Crazy Quilting Tutorial: Part 1, Making Patchwork

Last week, I introduced Sampler #10 – Crazy Quilting – and invited you guys to join me! If you’re up for it, today we’re going to make the patchwork foundation for our mini-Crazy Quilts – it’s so much fun!

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:

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

– 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!

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

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.)

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

Now pick a second scrap and lay it over the first, right sides together and edges aligned.

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

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:

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

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?

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

Sew it down, just as before, and sew only through the length that both fabrics overlap, not beyond.

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

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:

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

Or you can trim with a rotary cutter if you want to be more precise.

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

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:

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

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 …

Crazy Quilting Tutorial, Part 1

… let’s all show off our finished patchwork next Monday – and please just ask if you have any questions!

Chapter 3: Wildwood Flower (the end)

Wildwood Flower - finished

It took about two months, with lots of breaks in between to make decisions, but my mini-quilt is bound, signed, and ready to hang. It’s been named Wildwood Flower after the lovely Carter Family song of the same name. Well, it’s not an original Carter Family song, but they did it so wonderfully and perfectly that it became their song the minute they recorded it. No one’s ever been able to top it and I doubt they ever will. I don’t know a lot about 30s music, but The Carter Family is, in my head, what the 30s must’ve sounded like. These fabrics look like how The Carter Family sounds: simple but beautiful, bright and cheerful but ever so slightly faded.

Plus, I’m a music nerd and I just can’t help naming stuff after songs.

Wildwood Flower - finished

A few notes about this project:

– Every dang stitch of this – piecing, applique, quilting, and binding – was sewn by hand, and with almost no real modern tools. Just scissors, cardboard templates, needle, thread. This was not a plan, it was a little bit necessity and a little bit accident. Being away from my machines, I knew I’d be sewing by hand, but I didn’t really consider what I’d do without a rotary cutter, a big cutting mat, that sort of thing. I pretty much figured it out as I went using ordinary household materials. Cutting small patchwork pieces was a cinch with little cardboard templates and a ruler; I even used a wee strip template to mark 1/4″ seams on everything. Cutting the large cream pieces was more difficult – I was terrified I’d mess it up and have no more to work with (I was very strict about using only materials and tools that I already had for this project).

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Having recently been to the amazing quilt exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, this mini-quilt gave me a cool little glimpse of what quilting must’ve been like before all our modern fanciness. I’ll still use the tools that I have, of course, but it did make me think that a lot of them are really not necessary. Sure, they speed up the process, but where am I in such a hurry to get? It was nice not to rush through a project for once. I admit those tools can help with precision as well, but I’m convinced my cardboard templates were just as accurate.

Wildwood Flower - finished

– Except the center circle of the Dresden Plate, all of the prints came from a 30s-themed jelly roll (ordered from The Quilt Room about a year ago). I love pre-cut fabric packs – they give you a lot of design bang for your buck, especially if you’re trying to craft cheaply, and they force you be creative with their limitations. But then, I do tend to love small projects, or at least projects with small pieces – it’s like knitting socks: when working small, you get a lot of entertainment out of a small amount of material.

Wildwood Flower - finished

I’ve been reunited with my machines and I’m already back to whipping up some quick projects (see yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday photo for a little peek), but I do hope I continue to sew by hand here and there. I loved every minute of this project and it gave me what I think could be a really great idea for the future. More on that in good time!

(More photos in my Flickr photostream!)

Ch.2: In which I curse the weather and ponder quilting options

Dresden Plate top finished

Is anyone else wondering what happened to the summer? I think we scared it away. Now it’s all rain and cool temperatures and, most importantly, crappy light for photos. My already deep respect for other crafty bloggers has gone up by at least 36% just in the last few days, as I’ve tried multiple times to grab a few decent photos during the 10-minute not-as-dark intervals we’ve had. (We had a lovely day earlier this week, perfect for photos, on the one day I was busy all day. Of course.)

This is what I’ve learned about crafty blogging – it’s darn tricky to get good photos when the weather won’t behave. Sometimes weeks will go by with nothing but photo-worthy skies, and then sometimes the weather is just an unending pit of gloom. I’m learning how to adapt, but I’m sure there will be some less-than-awesome photos posted here along the way. I snapped these during a weird gorgeous pocket yesterday, smack in the middle of a day of downpours. That’s how we roll in Amsterdam.

