forgotten about. Joy! I also found lots of fabrics that made me cringe. I had already decided to do a stash clean-out/reorganization. Your post today encouraged me to look at these fabrics in a different light. Although, they are all going into their own bin.... Jerilynn

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  5. I'm in. I have been doing some serious spring cleaning on the stash and working on making donation quilts. Another use could be to use the fabric as a foundation for quilt as you go piecing (just as long as the pattern is not strong enough to show through your backing fabric).

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  6. This is a wonderful post and I just did a purge last week while my six sisters were here. It feels wonderful to have picked out fabrics that I just don't love anymore, or know I will never use, and allow them to find new homes.

    To start this process, I gathered up some of my "lost" tubs. You know those tubs, right? They're the ones in which you put fabric to get it off the table that you needed to use only to later be shoved under the cutting table, in a closet or elsewhere; and although not completely forgotten, they have not been looked at in a very long time. Yes, those tubs!

    Anyway, I pulled out the tubs, fondled the fabrics and made my decision - keep or pass on to a new fabric lover. Once I started, it was pretty easy. When I found that I was keeping more than I was sharing, I walked away for a while (even a day or two) and came back with "fresh eyes" and a new sense of purpose.

    Not only do I feel better, I know that my sisters will create beautiful projects with these fabrics. As a matter of fact, a few already did while they were here for the long weekend. We all feel good about the results and I know that there are a few more tubs into which I want to peek. :-)

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    1. This comment is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing. I started cutting some of my "purge" fabrics and started thinking I should also make a give away pile as I go.

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  7. This is such a good post for me, as I often feel weighed down by my unloved fabrics. I'll be glad to play along and shed the burden of guilt and unused fabric.

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  8. Oh how true--I have so many unloved in there (my fabric hideaway) that I don't know where to start--making paper pieced scrappy blocks or rectangles with smaller pieces a la Bonnie Hunter can help out, too. Hugs, Julierose

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  9. Make jelly roll quilts if you have fabric to cut into 2 1/2 inch strips. Great, quick charity quilts. Ugly ducks to swans.

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  10. I have a purge as well. I gave it all to a friend. She is keeping some and the rest is going to some guilds for community quilting. There was only one piece that I wish I had kept--since I saw it used as a binding and it looked great. But then I thought--if I asked for it back, it would never likely be used--so I let it go.
    Most of my purges are a two step. If I have any questions about letting some fabrics go, I keep them on the self with the loved fabrics and after a few days I do another span of all of the fabrics. Inevitably they jump out as out-of-love fabrics.
    Why do we fall out of love (with fabric)...rushed shopping, online photos or description were not accurate (only rarely) or impulse buying. I sometimes leave stuff in my cart for a day or two and see if I still like it.Be warned, though, if you don't login it may disappear from your cart).
    I think another reason is that our tastes change--we mature; our quilting develops; our color choices change, and so on. It's no different that getting rid of clothes.
    Personally, my time is too precious to spend on okay fabrics. So I don't.

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    1. I use the "think on it" way of shopping too. Giving it a few days in the cart tends to bring clarity.

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  11. I think all of us can relate to this post. Our guild is collecting unwanted fabrics for an auction to raise teacher funds. I donated some and have so far resisted the urge to take on more. I'm interested to see what fun project you come up with.

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  12. Good timing! Our guild is doing a fabric swap in July and we are considering an "ugly" challenge for the near future. I'll share this post with them.

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  13. About a year a half ago, I made a very vomity scrap X plus using most of my unwanted fabrics at least once in the quilt. I cut the remainder of these unloved fabrics into 5" squares, stacked them by color, tied with a ribbon and gave them away at my weekly quilt group meeting. It was a lot of work but my guilt was assuaged and I have a scrappy (crappy?) memory quilt that I keep on a chair in my sewing room!

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  14. This is so interesting. I'm struggling to get back to spending some time quilting. Just yesterday, I was thinking about the last time I went to put fabrics together for a quilt, that there are some fabrics in there that just don't do it for me anymore. So your post is perfect. I'm in. :-)

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  15. Oh, I need to do this. We're going to move in the next 6 months and I need to destash, destash, destash...

