Crazy Quilt Embellishing

Hi, this Debi, and I want to thank everyone who has let me know how much you enjoy my stash newsletters, especially the ones on my trip to Norway. There are a couple more topics I have yet to share from my trip, but this week I am going to talk about one of my favorite stitching styles. Every year, I look forward to the North Dakota Indian Summer Quilt Show.

In addition to seeing beautiful quilts and spending money with the vendors, I usually take a couple of classes. This year, I was able to attend four (yes 4!) classes related to crazy quilting! I was in seventh heaven and even started gathering my supplies before I left for Norway. Since I get a lot of questions about adding beads and embellishments to projects, I want to share some of the things I learned.

My first class was Crazy Quilt Block construction taught by Virginia Dambach. Virginia usually uses the paper piecing method. Paper piecing is pretty easy once your mind gets used to the fact that your fabric is placed on the "back" of the block yet you sew on the top of the paper. You can also do the flip and stitch method. My goal was to create at least two smaller blocks that I could embellish through the rest of the classes then turn into name badges. I concentrated on one for Nordic Needle, so I made it blue and added the Nordic Needle logo pin (930-498-0001). Here is how it looked by the end of the conference!

Now I just have to finish it! You’ll see close ups as I talk about some of the things I learned.

My second class was also with Virginia and it concentrated on embellishments for Crazy Quilts. Virginia’s philosophy is there can never be enough embellishments on a block, so we worked on lots of stuff. One of my favorite embellishments is the spider rose. Most of us are familiar with that stitch through other types of needlework. Usually we do it with pearl cotton or silk ribbon. Think outside the box and try different fibers such as strips of old Sari fabric or cotton fabric that you have torn, so it has a really fuzzy edge.

Ribbon is great for embellishing and you don’t have to use it the way it comes off the roll! Here are some examples: Embroider it down, add sequins and beads as you stitch, or fold the ribbon back on itself adding a bead. Don’t worry about being precise. This was a multi-colored satin ribbon and I just randomly folded it and sewed on whatever bead I caught with my needle.

Sequins now come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. I found these at various shows and on line.

Virginia often has sequins in the bead soup she provides at classes.

Ribbon also makes awesome flowers with little work! Here are several flowers created from ribbon that has been gathered along one edge and stitched down. The larger flowers need a center, so this is where you can showcase those special buttons in your stash! You can also create the flower pistils by combining beads like in the orange and pink flower. The flowers can be quite small depending on the size of your ribbon. Try gathering up a fancy yarn, like the eyelash yarn to create a very fluffy flower. Here are some examples The first two are gathered ribbons that have their outer edge cut off and frayed. The blue flower on the left is a small ribbon gathered up. The teal flower is an eyelash yarn. This is a really close up photo of the lower right corner of my name tag.

Another trick I learned with variegated ribbon is creating leaves. Fold the ribbon in half and stitch a "boat" in the ribbon. I used white thread so you could see it, but you want to use a matching thread. Be sure that the open side of the folded ribbon is on the top of your boat or it won’t work. Clip the ribbon close to the stitching, fold it out, and attach it to your piece. It is fun to experiment with the variegations and every leaf will be different. Here is the three-step process.

There are a lot of really pretty ribbons so start gathering them up when they are on sale, at thrift stores, or garage sales. Storing them can get a little messy. Virginia keeps her small pieces of ribbons and fibers in the floss-a-way bags (6553). Sullivans also has floss organizer bags (6570A). I tend to buy more than what will fit in the bag, so I started wrapping the ribbons by color onto old fabric bolts. I was able to get the discarded bolts at Joann’s Fabrics. If you can’t find bolts, then you can create your own with heavy cardboard. I would fold over a couple of layers of cardboard and whip out the trusty duct tape to keep all the layers together.

If the ribbon comes on a spool, I put them on this dowel system my husband created for me.

