Quick-and-Easy Crazy Quilt Patchwork: With 14 Projects


Practical, contemporary approach to fast and fun-filled quilt making provides clear instructions and diagrams for 14 projects: potholders, reversible toaster covers, pincushion, lined shopping bag, place setting, Christmas wreath and stocking, tea cozy, glass case, shirt, caftan, Christmas ornaments, a tablecloth, and a contemporary crazy quilt.

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Quick-and-Easy Crazy Quilt Patchwork: With 14 Projects

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Practical, contemporary approach to fast and fun-filled quilt making provides clear instructions and diagrams for 14 projects: potholders, reversible toaster covers, pincushion, lined shopping bag, place setting, Christmas wreath and stocking, tea cozy, glass case, shirt, caftan, Christmas ornaments, a tablecloth, and a contemporary crazy quilt.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486271064
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 5/17/2012
  • Series: Dover Needlework Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 72
  • Sales rank: 1,236,990
  • Product dimensions: 8.35 (w) x 10.94 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Quick-and-Easy Crazy Quilt Patchwork

With 14 Projects

By Dixie Haywood

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1977 Dixie Haywood
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-16174-7


A Short Look at the Victorian Crazy Quilt

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Victorian crazy quilt came into fashion with a vengeance. Earlier bed quilts had undoubtedly been made of oddshaped pieces stitched together, but they were a far cry from the Victorian crazy quilt, made of velvets, satins, ribbons, fine wools, and other fabrics considered elegant. The fabric was applied to a backing with embroidery that was frequently spectacular; many times the fabric seems to disappear under the onslaught of stitchery.

Their use peaking in the period from 1870 to 1900, Victorian crazy quilts came into fashion at a time when factory bedding was beginning to be generally available, at least in settled areas where people had cash for such purchases. Crazy quilting, a leisure activity, was quite different from the practical necessity of providing warm bedding that motivated traditional quilt makers. I think it fair to assume, however, that the two activities went on simultaneously in many households.

I was tempted to call this chapter "A Kind Word for the Crazy Quilt," since there are so few kind words for the Victorian crazy quilt among writers on the American quilt. At best, American Victorian crazy quilts are damned with faint praise: words frequently used are a "brontosaurus of American patchwork," "evolutionary dead end," or "in bad taste," "incoherent," and "decadent."

I agree with many appraisals of the Victorian crazy quilt, especially when they are judged as quilts per se. As quilts they are useless—the fabric is often fragile and is usually unwashable, batting is rarely inserted, and they are neither warm nor functional. But they were not made to be used as bed quilts, and it seems unfair to judge the Victorian crazy quilt by the same criteria as a patchwork or applique quilt.

I believe Victorian crazy quilts can best be appreciated as fabric collages that served as showcases for the maker's skill in fancy needlework. They should be judged on that basis. To paraphrase an old nursery rhyme, when they were done well, they were magnificent; when they were bad, they were horrid!

I have seen crazy quilts that were made on the western frontier when it was still rough pioneer country, and my imagination is drawn to the women who made them. Unlike those of their city sisters farther east, their long days were filled with hard and sometimes dangerous work. It surely must have been difficult to justify time for such impractical activity, even to preserve family memories in fabric. I somehow think the justification was not only the status of having a crazy quilt draped over a piece of parlor furniture, displaying the maker's ability with a needle, but also the hunger for something colorful and, yes, even impractical.

It seems to me that the charm of the Victorian crazy quilt is more emotional than critical. True, there are many crazy quilts in which the fabric and stitchery transcend fussiness and gentility to become folk art at its best. But what is also fascinating is the hundreds of hours of work for its own sake. How extravagant! In our too-busy lives, it leaves us in awe and explains much of the enchantment this "brontosaurus of American patchwork" has for us.


Contemporary Crazy Quilting

I continue to be charmed by the old crazy quilts, with their rich textures and colors and beautiful stitchery. When I started designing, however, I was seeking function as well as charm. The result is what I have come to call contemporary crazy quilting.

Contemporary crazy quilting, unlike the traditional style, is actually quilting; that is, it is a "cloth sandwich" with a middle layer of batting. The batting gives the rich texture that in the Victorian crazy quilt was furnished by lovely, but often delicate, fabrics. It also gives padding that makes it possible to use the technique for objects such as glasses cases, tea cozies, pot holders, placemats, and tablecloths. And batting provides warmth, making possible quilts that are practical as well as beautiful.

Compared to the hand methods of earlier times, contemporary crazy quilting is quickly done. This technique appeals to quilt lovers who lack the skill or patience for the precision demanded by traditional patchwork and appliqué, since the basic process requires neither. It works especially well for shapes that are difficult to lay out in the strict geometry of traditional patchwork patterns. Best of all, contemporary crazy quilting allows unlimited potential for original interpretation.