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  16. So true if ugly's are cut small enough they don't look as bad. I've used them in string quilts made with various size strips. One quilter's ugly can be another quilter's pretty. I did a big purge last year before a move. I donated fabric to a local guild and they used it for children's quilts, charity quilt and pillow cases for children. I did keep some ugly fabric (yardage) that will get used on the back of dog quilts for a local animal shelter. Unloved orphan blocks with mistakes will be used in these quilts. The dogs won't mind a goofed up block or 2 or ugly fabric on the back.

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  17. There is so much to this post! It resonates with me on so many levels. I am doing a stash dash right now trying to knit down 5000 meters of yarn. I wonder if there is an equivalent way to deal with the usage of fabric. If anyone can rally folks, it's you, Rachel!

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    1. Well, I'll put my thinking cap on to see if what I can do. I was thinking of something fairly simple, actually. haha. feeling the pressure now ;)

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  18. I don't have this problem as I would just rather toss them and get new...but the budget doesn't always agree so I have been trying to deal more with scraps! But I don't love them...I'd give them away any time! But..I have found...swaps...to be a great thing...getting "new" scraps seems to have an impact on me... I like new scraps! So I join a few swaps a month...have I done anything with the new scraps? No.

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  19. The Purge Quilt sounds interesting. Let's hear more. :-) I'm not a huge fan of 2" squares but I have a load of FQs that I bought as bundles for a song when I first started quilting. I thought it would be a good way to build up a stash but that hasn't worked for me. I like the idea of using a good lot of them in something specific. I did use about a dozen as backs on quilt as you go blocks but that didn't even make a dent. Bring it on, Rachel!!

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  20. I have been using up my uglies as a way to pattern test simple clothes for my baby or practice stitches. And if I really don't love it or just have too much of it, then I sell or donate. I really like your ideas though.

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  21. I love this post Rachel. LOts of great suggestions. I have way more fabrics than I'd care to admit and yet not many of them fall into the unloved category. For me it's more the matter of a shift in my style from traditional to more modern fabrics. Yet I still like most of the= older ones and plan to incorporate them into a modern quilt design with traditional flair.

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  22. Our church's quilt ministry has been providing good homes for quilters' unwanted and unloved fabrics for five years now and turning them into quilts that provide comfort and warmth to folks in need. I'm very grateful for people who think of us when they purge their fabrics!

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  23. Great ideas! One of my goals for the summer is to sort and purge. I would be nice to have things used or out of the house!

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  24. I am in! I'm always looking for ways to use my unloved fabrics! I love your ideas! I've used a few unloved fabrics as quilt sandwich backings when the mini was going to be a pillow cover. The backing fabric only gets seen when the pillow cover is taken off and it's kind of fun to have ugly fabric in use but hidden away. I'm on a mission to use more of my stash, so look forward to this!

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    1. Clever! I usually do pillow quilting without a backing layer (just outer layer and batting. I can see how a backing would make the pillow cover more robust and nicer inside!

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  25. Ooooh, what a great idea! I am in, my unloved fabrics want to breath some fresh air :-)

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  26. I use my not so loved fabrics as backings for quilts or linings for bags. That way I feel good about using them but don't have to look at them xx

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  27. You could use your unloved fabrics to make 12,5" unfinished quilted blocks for charity quilts. Make log cabin or 16 patch blocks, or whatever suits you, quilt them with another unloved fat quarter as the backing and a piece of batting with the QAYG technique. Send them to Alison (littleislandquilting). She puts the blocks together and sends the quilts to a shelter for street children in Mexico city. She‘s also looking for other charities for the future. Of course you can put a quilt together from the blocks yourself and send it to a local charity.

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  28. Oh man, you want me to actually use them? What is this? ;) Hahaha, I look forwards to seeing what the great quilt purge is.

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  29. I am cutting some of these fabrics into one inch strips and making a ball of fabric "yarn" to crochet a rag rug with Crazy Mom's tutorial. I will probably donate the rest though as I have a whole grocery sack of them. I have been quilting for nearly 30 years and some of those old fabrics are awful.

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  30. I keep a spreadsheet of in and out amounts of fabrics, nothing more detailed than that, just in and out. I like to make sure the out is greater than the in so this would be a good thing for me. I never thought of bag linings as a use for the not so loved. Great idea Gina!

    I agree... Bring. It.On.

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  31. I ended up giving all my unloved fabrics to my guild to make charity quilts (it was a lot too)! I'm happy I did, so nice to have it all out of my sewing space. I didn't buy more either ~ I want to use what I've got all up!

