“UGLY FABRIC” (what should I do with it?)

Most of us quilters have come up against the problem of “ugly fabric” (what should I do with it?) After all, it followed me home.

It is just fine to describe a fabric as “ugly” – we are talking about an object. All of us have a different opinion of what we think of as beautiful vs. ugly fabric and there is no reason not to be honest. After all, if everyone liked the same colors and designs there would not be the selection of cloth that we currently have.

clip art - quilt block

The fabric looked great at the store, or quilt show… but now that it is home, I wonder what possessed me to pay good money for that.  And why did I think five yards would be enough? Am I losing my mind?

I have tried several ways of handling the “ugly fabric” issue in my own quilting world. So far, the two most used answers are cutting it up as small as possible or using it as the backing of a quilt (especially if I can donate it or give it away).

When I would complain to my grandmother about ugly fabric, she would smile big and tell me that I had “not cut it small enough”.  Good point, and it generally does work.

What to do with ugly fabric:

  1. Over-dye it which for me is a hit and miss method.  I have come out with a truly beautiful “new” fabric, and I have come out with something far worse than what I started with.
  2. Mix it with a lot of other scraps in a quilt and it won’t stand out.
  3. Donate it (Goodwill, art class at the school, 4-H, or the animal shelter for bedding, etc.).
  4. Trade it because someone else will probably love it and he/she has a chunk of fabric you just love.
  5. Sell it because you can use that money to buy a piece of fabric you like.
  6. Make a simple pet bed for the local animal shelter. This is basically a pillow case that I keep on the cutting table and stuff with left over snippets of batting and fabric. When 2/3 full, I sew the open side shut and off to the shelter it goes. The shelter here cannot get enough of them.

No doubt other quilters have their own solutions to this dilemma, and I wish you would share them with the rest of us.

clip art - bolts of fabric and scissors

I remember years ago using a specific line of fabric to make a quilt.  One of the fabrics was just too hideous (in my opinion) and when I brought the finished quilt back to the shop to show the ladies there, I said something about putting the ugliest fabric on the back.  The owner was totally offended and made sure I knew it.  My comment was thoughtless, but it was my honest opinion.

Ugly fabric is useable:

The point is not that the fabric is ugly, but that we find a way to use it.  In the world of recycle, reuse, and re-purpose, fabric should be used. It has not been many years ago that nothing was thrown away because the item was too expensive or too hard to get to waste. We have so many choices today in the fabric world that we forget how hard it was for our predecessors to get nice fabric. So, let’s find a use for it, if only in honor of the quilters who came before us.

Pioneer woman sitting on porch with quilt top

Some ideas for ugly fabric:





I love my mom-in-law, she is such a cool lady. She does not quilt, but she loves my quilts. Over the years she has given me many, many yards of quilting fabrics for holidays, birthdays, and just because. Today the UPS man showed up with another box of fabric from her – just because.

UPS man with box
Source: Google clip art

The mom-in-law is a wonderful oil painter of scenery. We have entirely different tastes in color, patterns, and end products. That is one reason why I love the fabric she gets me – it is fabric I would never buy for myself. Of course the other reason is because I love her.

Is she helping me become a fabric hoarder?

This box had western style fabrics, St. Patrick’s Day fabrics, and brights. You know greens, pinks, and yellows. They ranged in size from a quarter yard to a 2 yard piece.

Western themed fabric

The box contained right at 25 yards of fabric. Naturally I had to “pet” all the fabric and make sure that it was not hurt in its’ travels from Montana to here. This leads to sorting and dreaming about more projects….

And more fabric...

She and I have a great relationship but we have never gone on a fabric shopping trip together! Yes, in 30+ years that has never happened. Why? I honestly don’t know, but it just hasn’t happened.

I have a scrap 4 patch started for her Christmas gift this year and I will be putting in some of the fun and bright fabrics she gets me through out the year.

Look at any of the quilts on this blog, and chances are very good some fabric from my mom-in-law is in it. And she usually gets some of the fabric back in a quilted item for herself.

Bright and cheerful

And you thought I bought all that fabric in my stash myself…

Source: no idea, another quilter shared it with me.


When you make up a wish list or “Christmas” type list for yourself, always say you would like 100% cotton fabric. I tell anyone who asks what I would like is more fabric for a birthday, holiday, or other occasion gift.

Be gracious and thankful for any fabric you do get. You can use it, trade it, or “re-gift” it to another quilter. Good quilting fabric is always useful in some form.

Happy quilting.

Make today amazing.



Triangle Charm Quilt displayed outside.

