As the needle bends

A world view thru my hobbit hole door

Beauty and “The Beast” Challenge

One of my yahoogroups recently challenged members to select an "ugly" fabric – you know the ones where you gotta have it and later wonder "What in the WORLD was I thinking???" – and create a piece utilizing New York Beauty patterns provided by member and designer extraordinaire, Deb Karasik. Each block had to utilize the "Beast" for at least one of the larger "unpieced" sections of the block, and the challenge, as I saw it, was to somehow combine some of Deb’s wonderful spikey designs in a way that created a secondary pattern that was so… (dare I be so bold as to say STUNNING???) that the observer would not notice that my fabric, chosen before I knew the rules of the challenge, was so dog-goned UGLY. Here is the fabric:


Surely, you must agree that this fabric is sorta strange – the birds and butterflies and flowers are all the same size, irregardless of any sort of scale that would give them some sort of perspective with relationship to each other. And the colors… Well, let me preface this by saying I LOVE EARTH-TONES. Autumn is my favorite season – and, generally speaking, I absolutely adore working with reds, golds, and browns. But this reminded me of mustard, ketchup and burgers, in a colonial reproduction sort of a way. As I told the organizer of the challenge, this fabric is only 36" wide (which cotton fabric has NOT been since maybe the 1960’s at the very latest), and there were several yards of it. It came from an estate sale, for half a song, and I always thought I’d offer it on Ebay because… well, it just isn’t my cup of tea, or coffee, or chlorox LOL. But when I started looking for "The Beast" in my stash, this was it. This fabric is SOOOOO ugly that quilters for decades had been unable to figure out what to do with it. How else could one explain there still being several yards of it in the piece? What to do? What to do???

This fabric is so bizarre that I knew there was absolutely no hope of hiding it, or disguising it. So… I chose one of the patterns for a test block, and set out on this incredible journey. As I said, I have a fair stash of earth-tones, and the Good Lord knows, I had PLENTY of "The Beast" so making a test block seemed pretty logical – and if it had passed the test, it wouldn’t have been abandoned as a test block!


I absolutely loved the pattern but there just wasn’t enough contrast in the non-Beast portions to draw my eyes AWAY from that ugly bugger. So, I thought for a while, and decided that I needed two different block patterns – set diagonally across from each other, they would create a secondary pattern from the ugly fabric which kind of echoed the butterfly in the print. I also decided that I needed a light background fabric for the spikes – so that my eyes would be drawn up the spikes to the "solid" background – and chose unbleached muslin, which looks a lot like the ugly fabric would if there were no design printed on it. I selected a few earthy toned prints that had the same "vintage" look to them, and set out to sew spikes that were so breath-taking that nobody would ever look closely at the semi-circle from which they emanate.

In this quilt, I wanted the focus ON the fabric, after all – these were from my wonderful collection of chicken and rooster prints!:


But that is definitely NOT what I wanted to do in this project. I felt like I had to reverse that thinking, and make the design so eye-catching that my eyes "bounce around the whole design" so much that they never focused on that ugly Beast in the corners.

Anyway, the process was a lot of fun, even though I wound up having to toss out some arcs and re-print the paper pieced patterns (repeatedly LOL)… We all promised to keep our pieces anonymous until after the voting was done – and the "viewer’s choice" poll ended last night. So here is my vintage inspired piece. Now I have to think of an appropriate name – something that plays on the vintage fabric, and the design being "New York Beauties." My DSD thinks the final product looks like a butterfly – to me, it looks like a corset. But I think I succeeded in making eyes bounce around AWAY from the ugly fabric, letting it hide – in plain view!


Any suggestions for a name? (And where to put it? My DH said he thought it looks very very well made but NOT something he wants to look at very often! LOL Mind you, it’s only about 18" square so it’s much easier to hide than the Chicken Quilt would be!)

Thanks to Val, one of our moderators, for coming up with the idea for doing this challenge with our group, and to Deb for some amazing designs. I can’t wait to see how they look in BEAUTIFUL fabric, instead of one full of dead birds and butterflies :0}


June 23, 2008 - Posted by | 14739, Quilting and Hobbies (wishing I had 'spare' time)


  1. You didn’t mention in the post that you WON Viewer’s Choice in the challenge!! The quilt truly is stunning; it looks even better in the larger picture here than it did on the group site.

