My unembellished crazy quilt square.
My mom and I recently went to a class at The Quilter’s Garden in Fenton, Michigan, to learn how to sew a crazy quilt square. Crazy quilts are traditionally made from scraps of fabric sewn in a random pattern. Embroidery and other embellishments are then used to decorate the fabric. Wow, talk about fun!
What I Like Best About Crazy Quilting
I found several things to like about this method of quilting. First of all, you can use scraps of fabric. You can get your fabric from just about any source. You can use fabric from scrap pieces left over from quilting projects or other sewing you have done, pieces cut from clothing worn to a special event or made for a special person, or from clothes or bedding you have bought at a yard sale or the second-hand shop.
You don’t have to worry about what type the fabric is and if it is washable, because you don’t usually wash a crazy quilt. Silk, satin, lace, corduroy, denim, cotton, wool, synthetic–anything goes. I had gone through my fabric before the class and actually chose colors that wouldn’t clash, but basically you can sit down with your bag of scraps, pull out some pieces of fabric and go to work.
Secondly, you don’t really have to be an experienced quilter to make one of these quilts. (It does help if you know how to embroider, but I’ll get to that later.) All of the seams are straight, so no complicated curves. You will get a decent product by just slapping down some fabric and sewing it together. You do want to avoid spaces in the design where there are gaps between fabric pieces (referred to as “holes”). I admit, I had to fix a couple of holes on my square. Because the fabric has a random placement and will be embroidered later, the “mistakes” are easy to fix and won’t really show at all. Other than that, there is no wrong way to place your pieces.
Thirdly, the sewing goes quickly. You don’t have to cut any intricate pieces of fabric. You don’t have to worry about getting that perfect seam allowance. You overlap fabric as you sew, so getting your points to line up perfectly doesn’t matter. I finished sewing the fabric pieces onto my 12″ by 12″ muslin foundation piece during the two-hour class. That was with a lot of talking going on and sharing an iron with the other quilters. Crazy quilting is just a fabulous and fun way to make a quilt.
Crazy Quilt Decoration
Crazy quilts are often heavily embellished with fancy stitches. This is where a little bit of embroidery practice beforehand pays off. However, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t done much embroidery. If you start with a small project like something that would fit into a small frame, you can practice on a piece that is not so large as to be overwhelming. Then make your next project bigger, and the next one even bigger than that to build your confidence.
Sometimes crazy quilts don’t have much embroidery on them, instead using the color and placement of the fabric to set the design of the finished project. You can also use ribbon, buttons and charms on your quilt in addition to the embroidery.
Most of the quilts are used as wall hangings or as decorative fabric for 3-D projects like pincushions, pillows or other stuffed decor items. Some projects are framed just like any other piece of art. Many of the projects are small-scale, so finishing your embellishing isn’t such a daunting task. Although piecing the square together goes quickly, embellishing it can take a while to finish.
There are several versions of how to assemble a crazy quilt square. The one we learned was developed by Barbara Blankenship, if I remember correctly. She wrote an article called “Piecing a Crazy Quilt Block” about how to use her version of assembling a crazy quilt square. I also found a really good book by Allie Aller called Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting. The book is a great source to have on your shelf because it gives five methods of putting together a crazy quilt square, ideas on how to embroider and embellish your quilt squares and several projects to get you started.
Another good book to have on hand is one that shows a variety of embroidery stitches. I have a book I picked up at a used book sale. It is called An Encyclopedia of Crazy Quilt Stitches and Motifs by Linda Causee. Any book like this that shows how to make the stitches would be helpful even if it isn’t necessarily geared toward crazy quilting. (Used book sales are great places to find books about embroidery because the stitches don’t change over time as other styles change.)
More to Come
I’ll show you my square when I finish embroidering it. It might take me a while though, since I can embroider about 15 minutes at a time without my hands hurting. Gotta remember to take care of the old body but have fun in the meantime. Right? I also am working on a stitch sampler to practice and preview stitches before I use them to finish my square. More on that later, too.