Crazy Quilt Embellishing

Every year there is a North Dakota Indian Summer Quilt Show. In addition to being able to see the beautiful quilts and spending money with the vendors, there are usually classes.

One class one year 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. Here is one with a Nordic Needle theme stitched by Debi Feyh.

Another class was also taught by Virginia and it concentrated on embellishments for Crazy Quilts. Virginia’s philosophy is there can never be enough embellishments on a block. One of the embellishments was 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 that was randomly folded and sewed on whatever bead that was caught with the needle.

Sequins now come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.

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 you can learn with variegated ribbon is creating leaves. Fold the ribbon in half and stitch a "boat" in the ribbon. The example uses 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. If you tend to buy more than what will fit in the bag, you could also wrap your ribbons by color onto old fabric bolts. If you can’t find bolts, then you can create your own with heavy cardboard.

Fabric yo-yos are great ways to use up small scraps of material. 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 created for a transition between sea and land.

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.

Another 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.

You can also add beads 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 it was sewn next to a caterpillar leaf. It still needs a center filling.

The third class was with a national instructor, Sherrill Lewis from Oklahoma. She taught several ways to do embellishments with beads. You can do just about any embroidery stitch in beads! Here are some of the things stitched from lessons taught 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 names in beads.

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

The fourth class was with Elaine Keller of Candle in the Cellar. Elaine is a very talented Brazilian Embroidery artist. This year brought about a fuzzy caterpillar on a dyed-wool leaf.

For those of you who attended our 2012 Retreat, Elaine gave everyone the fuzzy caterpillar kit. Here is her heron kit. The water around the heron was accented with Angelina Fibers.

Over all, it is a fabulous event.

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.

We have some great resources for inspiration and instructions!


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

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