Thursday, February 25, 2016

Crazy Quilts, Session 2: Marking and Stitching Motifs

Sometimes, like on this crazy quilt that I (Teri) found in an antique store not too long ago, the focus is primarily the fabrics. This particular quilt is quite beautiful in its simplicity, using silk ties for the blocks, all rectangular in shape, with ribbon for sashing. The only stitch used as embellishment on the seams between the blocks, as well as on the ribbon, is the herringbone stitch. The magic of such a quilt is the study of the variety of fabrics from the neckties. What a lovely memory quilt this could be! This is surely an idea for me to file away for someday (hopefully in the far distant future) to use the many ties in my father's collection. When I was in high school, my dad would ask me every morning if his tie matched his shirt and suit. How I'd love to see all those ties put together, creating warm and wonderful memories. I need to make sure he doesn't start cleaning out his closet and giving away his ties!

Many crazy quilts, however, have fancier stitching done on them, with stitched pictures of flowers or other motifs embroidered in the patches. Sometimes they were even painted on the fabric. You can see several examples of elaborately stitched crazy quilt motifs by looking at the quilts from the American Crazy Quilt Exhibit that were on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art last fall by clicking here and here. The selection of such motifs and how to mark them and stitch them was the focus of the second session in our Crazy Quilt—Start to Finish class. 

Once again, we were able to examine some precious samples of vintage blocks in various stages of completion. We showed you a few of the blocks that Sue brought in last month to share during our first session. On Saturday, she arrived with a pizza box filled with all of the blocks that she had acquired at a yard sale. Now that was quite a score! Who needs pizza when there is a box full of goodies like this?!?

We were able to study and admire the intensive work that this stitcher had accomplished. Her method of construction was much different than ours. From the blocks, it appears that she just turned under the edge and basted the pieces onto a piece of muslin. When the decorative stitches were applied, she then removed the basting stitches. Most blocks had a combination of fabric types, but some were consistent.

This  block was comprised of all silks. She painted the rose on the white, which is actually a piece of ribbon and the only piece not turned under on the edges. 

The pieces on this block were all velvets, basted to keep the edges turned under.

The wonderful students in our class all came with homework completed and blocks made. (It is easier to get a class of stitchers to do their homework than it was a class of fourth or fifth graders to do theirs!) We spent a bit of time reviewing and practicing some basic stitches—stem and outline stitches, backstitch, and knots. Everyone was feeling comfortable with those stitches pretty quickly and were eager to get to the motifs. 

First, we discussed the different methods we have used to transfer the designs onto the crazy quilt squares. Sometimes, the method chosen will be partly determined by the kind of fabric used. For instance, it is easy to transfer a design using transfer paper and the stylus of the Sewline TRIO pen if you have a cotton or satin. The transfer paper comes in white and black, so it will show up on various colors. It doesn't work well, however, on wool or a fabric with a nap, such as velvet or corduroy. For those fabrics, we have tried tracing the design onto several materials: tissue paper (like Golden Threads Quilting Paper), tear-away stabilizer, and even Press'n Seal®. The traced image is then attached to the block, stitched, and then carefully removed by holding the stitches and gently pulling the tracing material away.

Transfer materials, clockwise from left: Golden Threads Quilting Paper, tear-away stabilizer, Glad® Press'n Seal®, a sample block with a design transferred to the center and one traced on Press'n Seal®, and ®Loew Cornell Transfer Paper with the  Sewline TRIOmarking pencil at the bottom.

Here, the design was traced on tear-away stabilizer and pinned on the block to stitch it.

This design was transferred onto the block using the transfer paper; the stitching will cover the design lines.

Studying the blocks to get ideas for motifs and thread colors to choose

The heart was drawn onto the block freehand to stitch the buttonhole heart pictured in the book above. 

Another design drawn on the block using the transfer paper

Practicing stitching a motif using the Press'N Seal® wrap with the design traced on it 

It was exciting for us to see that there was such a variety of methods being attempted in class. It will be fun to see if our stitchers settle on a favorite method, or if their techniques vary depending on the fabric they are using. I have found success with the transfer paper and tear-away stabilizer, but Kara really likes the Press'N Seal® method. I am going to have to try it; I can definitely see its advantages, since it would temporarily adhere to the fabric without shifting or needing pins. There is always some new technique to try!

How about you? Do you have a favorite method of transferring an embroidery design that we have not mentioned here? Please share!


  1. This is great! Thanks for sharing. I never thought of using the press and seal. Ha!

    1. Who knew you could buy quilting supplies at the grocery store?! Thanks for stopping by, Pam!

  2. Hi Teri and Kara,
    Wow! What a great pictorial. I am going to print your article and set it aside to use later when I attempt my own crazy quilt. Of course I've got 3 or 4 other quilts to try first but this is definitely going on my must make quilt list.
    I really enjoy all of your articles. Thanks for taking the time to share these with us. Blessings! ChrisDee

    1. Thank you, ChrisDee! We are thrilled that you are enjoying our blog and using it as a resource. There is always a pile of projects to try on our quilt lists, aren't there? Our lists keeps growing as well!