TRIANGLE CHARM QUILT – So my quilting buddy (SB) and I had the brilliant idea to do some charm quilts using the same fabric packs, but we did different patterns or ways to put the charm pieces together. I simply took my 5″ squares and made half square triangles from them. I added enough “charm” pieces from my own stash to make the top big enough to suit me.

The green sashing and brown posts were out of my stash. I just wanted someplace for my eyes to rest and all those triangles were busy.

I pieced the Triangle Charm Quilt top during March to May 2002. It was fun, and it was fun to work with some different fabrics I would not have bought otherwise.

Clip art - triangles

I kept track of the charms by keeping the fabrics in baggies by main color. Since the point of “charm quilts” is to only have one piece of each fabric in a quilt you will want to find a way to know what fabrics you have already used.

The definition I found for charm quilts “…when quilters make a charm quilt, no fabric is used more than one time in the quilt“.

This was machine quilted in May or June 2002 by RLM.

Finished size is 83″ x 82″.

Other charm quilts:



I encourage you to do one charm quilt in your quilting journey. They can be as simple or complicated as you want, but it is a good excuse to use fabrics you would not normally use.

Clip art - triangles


Tub of scraps.

Are you drowning in scraps too??

My 2020 goal was to use as many of my scraps as possible. I made the “executive” decision that any fabric a quarter yard or smaller went from the shelves into the scrap bin back in March when I did a total cleaning of the sewing room.

Fabric scraps.

I took every single piece of fabric off the shelves, went through every drawer, looked in every project box….scary stuff. Some of those things I hadn’t seen in years. So after the dust cleared I decided that even though I already had a list of 12 UFOs I wanted to finish this year – I was going to use as many of the scraps on hand for those projects as possible.

More scraps.

I love all my fabric and that includes the scraps. When I decided that any fabric a quarter yard or smaller went into the scrap bin suddenly there were four bins instead of the previous two. Ugh.

I needed some inspiration on how to deal with the scraps. Pintrest, Facebook, and other quilt blogs were fun to look at. However, I discovered that other quilters have oodles of scraps too and are trying to find ways to use them.

Quarter yard pieces of fabric.

I do not have a scrap organization system:

The scraps are simply thrown in the bins.

I actually like this system for now because I am just taking out handfuls, ironing them, and cutting them into 2.5″ strips, 3″ squares or tumbler shapes. I went to the local dollar store and purchased see through plastic containers with lids for these standard sizes and shapes that I use in my quilt making.

3" squares.

The continuing challenge:

My personal challenge is to use as many of my scraps up in 2021 as possible. I have been cutting strips, squares, and tumblers as time allowed during 2020 and have several see-through plastic bins of each now.

The thought as I cut up the scraps into standard shapes and sizes that the scraps would be less. Oh so wrong. I think they multiply while in those bins. I started the year with two bins of scraps, and am currently at four.

Challenge yourself:

Are you drowning in scraps too?? For 2021 find quilt designs that will utilize your scraps. Making scrap quilts is fun, and gives a feeling of not being wasteful. If you are tired of your scraps, trade with another quilter to give you some new fabric to work with. Have fun.

Ideas for using scraps:







Lady busy sewing clip art


Toile fabric in blue background with red figures.

COLLECTING TOILE FABRIC & HOW I USE THEM IN QUILTS? I am that odd person who collects toile fabrics. Yes, the weird prints that involve people, scenery, or animals that are two colors. They look like something your grandma may have used. I admit it – I am obsessed with collecting toile fabrics.  All colors and designs. 

Toile with white background and skeletons dressed in colonial clothing.

According to Masterclass ( https://www.masterclass.com/articles/toile-de-jouy-what-is-toile-a-brief-history-and-toile-fabric-care-guide#what-is-the-history-of-toile ) “Toile comes from a French word meaning linen cloth….originally produced in Ireland in the 18th century….became known as toile de Jouy or toile…..designs were single-color prints on a white background featuring pastoral scenes, vignettes with people from the French country, and references to European mythology. The subject matter has changed…classic, provincial aesthetic and simple, single-color design remains the standard for toile today.”

Celebrating Abe toile
“Celebrating Abe” toile

I honestly cannot explain my fascination with these fabrics, but I rarely pass them up when I find this fabric for sale.

Toile fabric in white background with brown figures.

At this point, you are asking, “what does this weird fabric have to do with quilting?”

Toile with cream background and blue buildings.

The piles grew bigger and crawled from the cupboard to the floor and continued to grow. One day I was complaining to my husband about needing to piece together a backing for a quilt.

Toile with white background and brown buildings and animals.

He listened patiently (nope, didn’t even roll his eyes) and asked me why I didn’t use all the fabric that was in piles on the floor? What exactly was I saving it for? Eureka!!!!!!! What a great way to use the toile and not have to cut up the gorgeous fabric!!!!

