Ugly City, Under Construction

Quite a few months ago (March, I think?) we went to a quilting convention and expo. We thought it would be super-dorky, but it turned out to be a bacchanal of beautiful fabrics and quilt patterns and marvelousness; we emerged with our life savings greatly depleted but our fabric stash greatly improved. One of the most exciting purchases of the day was a kit for a quilt that was hanging up at a Kaffe Fassett-heavy vendor booth. It was a swirl of rich reds and oranges with daring swaths of bright green, and I was thrilled at the prospect of making such an exquisitely gorgeous and intricate design.

Then I got the kit home, opened it up, and laid out the fabrics.

Ugly City Fabrics

Dear God! Those fabrics are all ugly! And they don’t go together! What was I thinking???

We decided to own the situation as best we could, and call the project Ugly City. It was going to be so ugly it was cute. Or something.

The instructions for this quilt are totally wackadoo, so I kept putting off starting it; it was going to require intense involvement by Pookie and Boomer, so we all needed to be ready to undertake a group project. Finally the opportunity presented itself in our stolen vacation weekend of not going to Montreal for the NHL Draft, so we girded ourselves and jumped right in.

Ugly City Strips

The gist of the pattern is that you cut up all the ugly fat quarters into random-width strips, then sew the strips into “strata”. (Pookie did the cutting, as always, and Boomer stepped in to sew the strips on her machine.)

Ugly City Strata

Then you cut squares out of the strata.

Ugly City Cutouts

The squares then get cut in half diagonally, and are set on the sides of 6-inch center squares.

Ugly City Square

What I discovered today is that this process goes up crazy quickly (I hand-pieced all the stuff after the strata got put together), and all those ugly fabrics come together to make beautiful, beautiful music. I’m so excited for it!

However, I’m also deeply, deeply concerned. For starters, the pattern seems to have been written by morons, and I’m fairly confident the amounts of stratae they think I need won’t yield the amount of pieces the quilt calls for. It’s going to be a major pain in my ass if I have to order more yardage to pepper throughout the project, and it’s going to be a major pain in my ass to figure out how much I might need without getting this to the point where it’s going to be really hard to work extra fabrics in. Also, the pattern calls for a yard of the red-and-gold polka-dot fabric that goes around the center squares. The kit came with a half yard. Those feckless a-hole quilt expo vendors! I found a place online that was selling yardage, but they called literally as I was pressing this first finished square to tell me that the fabric was out of stock. Sigh. I think I may have found another source, but it’s still up in the air. If any readers out there have a half a yard of Kaffe Fasset GP-70 Red Spots fabric they want to give me, I’d really appreciate it. Heh.

[Posted by Schnookie]

15 Comments

Filed under Pins and Needles, Progress Reports, Quilting

15 responses to “Ugly City, Under Construction

  1. hg

    When in doubt, wing it.

  2. EEK! Wing it? In a QUILT??? I’m not sure I can do that! :P

  3. Sarah

    I just saw something like this elsewhere and I think it is a process that yields really neat results. I like it!

  4. Thanks, Sarah! And I have to say, now that I’ve gotten a taste of this process, it seems like the sky’s the limit.

  5. Awww, crap. What a bummer. Here’s hoping for some more polka dot fabric.

    Those squares do look excellent afterall! How could I have doubted your choice? (Please note: my first reaction when I saw your stash was, “Yikes! All those colours? Are they sure about that?”. Oh me of little faith!

  6. Oh me of little faith!

    Trust me, Carol, we were all thinking the same thing! :D

  7. hg

    Of COURSE you can do it! My pillows? Totally wung! Just piece by piece until they were the right size and even then I had to add another strip!

  8. Marg

    Try ebay or etsy for your spots!! Marg

  9. Totally wung!

    :^:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Well, if winging it can make pillows as pretty as yours, I guess that’s a high recommendation for the process! :D

    And thanks so much for the recommendation, Marg! I did manage to find a place with the fabric, and while the dye lot is a wee bit off, I think it’s going to work out fine.

  10. Marg

    I can’t wait to see the finished product – I’m sure the slight color variation won’t be noticed because of all the other colors. It’s amazing how some structure can restore the beauty of what seems like an ugly and drab bunch of fabrics!!

  11. It’s amazing how some structure can restore the beauty of what seems like an ugly and drab bunch of fabrics!!

    It’s so true! Quilting is kind of like alchemy sometimes! :D

  12. Marg

    I’m glad I said ‘what seem like an ugly and drab bunch of fabrics’, as the ‘seem’ mitigates the comment a litte! Upon rereading, it sounds a little ungracious as the fabrics, on their own, are gorgeous (I absolutely adore Kaffe Fassett), and I love your results. I have a series of ‘what seem like an ugly and drab bunch of fabrics’ (KF charm squares in my case, soem of which I have spotted in your photos) and I have been wondering how to make them look better – now I know!! Have you made any further progress? Would love to see how it is coming together!!

  13. No worries, Marg — I knew exactly what you meant! And it’s really so true that oftentimes with a quilt, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. (Sadly, I’ve had an experience where I had a bad match between quilt pattern and fabrics, and ended up with something that was slightly less than the sum of its parts, but you live and learn, right? :D) What kind of project do you have in mind now for your KF charm pack? I honestly can’t get enough of his fabrics — I got a stack of fat quarters for my birthday in May, and am very excited to do something with those. There are so many possibilities!

    As for my progress, it’s coming along a lot faster than I expected. I’m kind of deliberately slowing myself down now by puttering on some other projects because I didn’t want Ugly City to be an instant-gratification project. I want to savor all that ugly! (I think Pookie and I are planning a big blow-out quilt projects update post sometime soon. We’ve got quite a few going. Because we’re completely out of control. Heh.)

  14. Marg

    Not sure what to do with my Kaffe fabrics, although I am inspired by the above pattern. I am frustrated by my sewing machines at the moment. I found a good, solid old Janome at a yard sale recently. I took it to be serviced and now it’s not stitching properly. Can’t work out what is wrong as I have tried everything to get the thread tension right. Took my newer machine is last week and will pick up tomorrow (and take the other one back!!). I am now gagging as I want to sew my strips of lovely fabric together to get a similar pattern to yours. I will just do calico background – I’m also obsessed with coin quilts so will do something like that. Will keep you posted!

  15. Ugh! What a headache! I’m so sorry about your machines — I’ll send all my “get well soon, sewing machines” vibes your way. Maybe that will help. :D

    I think your plans for the Kaffe fabrics sound great — I just love coin quilts, so I suspect your project is going to end up beautiful!

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