    Seriously, once I saw your quilt (and I had no idea it was yours) I really had to think long and hard about whether I would actually “vote” for my own or for this one.

    The ketchup and mustard and hamburger description is priceless (and looks to be pretty accurate), though my first thought on seeing it was what a wonderful backing fabric it would make for one of my scrap quilts!! LOL!

    BSue said: When I wrote the post above, I wasn’t really really sure that I HAD won the Viewers’ Choice award – I never take anything for granted ;0) Actually, being a relative “novice,” I was amazed that I did win. Thanks for the “warm fuzzies” about the quiltlet, and before you volunteer to take the excess off my hands for backing, remember – it’s ONLY 36″ wide! LOL

    Comment by Tracy | June 24, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi Bobbie,
    I love your block. The workmanship looks fantastic. A couple of name suggestions: ” NO Bent Needle “, or “As the Needle Bends, the Beast becomes a Beauty”. O I have more. lol. “Arrow We Go” “I shot an arrow into the air”

    “Me and My Arrow”, “Quiver”, “Sharps”, “I.V.” ….. will someone stop me….PLEASE. lol. That’s me, As the brain bends. Having fun.

    Comment by Betty | June 24, 2008 | Reply

  3. I love your pattern choices. How about “Butterfly Corset”, lol!

    Comment by Aileen | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  4. Unfortunately, I can’t name it NO Bent Needle :0) It just wouldn’t be honest. There were a couple of times that the needle I was using made a horrid noise causing both DH and Ginger to look up.

    I do love all the suggestions but may go with the same play on words as Tracy – “I’ve Never Been to New York, But I Have Been to NEW ENGLAND!”

    Autumn in New England is just about my very favorite time to be anywhere, & a large part of the reason I collect the colors of fabrics that I used with “UGGGGG” – I just wish it weren’t so darned far from Texas! And more than likely, I’ll probably leave it nameless to protect the innocent :0}

    Comment by bsue | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  5. I LOVE this little quilt. Stunning, just stunning. I suggest you name it “The Gift” and you should put it on my wall in New Hampshire. Just think, a great reason to come to New England!
    My sister lives in TX and after the leaves are done showing off here I pack my bags and head down there to spend Thanksgiving with her. I love TX!

    Comment by Brenda Mercado | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  6. This is a wonderful quilt! What a great idea for a challenge! How about “Transformation” for a title?!?!
    You sure turned an ugly duckling into a beauty! Oh how about that for a title “From ugly duckling to a beauty”!!??
    Your coordinating fabric choices were perfect.

    Comment by Kathy Wagner | June 27, 2008 | Reply

  7. Hmmmmmm…. maybe “Reverse Transmogrification” – that’s almost as much of a mouthful as “I’ve Never Been to NY, But I HAVE Been to New England!” But I appreciate the “transformation” idea – it does give me some ideas to work with!
    Thanks to all for the ideas… “The Gift” one made my DH ROTFLOL! He said “we don’t need a REASON to go to New England – just an opportunity, and to win the lottery to pay for the gas.” That goes with being in a family with an aversion to flying – and relatives all over Maine!

    Comment by bsue | June 27, 2008 | Reply

  8. I’ll agree that’s some ugly fabric but I think it turned out really nice in that block. The block looks so hard!! And, it looks like you did a fantastic job with the piecing.

    Bobbie BentNeedle said: Judy, thanx so much – I consider that HIGH praise because your piecing always looks so precise! (Not that I didn’t consider it high praise from the other commenters… but… well, shucks… Thanx!!!!)

    Comment by JudyL | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. No suggestions for a name, but your project is amazing. I’m SO impressed!

    n, np

    Comment by Nancy, Near Philadelphia | July 5, 2008 | Reply

  10. I absolutely LOVE it .. i’ll trade you that for my test blocks for my 1800s quilt 😉


    Comment by grace | July 18, 2008 | Reply

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