I am sure somewhere in my past newsletters I have talked about fabric yo-yos. They are great ways to use up small scraps of material. However, if you are like me, you probably go out and buy a fat quarter just to create a few yo-yos, right? A traditional yo-yo is a round piece of fabric, about twice the width of what you want the finished yo-yo to be. Fold over the edge of the fabric about a quarter inch and do a running stitch all the way around. Then tightly gather up the fabric into the center. Here are some yo-yos I created for my transition between sea and land for Elaine’s Critters class last year.

There are several great tutorials on making yo-yos. Here is one from Heather Bailey.

You can make different shapes and Clover has some yo-yo making templates as well. I saw tutorials on those topics on the web as well.

Now I have a new way to use circles of fabric – create a flower! You start with 5 circles of fabric. Once you get the hang of it, you can do more petals. Try to keep the number of petals an odd number. To create the flower, with each circle, first fold them in half and then in half again, so now you have a quarter of the circle. You are going to do a running stitch along the raw edge. Try to make the same number of stitches on each piece. Also, make sure you stitch through them in the same direction, either the open side or the folded side facing the needle. Gather them up, pull them as tight as you want, and stitch them to your fabric. This is another great place to use one of your special buttons. Here is one I made in class from a piece of silver fabric one of the class members shared.

Since I had spent a small fortune on beads, I added a silver bugle bead into each petal to add a bit of sparkle to the flower. Here is a step-by-step look at how to create a flower, then I sewed it next to my caterpillar leaf. It still needs a center filling.

At this point, I was only half way through the conference! The third class was with a national instructor, Sherrill Lewis from Oklahoma. She taught us several ways to do embellishments with beads. You can do just about any embroidery stitch in beads! Here are some of the things I stitched from things I learned in her class: A seam cover covered with beaded triangles, embellish the stems of the iris, dangling hearts on a seam (or it could be a fringe also), and my name in beads. Later I tried highlighting a poinsettia on a fabric piece.

Sherrill and her husband also have a store called The Bead Ranch.

You know you have spent too much time and money in a booth when the owner recognizes you and asks "Hi, class must be over, so where is my wife?" They had one of the best selection of sequins, laces, specialty and odd beads I have seen in a long time.

My fourth class was with Elaine Keller of Candle in the Cellar. Elaine is a very talented Brazilian Embroidery artist. I think this is the third Critters class I have taken from her. Virginia and I usually sit together and try to stay out of trouble! The first year, Virginia gave me a crazy quilt block to use in Elaine’s class. Then I stitched one especially for last year’s critters. Now I continued stitching critters on these two blocks. Elaine, you can’t quit designing Critters until I fill my blocks!!! This year I did a fuzzy caterpillar on a dyed-wool leaf.

For those of you who attended our 2012 Retreat, Elaine gave everyone the fuzzy caterpillar kit. I also finished the heron.

The water around the heron was accented with Angelina Fibers that I bought from one of the vendors the day before. I started a monkey, but ran out of time and haven’t gotten back to it yet. Elaine also introduced her newest design, the Great Horned Owl (1759B) which we now have in stock! She told me she is working on a book that combines several years of critters with some new ones. It may be another year or so before it is finished, but I will let you know as soon as it is available so you can start creating your own critter creations.

Over all, it was a fabulous event and I applaud the committee who organized it. The conference was at a new location, so they had to figure out how everything would work, where all the classes would be held, and handling over 400 participants. I can’t wait for next year!

Several of us have been talking about a Crazy Quilt Stitch group and it finally happened after the conference. We have met twice and had a great time. It’s fun getting together and seeing what everyone else is doing. Kim Stenehjem is also a very talented stitcher from Fargo and her crazy quilt work is fabulous. She makes exquisite beaded butterflies so we asked her to get us started at our last meeting. Here is the beginning of my butterfly. I will keep you updated on its progress.

Crazy Quilting is a great way to use up those little bits of stash. Also, there are NO RULES so you can try something new or perhaps step outside of your comfort zone without someone telling you it was wrong. I love to work on my Crazy Quilting projects on those days I want to "color outside the lines" or can’t count correctly.

We have some great resources for inspiration and instructions!

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

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“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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