Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ugly Fabric (and Photoshop)

The more I work on Bricks and Stepping Stones, the more I love this pattern. I've been using some wild and crazy prints for the bricks. Among them were wild horses racing on a green background, cowboy paraphernalia on blue, and gray manatees swimming in a turquoise sea among schools of golden fish.

The very last brick was cut from this ugly paisley, a fabric that is near and dear to my heart. It's been in my stash since the '90s when I was an active member of the Genie Online Quilter's Guild. I bought it for the annual Ugly Fabric Swap, an event which I looked forward to all year long. Sign-ups began on April 1st (April Fool's Day). Each of us pledged ourselves to send a 10 inch, pre-washed square of the ugliest fabric we could find to all the other swap members. The deadline was April 15th (Income Tax Day).

Then we would wait by our mailboxes in fearful anticipation. What monstrosities, what abominations of the textile industry had our sister quilters found? As the envelopes began to arrive, each bearing a fabric more appalling than the last, every quilter would describe her reactions online, casting her vote for the Most Appalling Fabric (often with uncontrollable giggles).

Yet truly is it said, "De gustibus non disputatum est." ("There is no accounting for taste.") Almost every fabric, no matter how clashing its color -- how hideous its print, had at least one fan whose piteous cry, "I like that fabric!" proved that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Then the real challenge began: to make a really great quilt out of that year's collection of Uglies. (The secret is cutting the fabrics into small enough pieces!) Some of the quilts were stunning, and I remember at least one whose photo ended up in a major quilt magazine.

I always took part in the swap, but only once managed to finish a quilt. Most of my Ugly collections are still intact. And I'm thinking that Bricks and Stepping Stones would be the perfect pattern to display these, um, unique fabrics.

But getting back to the paisley shown at the beginning of this blog: I wanted to post a picture of it, but my digital camera is so old and creaky that it's a real pain to shoot and upload photos. So I decided to try taking its picture using the Photo Booth application on my Mac. Unfortunately, the fabric's color wasn't accurate because of the way that light shines through it.

"I can fix that!" Fillius announced. "I'll Photo Shop it on my computer."

"Oh, no," I said. "That sounds like too much work. I'll drag out the camera."

"It's really easy," he assured me. And it was. In just moments he had perfectly adjusted the color.

"Super! Email it to me." I pasted it into my blog, and while I was still typing up the text I heard Fillius calling from the other room."

"Hey, Mom! Want a picture of your fabric lying flat?"

"Kewel! But can you make it into an elephant?"

Before I finished writing my post I had his answer:


The Calico Quilter said...

How in the HECK did he do the elephant? Wait, wait, I don't want to know --- I would be SOOOOO jealous! This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen from Photoshop. My husband plays with Photoshop all the time and the things he does restoring old photos are astounding - including artfully removing some ugly scenery behind his sister in a picture of her in a bridesmaid dress, and then cloning and inserting some landscaping around her to make it look pretty. He also combined two family snapshots which added my brother into a phcture so everyone was included, and I dare anyone to detect the change! Good photoshoppers are amazing. Kudos to your son!

Linda C. said...

You're right . . . I love your ugly! You didn't mention my favorite rule about ugly fabrics . . . it is self-healing. It doesn't matter how much you cut off it, it never gets any smaller!

And, on your curving strip problem, though it sounds as though your tension did need monitoring, this is a common pressing problem. Since most strips are cut on the cross-grain, which has more stretch, "ironing" instead of merely pressing is always a culprit. Try laying the strips straight across your ironing board. Before beginning to open the seam, press the whole thing while folderd. Then, open carefully, taking care to PRESS, not iron . . . lift and press, don't glide the iron. Hope this will help!

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Calico Quilter,

My son says to tell you that besides Photoshop, he also used a program called Bryce which is actually a landscape program. So how he managed to get an elephant out of it is beyond me!

Linda C.,

Thanks for the tips. Yes, I always set the stitches by first pressing the seam while it is still closed. I think part of my problem may have been, as you suggest, the fact that some of these were cut on the crosswise grain. Judy Martin writes about only cutting strips on the lengthwise grain to avoid the stretchy problem. So ususally that's what I try to do. But since I was working with scraps, I think that some of my fabric may have been cut crosswise. Thanks again.