Toile with yellow background and blue scenery and people.

My beautiful stash is finally being used without a whole lot of cutting it up into small pieces that I don’t find pretty at all. (However, I am trying to come up with a pattern to actually try to put some of this wonderful fabric into a quilt top).

See one of my quilts with a toile backing:


The photos here are toile fabrics that are currently in my extensive collection.

Toile fabric with white background and red scenery and people.

Another section of "Celebrating Abe" toile
Another section of “Celebrating Abe” toile

Quilters, we all have that stash of our favorite fabric that we pet, look at, run our hands across, rearrange, and buy more of but do not ever use.  Who says the back of the quilt must be some plain fabric? Let’s give our quilts pretty backings.


Maine Mystery Quilt 2009

The Maine Mystery 2009 quilt was just a fun project to be part of. I have friends in a quilt guild in Maine and this was their mystery quilt project for 2009. I was able to purchase the pattern book on amazon. It is from a book named “Minnesota Hot Dish” https://www.amazon.com/Minnesota-Dish-Atkinson-Designs-ATK-902/dp/B000GKKXTM/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Minnesota+hot+dish+quilt+book&qid=1571932601&s=books&sr=1-1

It’s so easy to do the same style of quilts in the same colors or fabric designs which is why I push myself out of my own comfort zone periodically and do something I have not done in the quilt realm. It’s so easy to get stagnant and I want to learn new things – even in quilting.

I rarely do mystery quilts because I am very visual and want to see how the top looks when it is finished. Which apparently takes all the fun out of it…..

I passed the pattern to another quilter when the top was finished. However, I do remember that it was all squares and rectangles which went together easily.


There was a vendor for several years at the national quilt show in Paducah, KY https://www.paducah.travel/quilting/aqs-quiltweek-paducah/ that carried beautiful French fabrics. I bought small quantities each year. I had no idea what to do with them but they were so beautiful.

close up of blocks and quilting design

The background is a navy solid cotton I had on hand in my stash. The difference in how the navy feels and how the French fabric feels is very noticeable.

The paisley border fabric is also from the same vendor of French fabrics https://www.french-nc.com/shop/Fabrics/French-Fabrics/Printed-Cotton-Fabric-Provence-and-other.htm.

Another close-up of border and quilting design.

I cut out and machine pieced the top during January to May of 2009.

It was machine quilted in June of 2009 by RLM. The small vine and flower design looks wonderful and really works well with the fabrics.

The backing is a piece of blue and yellow striped cotton print from my stash that coordinates with the blue and yellow fabrics in the top.

Maine Mystery Quilt 2009 - backing of blue and yellow fabric

Here is the finished Maine Mystery Quilt 2009. The current quilt size is 44″ x 60″ which is perfect for display or snuggling under while reading or watching TV.

This quilt hanging on fence.

And for you…

I just want to encourage other quilters to try a new pattern or new color combination a quilt. Be adventurous once in a while with your quilt making.




I have not been spending much time reading the daily news. Frankly, I end up either angry or sad. So much chaos and upsetting happenings. Enjoy life. Remember that it is a new week – smile and quilt.

I hope you enjoy these “pins” and are encouraged as we get going on a new week with these fun things from Pintrest.

Be productive and get some piecing or quilting done this week. While working on a quilt, listen to an audio book or some favorite music.

Happy quilting.

Happiness is a full bobbin.

...I'm going to the turret now to do some quilting.

...spool of thread.


Some more quilting smiles are here:




Remember the saying “Laughter is the best medicine”? This week has been rough. We need something light hearted in the midst of all the anger and fear being projected by events and media. Quilters – laughter is good for us.


Let me encourage you, this time shall pass. The year of 2020, which started with promise, has deteriorated into a full blown mess. But as my grandma would say, “make lemonade from those lemons.”

clip art - lemons and lemonade

With that in mind, I thought just to share a few things that made me laugh today. I am hoping they cheer up your day, and that you get a laugh from them. All of the following are from my Pintrest board “Fun Quilting Quotes”.


Using fabric scissors for paper.

Creative people don't have a mess.

F.A.R.T. = fabric acquisition road trip

quilters - laughter is good for us

Remember quilters – laughter is good for us. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” (KJV) Proverbs 17:22





Scrap Bonanza #1 completed quilt top

Scrap Bonanza #1 (AKA a quarantine quilt) top is done !!! And I managed to go from 4 scrap bins to 3 after completing this top !!!!!! Yippee……

This top started two or three years ago with sewing together scrap Birds in the Air blocks from 3″ squares sewn into HST. A complete block took 16 HST. See https://indianaquilter40.blogspot.com/2017/12/birds-in-air.html

1 Bird in the Air block made of 16 HST

The Bird in the Air quilt that I had given me the idea had lots of blocks all set together in rows with narrow sashing and posts. There is nothing wrong with that, but once I had enough blocks made to start playing with how I would set them together that “look” just did not inspire me. Um….now what?