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  32. I too have "unloved" and "what the heck was I thinking" fabrics and yes, I cut them up like Amy Smart suggests for a scrappy trip around the world quilt and also make scrappy half square triangle and pinwheel quilts BUT I get tired of looking at the same fabrics. A while back I did a 2 gallon ziploc swap with some gals online where no piece could be smaller than 2.5 inches square and I got so many nice and different fabrics to add to my stash.
    Fabric is too expensive now to just toss so I'm trying to come up with alternate ideas....
    Peggy in NJ

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    1. I have so much fabric , any chance you would be up for another swap ?

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  33. Thank you, thank you, thank you.....

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  34. I've been fasting for the last few months and now I really should purge, too. I bought so much in my first crush/frenzy with the hobby that is rather useless to me. mostly I hold on to the unloved because I want to put it to use in donatable items but simply don't have the time to get to them. but you're absolutely right! I should just move them on.

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  35. I wish I had Joanne's sisters to share with! I am interested in this project. I relate!

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  36. I'm in! Those once loved uglies represent the beginning of my quilting journey. Not so much what was I thinking as much as I didn't know what the heck I was doing! I was so random before I discovered my own style! Can't wait to see what you come up with :D

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  37. What a great post! Lots of great ideas to try!

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  38. I'm in! Was thinking about getting out my tubs of scraps and cutting them all up with my GO cutter into simple shapes. Then they'd be ready to use and I wouldn't have as many excuses. I have some uglies that came from my husbands grandmother. I don't mind keeping the cottons, but the blends are definitely not my favorites. I know there's a way to check - does anyone remember how?

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    1. I can usually tell by the feel of them. But, I know some people singe the fabrics and can tell the difference between cotton and synthetic by the smell. If I remember correctly, cotton smells like hair burning and synthetics smell much different.

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  39. You bet! I'm ready for the purge. My quilting fabric collection goes back to 1990, so you know I've got some uglies.

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  40. I'm in! It sounds really fun and I have so much fabric I'm overwhelmed by it all and simply can't get inspired to make anything. Oh, and... I have lots of "unloved" fabrics laying around too.

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    1. Any chance u would want to get in on a swap?

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  41. Great post! I am feeling the urge to purge fabric this summer too, but my problem is, there is not really a fabric I don't love! I just have to be realistic about what projects I can actually accomplish, and simplify. For Keri D above, that was asking how to tell the difference between all-cotton and synthetic blend fabrics, you can try a burn test: unravel a thread and bring it very close to a small flame. Cotton will blacken and start to smoke or burn, but synthetic will tend to curl away or melt slightly. Also cotton smells like paper burning but synthetics smell nasty.

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  42. I'm headed to a BBQ tomorrow -- if the weather cooperates. I was going to take a few dishes in addition to a small hostess gift, like flowers or something. But this hostess is a woman after my own heart, so I'm going to take a few fat quarters instead. My present won't be composed of "uglies" -- sometimes I order things online and find that they look different in person. My friend will be receiving some new Lori Holt prints and a coordinating Kona solid or two.

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  43. Great topic and fabulous creativity in the comments also. My problem isn't ugly fabrics per se, but the fact that I bought an insane percentage of multi-coloured prints in various shapes, sizes, and colour combos when I still purchased from the U.S. (now not so much partly due to high USPS shipping and bad import conditions). I like all of them but would need more tone-on-tone pattern or solids to calm things down and tie multis together. But I have shopping stop for now so it takes a bit of creativity to still keep working. I can't make many huge quilts but smaller projects are possible. The multi-coloured print combined with calmer fabrics could be a way to use up the less loved yardage, too.

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  44. I absolutely love this post ! Our local 4H groups just asked for fabric donations (just yardage ) so I was able to get rid of all the unloved yardage .. And then the rest I bundled up in about 2 lb bundles to have for a sewing class I teach out of my home but would also like to try a swap ... I have so many bundles .. So if anyone knows of a great fabric swap or is interested please let me know. ! -thank you !

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  45. I didn't read all of the comments so someone may already have suggested this, but I know Project Linus (at least in the past) takes WIPs (blocks, unquilted tops, and even crocheted granny squares) that their volunteers finish up and then donate to needy children.

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