The basis for making any item by this method involves putting together a "blank" in the appropriate shape. The blank consists of blank fabric and batting cut to the same size and stitched together. Crazy quilting is then machine stitched onto the blank. The crazy quilting can be done by hand if no machine is available, but there is no advantage to working by hand in this process; if anything, machine stitching enhances the quilt aspect. No machine stitching shows in the finished piece.

The choice of a suitable backing fabric for the blank depends on the object being made. Where body is needed, as in a purse or glasses case, regular Pellon* is used. The weight of the Pellon depends on how much firmness is desired, but it is important not to use the all-bias variety, since it does not hold a firm shape. In clothing, where minimum bulk is desirable, a lightweight cotton lining fabric works well. For most other projects, a muslin-weight cotton is a good choice, and this is a way to use up those odd pieces of fabric.

It is crucial that the backing fabric be preshrunk. If you are using unbleached muslin, I recommend washing it twice, because sometimes it continues to shrink on the second washing. When I have it, I like to use salvageable portions of worn sheets. The weight is right, their washability is unquestionable, and I can feel virtuous about recycling.

I use only polyester batting, and find the bonded type easiest to cut and handle. Batting is available in different weights and degrees of puffiness. It is important to pick a weight appropriate for the purpose. I use a light type in clothing. For placemats and tablecloths I use a medium-weight batting that will not be so puffy that dishes might be unstable on it. For most things, however, I like to use the heaviest batting available. Lightweight batting can be used in multiple layers, so you can experiment with effects that different weights of batting give. It's a good idea to decrease the batting weight as the weight of the fabric used increases, unless you are aiming for a bulky effect.

When you have constructed the blank, pick out the fabric you want to use. Since most of the patterns I have worked out have been for useful objects, I have been interested in using fabrics for crazy quilting that are easily cared for and relatively durable. I use with success fabrics ranging from eyelet to corduroy. My students have done some imaginative things using double knits, upholstery fabrics, and worn denims.

Be sure your fabric is preshrunk and colorfast. Press it before you start sewing. Don't iron fabric once it is quilted to the batting, unless you want to flatten it. I usually cut or tear large pieces of fabric into six- to eight-inch widths for easier handling. Scraps are left as they are. Although most shapes are cut after the fabric has been sewn in place, the shape and size of scraps often suggest placement. In fact, my best results have come as the scraps pile up in odd shapes; a large, uncut piece of fabric seems to inhibit my imagination!

Although there is no limit to the amount of different fabrics you can use in a single piece of crazy quilting, I like to pick out two or three prints and two solid fabrics that go well together. If not enough fabrics are used, there is the possibility of getting into a situation where you have to cross a section of crazy quilting with one of the same fabrics in the section. Too many fabrics can give your finished piece an incoherent look.

Small prints are more effective than large ones, because cutting a large print often makes the print out of proportion to the size of the piece, and the fabric pattern thus becomes meaningless and confusing to the overall design. Stitchery shows up best on solid fabrics, so it is important to balance the pieces of print fabric with solid colors that will showcase your stitchery. Even with the added texture of the batting, crazy quilting still derives much of its charm from the stitchery on it; stitchery brings the whole piece to life.

Developing a feel for the shapes used in crazy quilting can be achieved only by practice, but my students are always surprised at how quickly they start seeing design possibilities as they play with piecing the blank. One suggestion is to think small, for most beginners start by using too many large pieces. Another suggestion is to think in terms of curves. They are not only interesting from a design standpoint, but are also a solution to the box you can get into when too many angles come together. Curves cannot be machinestitched into place. They are pinned on and closed with stitchery later, so it works best to have at least one fabric along the curve be a solid color. Long, narrow strips are often effective, but I use almost no squares or rectangles. (An exception to this is the tea cozy, but it is a variation of the technique using planned shapes and is not strictly crazy quilting.)

The excitement of crazy quilting comes when your own design takes shape. Don't worry that you may have no talent for shape, color, or texture; it's at least 90 percent practice. The first piece is the hardest. Get out those scraps of fabric and start!

Cut batting and blank fabric to the desired shape. Choose the fabric to be used, and press it.

Machine baste the batting and blank fabric together to form the blank. For the easiest stitching, sew with the blank fabric on top, using the seam allowance desired for the finished piece.

When bulk in the seams is undesirable, trim the batting from the seam allowance. (Read the directions for the project before trimming—sometimes batting is needed in the seam allowance.)

Turn the batting side up. Cut the first piece of fabric to the desired shape and pin it, right side up, in the upper left-hand corner. Do not place the pin where you will machine-stitch across it, as it may cause a pleat to be formed. Left-handed sewers may prefer to work from the upper right-hand corner.

Place the next fabric to be used, uncut, right side down over the first piece and machine sew, using a long stitch. Do not pin the top piece.