Dresden Plate top finished

My Dresden Plate mini-quilt top and back are now finished! The only photos that came out even a little usable were the close-ups, so you’ll have to wait until I’ve finished to see the whole. These should give you the idea of how the border worked out – not nearly as tediously as I’d expected, given that every stitch was sewn by hand. I’m really loving this hand-sewing thing; I hope I still do some projects by hand after I’m reunited with my machines.

Dresden Plate back finished

The backing has just a simple pieced strip, same as the borders on the top. I’d love to say there was some really well-reasoned idea behind that, but it was actually because I’d accidentally left myself no piece of the cream fabric big enough to cover the back. But as Bob Ross used to say, there’s no mistakes, just happy accidents. I like the stripe, it’s pretty and I’ll like knowing there’s a little something going on on the back even though no one will see it.

I’m nearly ready to quilt, but I have no idea how. I had originally thought I’d use a thicker thread with some sort of light color so the quilting stitches would be a little more visible. But now I think that would just be too distracting, so I guess I’ll stick with a cream thread of some type. As for the design … I got nothin’, any ideas? Well, I do actually have one half-formed idea, but I’m not impressed with how that will look on the back and I can’t decide if that matters. I think I’ll just baste my quilt sandwich tonight and stare at it for a while, in the hopes that some amazing idea will present itself to me, all worked out and ready to go. It could happen. I already know exactly how I’ll do the binding, I’ve got some ideas for how to sign / tag it on the back, and I’ve got two potential names for it already picked out. So if the quilting fairies would please drop an idea into my head, I’d be very grateful.

My new go-to everyday bag

Every day, I take a 5-ish kilometer walk around the lake near my apartment. Craftin’ can involve a lot sittin’, I’m sure you know, and you need something to fight that. I’ve started going first thing in the morning so it’s nice and quiet and, most days, it’s a lovely walk. Just me and an audiobook or some musics and the sunshine (sometimes – this is Holland, after all).

My sittin' spot

If it is a sunny day, I’m usually about 10 seconds from completely melting by the time I get to this point. This here is my Sittin’ Spot – another reason I like going in the morning, this spot is very rarely taken that early. You can’t really see it here, but nearly the whole other side of the lake is in direct sunlight. That sounds lovely, but can be a bit much on a really bright day. This is the perfect spot to stop for ten or fifteen minutes and enjoy the breeze. (As you can see, I share my spot with a family of … some kind of birds. But that’s ok, we all mind our own business and get along just fine.)

Because I have much common sense, I always take a bottle of water with me, and some band-aids and whatnot. The usual always-in-your-bag stuff. And my iPod. Also a couple of notebooks for ideas. And often an umbrella (this is Holland, after all). Every single day, I throw all that stuff into my new very favorite go-to bag for everyday stuff.

Reversible Tote

This is the Reversible Bag from the ridiculously skilled Very Purple Person. I did a test version first with some adorable Ikea fabric (photos here) before I cut into this beautiful Tanya Whelan fabric (from the Dolce line). I knew I wanted to use those two fabrics for a summer handbag, but I’d originally envisioned something small – similar to the Buttercup bag (of which I have made many), but slouchier. I only bought a quarter meter of each, figuring that’d be plenty to patchwork into something small and cute. Of course I ran into the Reversible Bag after that and loved it. What’s not to love? It’s got the simplest possible construction and all kinds of understated style with that lovely rounded bottom.

Reversible Tote Detail

Construction was basically as you’d expect, patchworking the Dolce fabrics into one side, cutting the other from an Amy Butler Love print that somehow worked very nicely with the others. The only thing worth noting about my method was that I had a very particular sense of what I wanted it to feel like. It had to be slouchy like a tote, but squishy for some reason, and sturdy enough to feel substantial. The squishy was easily achieved with a layer of ordinary quilt batting, stitched to the patchwork side. Rather than interfacing which can make things kind of crunchy, I added a fourth layer of Ikea cotton canvas. I have a stash of bargain bin Ikea fabrics that I’m not likely to ever use as a feature fabric but come in incredibly useful for this sort of thing. I read this as a tip somewhere – to use canvas instead of interfacing; I’ve never been able to track down where, but it’s been a winner for me several times.

Reversible Tote Slouchin'

This bag is one of my favorite things I’ve ever made – it’s the perfect size, extremely durable with so few seams, and infinitely customizable. I take it absolutely everywhere and it’s good for pretty much any occasion. I have a feeling there will be many more of these in my future.