Finally after some time of playing around with different settings, I came up with this by putting four blocks together:

4 Birds in the Air blocks sewn into one "Scrap Bonanza" block.
The grand daughter likes it too and started laying out her own quilt.

So I made a total of 16 large blocks (each made with 4 of the original Birds in the Air blocks). At this point I did not want to make anymore of these blocks. I sewed the 16 large blocks into four rows of four large blocks. The top of Scrap Bonanza #1 was about 60″ square.

Scrap Bonanza #1 before borders

It is really cheerful and bright and busy at this point. I love it but wow, I need somewhere to rest my eyes. So I will add a solid border – I still have lots of 2.5″ strips. Just FYI, the brown border is linen left over from another project.

I added a thin medium brown border around the blocks.

Now What To Do?

So I have the center done and one border added. Now what?? It is totally the wrong size at this point for anything I wanted to do. It’s too late to go smaller, so that means bigger, right? I get to use more scraps, right? See https://indianaquilter40.com/are-you-drowning-in-scraps-too/

I have two plastic containers of 2.5″ strips for log cabin blocks. What if I made a piano key border to complete this quilt? Can I be honest – I am not a fan of piano key borders. They are time consuming to make and right at this point, I just wanted this quilt top done.

So I looked around at my stash of UFOs – was there other blocks that could be used as a border? Not that I wanted to use for this. How about just a plain old solid border? That would be quick and easy. None of the fabrics I auditioned for an outer border looked right.

Yep, back to my first idea – make a piano key border. So I just started pulling strips out of the container. No rhyme to the colors I just sew the strips end to end into a long, long, long strip.

Cut the strips into 15″ lengths. Sew those lengths together in pairs down the long sides. Make enough to add to sides of top so this border goes all the way around.

First side of piano key border.
Piano key border done on one side of quilt.

Close up of piano key border and the triangle blocks of the Scrap Bonanza #1 quilt top
Close up of section of top.

I added the border to one side, then opposite side. Made a lot more border which I added to the remaining two sides. It was time consuming, but really easy. This quilt top “Scrap Bonanza #1” is done and I am really happy with it.

I also did not stress that all my points were not perfect. The “quilt police” are not coming after this quilt (I would not listen to them anyway). It was fun to make and really made a dent in the scrap problem I am trying to conquer.

Your Mission

Your mission should you decide to accept is to make a dent in your scrap bin. Step out of your comfort zone, do something fun (and maybe a little wild) with all those scraps you have been holding onto because they are just too nice to throw away. Have fun. Be creative. Enjoy the quilt journey you are on.

Challenge to myself

When I made up my list of projects to do for 2020, cornovirus was not on the radar. My time is usually limited with my job, and travel for my job so the list was what I knew I could do in a “normal” year. See https://indianaquilter40.com/quilting-goals-for-2020/

Now I am confined to working from home until further notice. It is so much easier to be productive on my quilts when I am right here at home. So I am challenging myself to see how many “quarantine” quilts I can make during this time.

Feel free to join me in this if you want. We can always give the tops or quilts away to friends or family. Or we can donate them to a worthy cause.

Other ideas for scrap quilts:






Quilting during a crisis

The past few days have been interesting to say the least when it comes to the media panic over corona virus and how people around the USA are re-acting. I live in a rural area and am currently working from home instead of traveling for work. Any excuse for taking time to quilt is always good, but quilting during a crisis is productive and helps relieve the stress.

I want to encourage you to take care of yourself including eating properly, getting enough rest, some form of exercise, and of course quilting. If you are not sick, the most important thing is to stay well. If you are already sick, rest and allow yourself to get well.

This is great time to drag out those quilting UFOs you have shoved to the back of the closet. Pick one or two to work on and get busy. Busy hands tend to help us have better moods and being able to see progress on a project is always great.

Another important thing to do during this time is check on other people to see how they are doing or if you can help. Obviously the best way to check on people right now is using the phone or other technology. As quilters we tend to be generous and this is a great time to show that.

It looks like I will be working from home at least two weeks. I am understandably happy to not be traveling right now. Here is what I am doing that is quilt related during this quarantine time:

  1. Weeding old quilt magazines
  2. Binding quilts
  3. Cutting scraps into standard sizes and putting into plastic containers
  4. Catching up on reading other quilting blogs
clip art: Cabin Fever Reliever

Some encouragement about Quilting During A Crisis: