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Crazy Quilt Patchwork
By Mary Asper, Green Mountain Designs


This month's lesson is an excerpt from my book, Jumpermania.  A complete discussion of design, fabric selection, techniques and embellishments is included in the book.  For Variation One, in the book, I used a variety of specialty fabrics such as cotton velveteen, moiré taffeta, bridal satin and a jacquard.  Variation Two was done in wool - everything from new wool yardage to recycled wool and hand dyes.   Here are some other suggestions for fabric choices:

Corduroy - a fine or baby wale soft corduroy would work best.   There are many lovely corduroy prints available - a mixture of prints and solids or tone on tones would be successful

Japanese Ikats - although the large, open prints of Japanese origin would not be suitable for Crazy Quilt, the ikats lend themselves nicely to this design.   The sparing use of a wonderful shiborui would also be successful.  Think about using a large, sashiko like stitch for the embellishment.

Tapestries - if you are careful of the weight, fabrics intended for home decor can make great crazy quilt bodices.  Consider using a corduroy, velveteen or matching lightweight tapestry for the skirt with a mixture of tapestry  prints for the bodice

Seasonal or Theme Fabrics - such as Christmas prints (especially those gorgeous red and green ones with gold metallic), Halloween prints, farm animal allover prints, etc.  Over the years I have made a BOO! Jumper; one with only critter fabrics; a fish project with many brightly colored prints and many Christmas jumpers.   I don't recommend extensive stitching and beading for a theme project; often the mixture of fabrics can speak for itself.


The key to good Crazy Quilt design is choosing fabrics of like   intensity but varied hue, texture and pattern. Follow these guidelines as you choose fabric for your Crazy Quilt:

Intensity - whether dark, light or medium; bright or muddy; bright or pastel; avoid high contrasts in the coordinates you choose.  An extremely dark fabric (as compared to the rest) will create a visual dark hole, causing that area to recede from the rest of the bodice,  An extremely light or bright fabric will jump off the surface and attract undue attention.  Fabrics tend to change intensity in relationship to other fabrics - for example, a medium blue fabric can darken next to and intense navy or lighten next to a clear sky blue.  Think of creating an artists' palette as you choose fabric for your Crazy Quilt, and look at each one as it relates to the others you have chosen.  Remove any that don't seem to live in harmony with the rest.

Hue - Crazy Quilt can successfully vary from monochromatic to rainbow hued if contrast and balance are carefully considered .  Contrast is intensity, as discussed above.  Balance relates to your actual color choices.   For example, three high contrast colors (perhaps yellow, black and red) can be used successfully if balanced across the surface of your design.  The eye tends to like to see things in off numbers, so if your contrasting areas are placed in an odd-numbered "path" that keeps the eye traveling across the surface, the use of contrast CAN be successful.  You want to be able to see a "whole picture" all at once (like a good painting), but also have the eye interested enough that it is enticed to travel across the canvas.

Texture - refers to the feel of a fabric.  A woolly tweed would have a rough texture while a bridal satin is smooth.  The goal is to strike a balance between too much variation in texture and too little.  Using all the same texture (such as all satin) can be boring but too great a variation (every fabric a different texture) is confusing.  Select a range of three or four textures which vary only cotton prints, wool or similar fabrics you will want to rely on variation in pattern rather than texture.

Pattern - is the density and scale of a print and can range from tint bouquets sprinkled sparsely across the surface of a fabric to large, tightly spaced cabbage roses.  Each of these is too extreme for crazy quilting.  Patterns that are too loosely spaced will cut up as solids or with unbalanced pattern.  The large patterns can be interesting but the pattern will be lost and hue will change when cut up.   consider the effective use of solids  balanced with pattern, to give the eye a rest as it travels across the surface of the bodice.  Vary patterns in scale and density within a reasonable range.  Too much pattern will confuse the eye and leave no design space for embellishment.  The goal is to create an overall picture that interests the eye without jarring it.

Here is a technique that I developed for constructing crazy quilt patchwork to accommodate wool, velveteen's and other fabrics that are too thick to seam.   This method is particularly useful in making crazy patchwork for garments.   Although many traditional crazy quilts are simply fabrics butted together (not seamed) and thickly covered with embroidery, I felt that a garment should have some more stability to weather laundering.

1.    Cut your garment shape (jacket front; jumper bodice; vest front; whatever you are making) from stabilizer a size larger than the garment size you intend to make.  *I like to use a product called Pellon Stabilizer, middleweight for garments.  The stabilizer is then left in the garment to provide stability for the piecing.  ** For quilt blocks, I would use a tear-away stabilizer or typing paper, which can be torn off easily.  ** Again for quilt blocks, cut your stabilizer approximately 1" larger on each size ( for example, if making a 61/2" block, cut your stabilizer 81/2" square.

2.    Select a piece of fabric that is rectangular - approximately 4" wide by 4 to 6" long.  Cut this rectangle into an irregular polygon.  Place slightly off center at the bottom and in one corner of the stabilizer.  Baste in place with small safety pins.

3.    Choose the next piece of fabric to add and fit it to one side of the polygon.  Do not allow for seams; there won't be any.   Simply butt the two fabrics together, making sure the edges are straight and that they fit.  Think ahead about what angles you want to create.  You will not be stitching your next piece across the others so you have little more flexibility.   Trim this piece of fabric to the  shape you desire and pin baste it in place.

4.    Add the next piece of fabric to the next edge of the polygon, trimming, so it will fit the edges of both the first and second piece you laid down.  Pin, baste.

5.    Continue building the patchwork as you work out from the polygon you placed in first.  I use a lot of triangles; other piecers use many curves and other shapes.  As long as you can butt two pieces together closely (no stabilizer showing underneath) you can be as creative as you please.  As you work, safety pin all the fabric pieces in place until the entire stabilizer is covered.

6.    Now you will zig-zag stitch all the fabric sections to the stabilizer, using the following process:
a)    Start near the center of the patch or garment section.
b)    Use invisible monofilament thread in the needle and neutral cotton thread in the bobbin.
c)    Set your machine for a medium width zig-zag.  You must be able to embroider over these stitches without them showing. 
d)    Plan your sewing so that you can work from the center out toward on corner at a time.
e)    Making sure the two raw edges are butted tightly, zig-zag the first two center pieces together along their shared edge.  Remove pins from both these pieces.
f)    Continue to the next set of shared raw edges, following the next few tips as you sew.
g)   Stitch down smaller pieces in groups before completing longer seams.
h)   Sew from the center out as much as possible
i)    Remove safety pins as you go and smooth the fabric into place.   When you are finished, your patchwork should be completely flat.
j)    If necessary, press as you sew to make sure pieces are completely flat.  If you are sewing on wool or flannel be careful with the steam and the pressure; too much will distort your pieces.

Make sure to cover your entire stabilizer foundation with the crazy quilt piecing. Once that is done, trim the piecing fabrics to the edge of your stabilizer.   Don't cut the stabilizer or garment piece down to size before completing your chosen embellishments, as the embellishing process can shrink the piece somewhat.

Now you go girls!  Crazy Quilt is creative, fun and interesting - here's hoping you're inspired to a new project soon!!

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