Open the fabric to the right side and cut it to the desired shape if necessary. Pin open the piece to keep it from moving out of place as the next piece is sewn over it.

Continue, sewing with the right sides together, opening and cutting to shape, then pinning in place. Generally work from the upper left corner to the lower right.

Only straight lines can be machine-stitched. When you wish to add a curve, pin it in place right side up. The seam will be closed with stitchery when the piece is finished. To achieve a smooth curve, clip the concave curves, and trim and press the convex curves.

When sewing a light-colored fabric over a darker one, set the light fabric to cover the edge of the darker one completely, taking a deeper seam than usual if necessary. When the light fabric is opened, you don't want the seam allowance of the dark fabric to show through underneath. This photo illustrates the incorrect placement of a light fabric.

A piecing problem that most beginners encounter is how to handle a right angle (1). Three possible solutions: Pin a curve over the angle and close it with stitchery (2); sew across the angle to form a straight seam, then trim out the excess fabric (3 and 4); sew the piece to one side of the angle, turn under the second side and pin it, then close it with stitchery (5 & 6).

When the blank is covered, trim the crazy quilting to the same size as the blank and machine baste around the piece on the wrong side, using a slightly narrower seam allowance than will be used in the finished item. Or, if you have a machine with a zigzag stitch, it works even better to zigzag-stitch along the edge.

You are now ready to apply stitchery and construct your project.


Stitchery for Crazy Quilting

Stitchery is the finishing touch that brings your crazy quilting to life. There are really no rules as to what stitches to use and where to put them, though as I indicated in Chapter 2, stitchery is more effective on solid colors than on prints. The fabric in Victorian crazy quilts was put together with stitchery, so every edge was covered. I have found that unnecessary and even undesirable with contemporary crazy quilting. Stitchery is an accent that enhances colors in the fabric and texture of the batting, but it should not dominate.

Experiment with different threads. I use cotton embroidery thread most often, embroidering with all six strands. I have also used a nylon velvet thread that is available at some needlepoint shops, acrylic yarn in different weights, and rayon embroidery thread.

The following stitches are the ones I use most frequently. Try them out, add some of your favorites, and keep an eye out for new stitches to add to your repertoire.

The blanket stitch. Bring the needle through at the line to be followed (A). Insert the needle at a right angle to the thread at the desired depth (B) and cross over the thread (C). Pull to form a loop.

Variations of the blanket stitch are useful and add variety. Vary the length and spacing of stitches.

Work one row of the blanket stitch. Turn the piece upside down and work back. This is effective in two colors.

Work the blanket stitch. Then work back with diagonal stitches.

For another buttonhole variation, bring the needle through at the line to be followed (A). Insert the needle from B to A, B to C, B to D. The next group starts from E to D and follows the same pattern.

From top to bottom: Herringbone stitch, herringbone star stitch, chevron stitch, feather stitch, cross-stitch.

Herringbone stitch. Bring the needle through at A and insert it at B, taking a short backstitch to C. Repeat the backstitch from D to E. Continue in this manner, working left to right.

Herringbone star stitch. This is one I arrived at by doodling with thread, and it is one of my favorites. Work the basic herringbone stitch, then work back across the backstitches as shown.

Chevron stitch. Bring the needle through at A and insert it at B, taking a backstitch to C. Insert it at D, with a backstitch to E, then insert it at F and bring the thread out again at D.

Feather stitch. This stitch seems to be the one that people have the most trouble learning. It seems easiest to understand if thought of as an alternating blanket stitch worked diagonally. Bring the needle through at A and insert it at B, exiting across the thread at C. Pull to form a loop. Insert the needle at D, exiting across the thread at E. Continue from F to G.

Cross-stitch. This is a difficult stitch to do evenly without threads to count, but it is effective on some fabrics. Working evenly, making a row of parallel stitches, A to B, C to D, etc. Then work back, 1 to 2, 3 to 4, forming crosses.

From top to bottom, left to right: Running stitch, star stitch, star flower, sheaf stitch, fern stitch, fern stitch variation.

Running stitch. Here's a simple one that is useful to outline pieces too small to work a pattern stitch on.

Star stitch. This is an accent stitch that I use for a personal signature. It is simply four straight stitches crossed.


Excerpted from Quick-and-Easy Crazy Quilt Patchwork by Dixie Haywood. Copyright © 1977 Dixie Haywood. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


I. A Short Look at the Victorian Crazy Quilt,
II. Contemporary Crazy Quilting,
III. Stitchery for Crazy Quilting,
IV. The Project Section,
1 Pincushion,
2 Place Setting,
3 Glasses Case,
4 Pot Holder,
5 Reversible Toaster Cover,
6 Tea Cozy,
7 Christmas Stocking,
8 Christmas Ornaments,
9 Christmas Wreath,
10 Shopping Bag,
11 Purse,
12 Tablecloth,
13 Clothing,
14 Quilt,

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