Thursday, April 7, 2016

Crazy Quilts, Session 3: Ribbon Fun

Could there be any better way to begin a class on crazy quilting than to have a 125-year-old crazy quilt to study, up close and personally? We don't think so!

One of the members of our monthly class brought this beauty to class for us to admire and examine. Her sister had inherited it from her husband's family, and she allowed Sue to borrow it and share it with us. We spent a good deal of time taking pictures and gleaning inspiration from this lovely old quilt—trying all the while not to drool on it. We were so thankful for the generosity in giving us the opportunity to see it. 

This lovely quilt had it all: fancy fabrics, amazing embroidery, ribbon flowers. Since we would be making flowers with ribbon that day, it was a perfect way to begin our class. 

Made in 1890, this quilt was in excellent condition. What wonderful ribbon flowers, made with a simple ribbon stitch—one we would be learning in class. Note the name embroidered here; there are several different names and/or initials throughout the quilt.

          Daisies: stem stitch              
Goldenrod: silk ribbon knots

More ribbon flowers. Note the fraying silk on the right, the only real sign of wear on the quilt. This border was made with long pieces of satin ribbon stitched around the quilt. 
Detail: ribbon border, front, with decorative stitches
Detail: ribbon border, back

Initials "LR" are satin-stitched.

This horseshoe was a favorite motif. Aren't these flowers
exquisite? [Ribbon and satin stitch, with chenille calyxes]
The black velvet circle was attached simply with the decoratively stitched stars.

We finally parted from the quilt to get down to work. We had several ribbon techniques to learn in class. As hard as it was to stop admiring the quilt, everyone was excited to play with ribbon. We were going to be working two different kinds of flowers: one with silk ribbon using the ribbon stitch, as we had observed on the antique quilt, and a gathered rose with French ombré silk wired ribbon.

We decided to start with the gathered flower. I (Teri) think this is one of the simplest ribbon flowers to make. You can make a gathered flower by doing a running stitch along the edge of the ribbon and gathering it. However, we used wired ribbon here, so it was even simpler. A gentle pull on the wire (after securing the wire on one end) gathers the ribbon into a spiral, which can then be manipulated into a flower shape. I gathered the outside edge just a bit to turn the edges under, but as you will see, it would have a much different look if you didn't. My rose, from our fairy tale crazy quilt, is on the left.

Gathered tightly on one edge only

Gathered on one edge, a bit less tightly

Also gathered on one edge only

Gathered on one edge, with a more open center

One edge gathered; an even more open center

One edge gathered more tightly; the outer edge very lightly gathered; beaded "dew drops" 

Both edges gathered; the outer edge just enough to turn under the edges; beaded center with metallic thread

Everyone started with the same 15" piece of ribbon, but the variation in color and how tightly the ribbon was gathered resulted in much different looking flowers. I thought it was fun, if not a bit exciting, to see how different our flowers were, depending on how they were gathered and manipulated. Creativity soared!

The next flower we created was made using two widths of silk ribbon, 7mm and 4mm wide. The one Kara stitched is pictured here, on the right. Again, there was a good bit of variation in the resulting flowers, due to color choices, size, and placement of the petals. It was fun to see how everyone approached making their blooms. Some just eyeballed and stitched, and some carefully measured each petal; some sort of combined the two methods. A few modified their plan as they started stitching and seeing how it looked—the most enjoyable and exciting part of creating, in my humble opinion!


Everyone was so focused on creating their flowers, it was the quietest class ever.
(Until the giggling started... )
We do have a lot of fun!

We had a wonderful class, from beginning to end.

The most thrilling thing about studying a quilt like this antique is the inspiration it provides. As everyone in the room worked on their projects, I could see the different plans in place, and everyone was eager to create their own unique works of needle art. One can only wonder what the story of this antique quilt is. We can see that there were apparently several makers, due to the different names and initials on the quilt. But oh, how we would love to know the details! This is a great reminder to us to record the stories of our quilts, so that in 125 years, when people are inspired by our stitches, they are also inspired by our stories.


  1. Beautiful quilt. We are doing crazy quilting at our LQS too!

    1. Isn't it fun? We were thrilled to get a chance to see this beautiful quilt. Thanks for stopping by, Pam!

  2. THIS is the crazy quilt I love. Lots of stitching, a little ribbon, stitched motifs. I have never seen one in person, but I would dearly love to. Your students are so lucky to actually have one at the class for inspiration. Your class in one I would dearly love. I live in an area with a HUGE Amish community. Their quilts are wonderful, but you never ever come across anyone that does Crazy Quilt. I love these posts so much.

    1. Thank you very much, Carol! We wish you were close enough to join us in person. It was quite exciting to have such an amazingly beautiful example of a "real" crazy quilt to see. And it was in nearly perfect condition. We agree: it pretty much had it all!

  3. What a lovely start to my day (here on MST/same as PDT) to read this post and see its photos! It's reminding me that I embroidered the bodice of my daughter-in-law's wedding dress with ribbon flowers 17 years ago -- I must write her and ask the whereabouts of the dress so I can get photos, for I don't remember having any from back then, except with her in the dress, of course, which is a lot of beauty right there. However, today I'd like to see the bodice more closely ;-( ;-). This antique quilt IS amazing, and I love seeing everyone's flowers! Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much, KathyAnne! We're so glad you enjoyed the photos. How wonderful to have embroidered her wedding dress bodice!

      By the way, did you see that you had won our Anniversary Giveaway? Email us with your mailing information, so we can send your stitching set off to you, please. Congrats! :-)

  4. Hi, Teri and Kara! Yes I did see that and I am SO excited. Actually... I did respond right away but something must have gone awry. I will doublecheck and respond again. ��

  5. I love your posts about Crazy Quilts. Keep up the good work!