Crazy Patchwork – a quick tutorial

Crazy patchwork was all the rage in Victorian times (go to this link to see pictures of antique crazy patchwork).  In her book ‘The Crazy Quilt Handbook’ Judith Baker Montano maintains:

For the last quarter of the nineteenth century, crazy quilting was definitely the ‘in’ thing to do.  Every woman had to have a crazy quilt.  The more intricate and busy it was, the better.  It hit every echelon of life, from the poor to the wealthy, to the country and the city woman… the first-ever American commercial needlework craze!

Their quilts were decorative, made of scraps of lush dress and furnishing fabrics, covered in embroidery, keepsake items – ribbons, lace, buttons, even give-away silk ribbons specially produced by cigar and cigarette manufacturers!   As Judith Baker Montano says these quilts ‘were used as ‘show off’ pieces to display in the parlor’!

Of course, what goes around comes around and there is a modern take on crazy patchwork.  There are different techniques, the one I taught myself from ‘Very Easy Crazy Patchwork’ by Betty Barnden is a sew and flip method starting from the centre of a piece of backing fabric.

Start by pinning an irregular shaped fabric piece face up in the centre of the backing fabric.

Start by pinning an irregular shaped fabric piece face up in the centre of the backing fabric.

Choose a second fabric piece - make sure it is big enough to overlap the edge you are going to place it on.

Choose a second fabric piece – make sure it is big enough to overlap the edge you are going to place it on.

Pin the second piece face down on the centre piece.  Make sure you have a straight edge to sew the seam along - the finished block won't lie flat if the seams curve! otherwis

Pin the second piece face down on the centre piece. Make sure you have a straight edge to sew the seam along – the finished block won’t lie flat if the seams curve!

Sew a quarter inch seam and then flip and press.

Sew a quarter inch seam and then flip and press.

Add a third fabric piece long enough to cover the first two pieces.  Position to ensure there is at least a quarter inch seam all along.  After sewing the seam cut away excess fabrics poking beyond the allowance before flipping and pressing.

Add a third fabric piece, long enough to cover the first two pieces. Position to ensure there is at least a quarter inch seam all along. After sewing the seam cut away excess fabrics poking beyond the allowance before flipping and pressing.

As you continue to work around the centre piece adding more fabrics the pieces will get longer and longer.  To break up these long pieces sew two or more pieces of fabric together BEFORE adding them to the crazy block.  Cut a straight edge across them all and then lay the strip across the block and stitch in place.

As you continue to work around the centre piece adding more fabrics the pieces will get longer and longer. To break up these long pieces sew two or more pieces of fabric together BEFORE adding them to the crazy block. Cut a straight edge across them all and then lay the strip across the block and stitch in place.

The multi-fabric piece stitched, flipped and pressed into place. Continue moving around the centre piece until you have fabric covering the base fabric beyond the size of the finished block you desire.  Trim to the required size - allowing your quarter inch seam allowance all round.

The multi-fabric piece stitched, flipped and pressed into place. Continue moving around the centre piece until you have pieces covering the backing fabric beyond the size of the finished block you desire. Trim to the required size – allowing a quarter inch seam allowance all round.

I find crazy patchwork very satisfying and freeing from the usual methods of patchwork piecing:  no tricky cutting and matching seams and it doesn’t even matter about the direction of the grain – the backing fabric gives the piece stability and reduces the chances of distortion.  Incidentally, my backing fabric of choice has been a bargain, king size, 100% Egyptian cotton sheet found in a charity shop for less than £5! Using densely woven sheeting is fine as I know I’ll be machine quilting, if I were intending to hand quilt/embroider the crazy blocks then I’d use more open weave fabrics such as calico or a quilting weight cotton as the backing fabric.

My latest crazy patchwork project involved making two cushion covers for my Aunt. I’m glad to say they are finished and in place in her newly decorated flat!  Here are some photos of the covers:

I had fun trying out the fancy stitches my machine can produce.  I used several toning cotton threads to add more variety tot he quilting.

For the quilting I had fun trying out the fancy stitches my machine can produce. I used several toning cotton threads to add more variety to the quilting.

 

The finished pair.

The finished pair – complete with crazy borders!

Sometime I’d really like to put together several crazy blocks and make a quilt… (Although it is a great way of using up scraps it can also be quite a wasteful technique with all the overlapping seam allowances to be cut away as you criss-cross the fabric pieces.)

I hope you found this little guide helpful?  Please ask any questions or add any tips you may have about this technique.

Allison

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About allisonreidnem

New Every Morning – About Me Hi! I’m Allison, an obsessive patchwork-quilter who has no desire to be cured! I’ve been developing my skills and knowledge by paying attention at my local quilting group and by putting my questions into the computer search engine. I’m so grateful to the generous people who have taken the time to share their knowledge with me in person, via YouTube videos or their blogs. I’m intending my blog to be a link into the worldwide patchwork and quilting community and a means to contribute helpful hints and inspiration as I continue to discover more about this addictive craft. So, why ‘New Every Morning Patchwork and Quilting’? Well! I am a morning person! I often wake in the wee small hours and think through design and quilt construction issues. My woolly–headed evening brain finds such issues far too difficult to resolve! If I’m disciplined enough to be asleep by 10pm, I can be up cutting, piecing, pressing and quilting before sunrise! By the time daily family routine kicks-in I’ve had a satisfying, soul-feeding creative fix. (I should mention that ‘family at home’ is: my patient, faithful husband of 27years; and our equally patient 16 year old son, who acts as our in-house IT support complete with sighs and rolling eyes! Older daughter and son have both recently flown the nest). Not only do I find early mornings my creative time I also find it a time for receiving spiritual nourishment. I often find myself humming a gentle chorus and reflecting on God’s constancy as another new day dawns. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning; Great is thy faithfulness, O Lord, Great is thy faithfulness.’ Edith McNeil’s chorus is based on verses from the Bible – Lamentations 3: 21-23.
This entry was posted in Crazy Patchwork, Finish 2015, P&Q Books, Projects, Quilting Techniques, Tutorial and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Crazy Patchwork – a quick tutorial

  1. Colleen says:

    The tip about sewing 2 pieces together before adding it to the base is really helpful. One of my first projects, a potholder (big surprise !) was made using this technique but I didn’t know that tip or that I was making a crazy quilt ! This would be a good project to discover the different decorative stitches my machine is capable of. Thanks for this terrific tutorial, Allison.

    Liked by 1 person

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