I made this embroidery for my swap partner, Amanda, in the Freaky Flowers Swap over at &Stitches. Amanda mentioned that she is a book lover and a Harry Potter fan, so we were a perfect match! Only a few plants are directly mentioned in the Harry Potter-verse, that I could find, and only this one didn’t have a strong visual counterpart in the movies; I didn’t want to mimic a look someone else designed, I wanted to imagine what the plant might look like myself.
Not much is known about the Venomous Tentacula, except that it is toothy, has grabby arms, and is fully poisonous. I based my colors and basic plant structure on real-life carnivorous plants, the nearly neon orange-red against the bright spring green is a common palette for these creepy plants. And my inspiration was antique botany illustrations, which I absolutely love.
I really hope Amanda liked her Freaky Flower and, since reaction to this little guy has been pretty great so far, I think I’ll add it as a pattern to the Little Dorrit & Co. pattern shop very soon!
First up, I’ve stitched these little alternating sprig-type things. I have no idea what this would be called, but they’re each made of three simple straight stitches, exactly as they look:
I worked each one just over the edge of the seam, so they overlap it by a teensy bit.
Next, a typical crazy quilting stitch that you will see on a lot of the antique crazy quilts: stepped running stitch. This is a threaded stitch and threaded stitches are great for using more than one color in one place, just for some extra funsies. Start by working running stitch along each side of a seam, alternating the spacing. Then we thread those running stitches:
Using a new color (if you like) and a dull cross-stitch needle (if you have one handy, it really will make it easier if you do), lace underneath one running stitch. Pass under the previous thread and down under the next running stitch. This is one of those things that’s insane to describe in words, but easy to do. Hopefully the photos above are clear even if my words aren’t.
The next photo shows you two stitches at once, because I’ve used them in sort of combination with each other. I wanted some stitching that was a focal point, that worked on a different scale to the others. So here I’ve made large stars all across one fabric strip. You can also work these across a seam, same as the other stitches. Unlike the teensy stars we made before, these are made with twelve straight stitches that come from the center. In the last star shown, you can see that I work the four straight arms first, like the quarters of a clock:
This helps keep the spacing even. Along the seam of this area, I’ve made very small diagonal stitches. You can see how I’m working them by simply bringing my needle across the seam, perpendicular to it. It’s almost like lacing a shoe, and strangely satisfying.
And there, my friends, is where I’m going to send you off on your own to fill up the rest of your sampler! If yours is anything like mine, you should have covered about half of your seams now.
I will show you my finished sampler sometime next week – and I’ll also show you how I’ll finish mine off – but in the meantime, I want you to get creative with your stitches and, well, go crazy! Just use what you know and combine different stitches to make new effects – and stitch whatever pops into your head!
Hey, crazy quilters, ready for the next step of our little samplers?! This is where the ‘sampler’ part comes in – and why I love this project so much: the combination of patchwork and embroidery in crazy quilting is 100% of the appeal to me. I don’t have to choose between these two crafts that I love, and I get to try out all kind of fun embroidery stitching.
Above you can see my finished 13″-ish block. I love it so dang much! Now we’ll do a little prep before starting embellishing. I happen to have a 12.5″ square ruler, which is terribly convenient, so I’ve used that to mark my block for the next step. But you can use a straight ruler and mark out each side separately.
With a removable fabric pen of some type (I used a Frixion pen), mark out whatever you want your finished size and shape to be. This line is where you will sew later, whether you choose to add it to other blocks or make a pillow or bind it for a little wall-hanging. It doesn’t make any difference what shape or size you end up with, as long as it makes you happy.
Sew all the way around your block, just a touch outside that line, somewhere under 1/4″. The sewn line will stop your outer fabrics from flapping around in your way as you work. The drawn line gives you a stopping warning for your embroidery stitching. This way you can wait until later to trim your block nice and neat (it’s sure to fray a little as you work) but won’t risk slicing through any embroidery when you do. Try to just cross the drawn line with your embroidery, but not the sewn line.
