Dear Quilt Doctor,
I picked up a crazy quilt at the local antique auction last week. It’s so beautiful, and the stitching is just wonderful! I’m crazy about it! Can you tell me a little about crazy quilts and how they’re made? Thanks!
Brenda Lee Watkins
Lone Oak, WV
Dear Brenda Lee,
Wow, you are lucky! No one wants to take the time to make them any more, so you really have a gem on your hands.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, quilters went a little wild experimenting with their designs, using a wide array of fabrics and embellishments in their projects. These came to be known as crazy quilts. Each block showed off the needlework skills of the stitcher. As popular as they were, they weren’t very functional and were more for decoration.
Because crazy quilting used foundation blocks, quilters could easily use bias-edge fabric. It also offered the opportunity to use a variety of fabrics, such as silk, taffeta, and velvet, which were probably leftovers from garment sewing.
To make a crazy quilt block of your own, start with a muslin foundation square or rectangle 1/2" larger than what you want it to be finished. Select a piece of fabric with a straight edge and place it right side up in the middle of the foundation. Place another piece right side down over the first piece, lining up the straight edges. Sew along the cut edges with a 1/4" seam allowance. Finger-press the top piece open and trim the ends so they are even with the smallest piece. Keep on adding fabric until you extend past the edges of the muslin foundation. When you’re done, trim the excess fabric even with the muslin.
Now the fun begins! Pull out your embroidery stitch book and go crazy with stitches along all of the seams. After you’ve made and embellished as many blocks as you want, stitch them together. You can keep on adding to the decoration with buttons, ribbon, and charms.
Go wild, you crazy quilter!
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