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Crazy quilting: it's freedom!

Updated on March 7, 2016
JanTUB profile image

Quilter, author, tutor, columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been enthusing others with her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

Crazy doesn't mean mad. It means no fixed pattern.

Crazy quilters love the freedom that doing their own thing with even the tiniest scrap of ribbon or some satin from a much-loved dress...

One of my students, Margaret, is currently learning how to do crazy patchwork. She's making a quilt for a young girl with crazy patch corner blocks. (One of the blocks is shown in the photo.)

Frugality

or foolishness?

Making-do was a catch phrase of old, but making-do with tiny scraps of fabrics and ribbons to produce quilts must surely be the height of foolishness.

But they are so pretty, and fascinating to explore in detail.

Women collected cigar ribbons to sew into the quilts, while many embroidered oriental motifs into the blocks.

Characteristics of crazy patchwork

quite elaborate work

Crazy patchwork is based on using many differing sized pieces of fabric scraps.

The seamstress applied the tiny pieces to a background foundation of fabric, each piece overlapping the previous one until the whole background was covered.

Often the fabric scraps were from evening gowns or lacy fabrics, and were prone to fraying. The ladies oversewed the seams with embroidery stitches to prevent the patches from fraying.

This made for quite beautiful patchwork, glistening jewel colours in shiny fabrics beside rich deep velvets.

I love the texture and richness of old crazy quilts.

Spider webs, fans, flowers, names

good luck symbols of Victorian times

A spider web is often seen on old crazy quilts, with spider dangling on it somewhere.

Fans of all shapes and sizes are also frequently present.

Many quilts have beautiful floral embroideries on the blocks, and even the names of special people on them.

Cigar silks were sewn in, making shiny accents.

Antique American Crazy quilt - by Granny Irwin


Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Tennessee

Photo from Wikipedia

Seams amazing!

stitched in lots of colourful threads

Ladies began to show off their embroidery skills while covering the seams with stitches, combining stitches together to make wonderful new stitch designs.

They used floss, silk thread, silk ribbon, wool...

Stitches commonly found - on crazy patch quilts are:

  • Herringbone
  • Blanket
  • Feather
  • Wheat
  • French knots
  • Bullion roses
  • Fly
  • Chevron
  • Cretan
  • Chain
  • Lazy daisy

Some embroidery stitches - for you to follow

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Crazy but beautiful - gypsy colours or classic cream

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Collar in creams using satins, laces, silks, ribbons, pearls, beadsGypsy collar in silks, satins, laces, cord, faille, figured satinEvening chemise, half black on black, half multi-colouredDetail of couched balck cord on black figured satinDetail of colourful fan with meandering couched cordStart of a vest
Collar in creams using satins, laces, silks, ribbons, pearls, beads
Collar in creams using satins, laces, silks, ribbons, pearls, beads
Gypsy collar in silks, satins, laces, cord, faille, figured satin
Gypsy collar in silks, satins, laces, cord, faille, figured satin
Evening chemise, half black on black, half multi-coloured
Evening chemise, half black on black, half multi-coloured
Detail of couched balck cord on black figured satin
Detail of couched balck cord on black figured satin
Detail of colourful fan with meandering couched cord
Detail of colourful fan with meandering couched cord
Start of a vest
Start of a vest

Angela and Ian - on their wedding day


Cream laces and satins, apricot silk ribbon flowers the same colour as her bouquet.

Contemporary crazy

no seam embellishment

Modern style crazy patch is sewn by machine and needs no seam covering, as the seams are very strong.

By its nature, modern crazy patchwork is simple, unfussy.

I often use this as a background for the heavily machine-embroidered focal points, like the rosellas below.

Modern crazy patch - Rosellas in my garden

Rosellas in my garden
Rosellas in my garden | Source

© 2009 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

Are you a crazy quilter?

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    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      I always thought this would be an excellent present for my psychologist! :) Actually isn't this a metaphor for our lives: we put little pieces together, don't really see a pattern, and sometimes it seems like we don't have any say on what pieces we are being given - yet we concentrate on making the details beautiful somehow the whole ends up that way too. Pinned to my board Sewing and Quilts and Angel Blessed.

    • beckyf profile image

      beckyf 6 years ago

      I love crazy quilts. I haven't made one yet myself though.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 6 years ago

      I've never done this, but I want to try. You have inspired me to get going.

    • AbigailsCrafts LM profile image

      AbigailsCrafts LM 6 years ago

      I just spent my weekend making my first two crazy quilt blocks It took all weekend because I went a bit nuts on the embroidaery) - it seems very addictive! I have ideas floating round my head for at least a dozen more blocks already *lol*

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 6 years ago

      Haven't done any crazy quilting, but it looks fun!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I had a crazy quilt that my Mom made, a fun memory....I loved looking at all the patches. I love your elegant ideas.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      I think that I've read all your lenses on crazy quilting. Still waiting for time to try it.

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 7 years ago from Australia

      @dc64 lm: My superior sewingness! Good heavens! Thanks for the nice comment. They used to call crazy quilter.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 7 years ago

      I can't even work a sewing machine, so if I did make a quilt it would be crazy for real. I bow to your superior sewingness!

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 7 years ago from Australia

      @marsha32: I hope you make the time. It's really freedom

    • profile image

      marsha32 7 years ago

      I recently bought a book on crazy quilting...I've not had time to check it out yet.

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to happynutritionist] Thanks for those lovely words. Get crazy!

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 8 years ago

      This is just wonderful! I am a new quilter, and want to do something that isn't...well...so organized, free, a little wild and crazy, and this fits perfectly! Thanks for the beautiful pictures, 5 stared and lensrolled into my Singer Featherweight lens. ~claudia

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to poutine] Do you still have any of them? Love to see them.

    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      I remember my mom doing "crazy patchwork" blankets when

      I was growing up in Quebec, Canada.

      Poutine

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to a_willow] Thank you, Michelle. And the mentoring via the WiWon team.

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 8 years ago from Croatia

      Congratulations on your purple star Jan! :)

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to Wysiwigs] Pleased to hear that you like this lens. Thanks for that!

    • EpicFarms profile image

      EpicFarms 8 years ago

      Nope, but I sure do like this lens :o) I'd never heard of crazy quilting, but it's a great idea for all of those leftover scraps! Nicely done lens.

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to Stazjia] Wow! All in crazy-patch? You really do love crazy quilting. Thanks for the gifts.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Yes, I'm a crazy quilter. I started quilting with traditional styles but I love the freedom of crazy quilting and take time to position plain coloured and patterned fabrics for best effect. I've made two big double bed quilts and some smaller throws.

      Lovely lens, 5* from me.

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to AppalachianCountry] My first love as a quilter was crazy patch and I still love it after nearly 30 years. So glad you liked the lens.

    • AppalachianCoun profile image

      AppalachianCoun 8 years ago

      Great lens. We have a couple of crazy quilts. We enjoy them all winter long. Thank-you for all the detail on crazy quilts.

    • JanTUB profile image
      Author

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 8 years ago from Australia

      [in reply to bdkz] Thank you so much!

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      Beautiful lens!