Now gather up a pile of embellishments of whatever type strikes your fancy:
I have threads (size 16 perle cotton, ’cause it’s my current favorite), ribbons and lace. You might use regular stranded embroidery floss, beads, ricrac, applique bits – anything! These will continue to add to the design of your block – maybe create dramatic borders between each patch, or maybe add subtle embellishment to a high-contrast block. Whatever you feel it needs can be added now.
(Note: you could also have added lace – one of you added pompom ribbon! – into the seams in the previous step, for future reference. Honestly, I didn’t think of it earlier, but I do like that this way lets me apply it in fun ways if I like.)
I added a few bits along or over seams, simply by sewing them down close to the edge with a matching thread. I chose to do those on seams that ran off the edge of my piece, if that makes sense. It saved me having to tuck ends under (which is the benefit to embellishing into seams in the first place, I have to admit).
Now let’s start stitching. Basically, we’re going to cover each seam with some sort of stitching – and preferably something different on each one, making it a proper sampler. I’ll show you how to do a few, which are inspired by examples on my Crazy Quilting Pinterest Board, but don’t feel like you have to follow these. Be creative, get crazy and stitch whatever you think of!
Most crazy quilting stitches look complex, but are just combination stitches made up of the most basic embroidery stitches in creative ways. Let’s do one of the most common – herringbone stitch:
Herringbone stitch is often used as the only stitch in a crazy quilt over every seam. It’s fast and easy: just work long diagonal stitches across the seam, crossing each stitch over the end of the previous. (There’s a more detailed tutorial of herringbone stitch right here if that’s not clear.)
I added little french knots along either side, ’cause why not?
You could also stick some little lazy daisies there, or maybe little cross-stitches. Or just leave it simple, whatever you want!
On my next lace seam, I made a pretty little row of simple star stitches:
In that photo, from left to right, you’ll see: one completed star, then the three steps that make up each star. First make a cross stitch (over the seam), then add a horizontal bar, then a vertical. Easy-peasy, and don’t they look pretty all in a row?
Ok, let’s get a little more fancy, shall we? I’m sure you’ve all done some blanket stitch, right? Add blanket stitch over a seam, alternating long and short stitches:
Now go back to the beginning and add little lazy daisy (aka detached chain stitch) blossoms to the shorter stitches:
And lastly, let’s stick a neat line of large cross-stitches over another seam. These are so simple and fun!
That’s all for this week – here’s where my block is at:
(Click through to see a bigger version for more detail.) I’m having so much fun, it’s really addictive! I will show you a few more stitches next Monday, but I have to warn you, after that you’ll be on your own and I fully expect you to come up with some really creative stitching! It doesn’t have to be complicated, just use whatever you know and go for it!
Apologies in advance for the state of these photos! Of course I chose a day when a bleeding hurricane was passing the UK to prepare my tutorial! But this is a sew-along, not an art show, am I right? :) I’ll assume you’ll be ok with squinting past some poor color adjustments for today!
Ok, here we go! As I mentioned last week, here’s what you’ll need to gather up:
– A piece of foundation fabric – I used a 13″-ish square in a scrap of some random off-white cotton, which is slightly larger than I mean to end up with, to account for trimming edges later. It really doesn’t matter what the fabric is, as long as it doesn’t have a color or print that will show through your patchwork. You can also use a piece of paper, but a fabric foundation will add stability later on.
– A pile of scraps! I started with fairly small pieces (shown above) but you will need them to get bigger as you go, so gather a nice variety of sizes and shapes.
– Sewing machine, sewing tools, etc. Nothin’ fancy really, just scissors or a rotary cutter if you’re more fastidious than I am, and plain old thread.
– Seam roller (which is what I used) or finger presser or iron.
We’re going to sew this like foundation paper piecing, so if you’ve ever done any, this is essentially the same thing – but I’ll assume you haven’t. Also, a little interesting note: in researching the traditional methods for crazy quilting, I came across this description in one of my antique needlework books:
“Place [your fabric pieces] over a lining to form a design, but instead of stitching two pieces together as in ordinary patchwork, lay one over the top piece and turn the edges of the top piece and run it into the bottom one.”
Slightly awkwardly described, but interesting. Another book described the method as laying one scrap overlapping another, then flip a seam under and baste it in place, overlapping the raw edge of the first. That book said to work in this manner, just basting everything by hand, one scrap at a time, then secure the seams with decorative stitches.
What I found interesting about this is that it is the exact same effect as what we call foundation (paper) piecing, but slightly more fussy (though it would be best if you wanted to play with curves). It actually sounded fun to me to baste each piece by hand, but I knew I wanted this particular project to be more manageable, time-wise. so I decided on our ordinary foundation piecing as my method. If you want to try it another way, absolutely go for it! Just promise to link to your project in the comments so we can see!
One more comment before we get started: there are foundation templates out there for crazy quilting, which you can download and follow like any other pattern. I even have a few pinned on my Crazy Quilting Pinterest Board as an example. Feel free to go that way, but to me, a pattern sort of defeats the purpose of crazy quilting! I mean, how is that crazy if mine would be the same exact layout as yours? The point is to use crazy shapes from your scrap bag, and just fit them together as they call to you! Be adventurous and go your own way!
Alrighty, that’s all I have to say about that. Now let’s sew, dangit!
Choose a scrap to start with and plop it somewhere pleasing on your foundation fabric. Wherever feels right. (You can trim the edges of your scraps straight, but I didn’t bother for most of them.)
Now pick a second scrap and lay it over the first, right sides together and edges aligned.
Sew along the aligned edge, right through the foundation fabric, covering the length where both fabrics overlap. I’ve used a 1/4″-ish seam, but it really doesn’t have to be exact or perfect! (If you are using a paper foundation, be sure to shorten your stitch length to a very small stitch. This will help you remove your paper neatly later.)
Now flip your top scrap over:
And press the seam flat with whatever method you prefer.
Do the same for a third scrap, covering the whole length of one edge. Each time you add a scrap, you’ll think of what’s already down as one whole shape that you’re adding to, does that make sense?
Sew it down, just as before, and sew only through the length that both fabrics overlap, not beyond.
As you go, you can trim away any excess bits that hang beyond the last seam. See that little flap of gold dots? That can be trimmed away now – fold back the foundation fabric and just trim with scissors:
Or you can trim with a rotary cutter if you want to be more precise.
You can also stitch down a larger piece, and then trim it afterwards, rather than trying to chose an exactly-fitting scrap. You can see above how I did this with the yellow dots, then trimmed it to align with the edge of the scrap beneath it:
So, basically, that’s it! You’ll just continue this way until you’ve covered your foundation fabric. Pay attention to the design of the fabric layout, but don’t plan too much – it’s supposed to be crazy! Just go with the flow and use your favorite scraps.
Don’t worry about matching the edge of your foundation fabric perfectly, we’ll trim it nice and square next week, so just let the edges be sloppy for now. Here’s how far I am …
… let’s all show off our finished patchwork next Monday – and please just ask if you have any questions!
As you can see above, I’ve made a Pinterest Board for Crazy Quilting (how flipping cool is that little widget?! It refuses to center and sometimes you need to refresh to get it to load, but still! How come I never knew you could do that??) – if you’re interested, please go have a closer look because there’s some really amazing stuff on there. As always, I’m especially smitten with the historical examples – some of the ones I found via the International Quilt Study Center are really special! I’m seriously, like, krazee inspired right now. If only I didn’t have a million zillion projects that need my attention, I’d start right this second!
I’ll do this sampler like a proper tutorial / stitch-along – if you’d like to join me, I’d love to have you sew with me!
Next Monday, we’ll explore how to make the crazy patchwork – I don’t want to get into a project I can’t finish, so I’m planning on a single 12-15″ block for this sampler, to make a little modestly-sized mini-quilt. So gather up:
– a heap of fabric scraps
– a 12-15″ (or whatever size you like!) piece of plain paper as a foundation – or plain white fabric, if you prefer, either is fine
– a rotary cutter / mat / plastic quilting ruler (if you have them)
– basic sewing stuff