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MaryinColorado | Posted in Quilting and Home Decor on

Help!  I’m making my first full size Crazy Quilt and would love any suggestions regarding this as I’m not using a pattern.  The theme is my grandson’s high school days so has many embroideries and fabrics related to his many interests.  There are so many colors and desgins so I really think the Crazy Quilt is the best bet.

1.  Starting with 20″x20″ muslin blocks which I’m thinking of finishing at 12 or 15″

2.  frame each square with plain black fabric and also possibly black border to cut down on busyness a bit

3.  Should each square have it’s own theme or mix them?  (computers, basketball, hunting, fishing, art, music, archery, computer games, Soduko, cards, money, cars, 4th of July/ Patriotic/Fireworks(his and my birthday time too), zebras, running, swimming, etc., etc. etc. 

4. If I start with 4-6″ center piece and cut it with 5 edges, do I then cut narrow and wide strips and go around counter clockwise?  Or should they be varying shapes too?

Please, any suggestions would be so helpful!  It seemed like a great idea but now is a bit overwhelming trying to make decisions.  I’ve just done small crazy quilt projects before.  Mary

I’m an experienced seamstress, but have only made a few large quilts.  Mary

Edited 10/23/2008 12:05 pm by MaryinColorado


  1. damascusannie | | #1

    Why are you starting with such a big block and then cutting it down so much? Usually crazy quilt blocks are foundation pieced onto a muslin block just a bit larger than the finished size: 13" block if you want to end up with a 12".

    I think your idea for black sashing is excellent as is your idea to make each block a different theme.

    Annie in Wisconsin, USA
    ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
    ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
    See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

    Edited 10/23/2008 6:29 pm by damascusannie

    1. MaryinColorado | | #3

      "It was a dark and stormy night", or one night when I couldn't sleep so I cut out the foundation blocks.  I must have been thinking 18" blocks,  making an 80 x 80" quilt with narrow sashing and border I guess.  I think that 12" will look better, do you?  I don't think I've ever seen one with larger than that.  The notes were thrown out. 

      I really appreciate your advice as you make so many beautiful quilts.  Thanks so much!  Mary

      1. damascusannie | | #5

        I think that you could go as large as 16" but not bigger than that or the scale just gets too big for the quilt.

        1. MaryinColorado | | #7

          Thank You!  You are so right.  I will go ahead and cut the foundation pieces down to a more manageable size before proceeding.  Maybe the size is the reason it was starting to look more like Log Cabin than Crazy Quilting. 

          The center block (embroidery on black fabrick) also seemed to "get lost" in the chaos.  I set a 121/2" plastic template over the large piece and I think that will be my finished block size.  Mary

  2. Josefly | | #2

    What a wonderful gift for your grandson. The idea of grouping pieces together in squares each with a theme is appealing. You are much more experienced than I am in quilt-making, but I have a couple of thoughts:

    I think crazy quilts typically have random, odd-shaped pieces. The crazy-quilt squares you are describing are fairly easy to build from a central piece as you've mentioned. Do the squares on a base, but know that the square may shrink as you sew it, and will need to be re-squared and sized when finished. When I worked with a group on a crazy-square quilt a couple of years ago, I was surprised at how much smaller the squares became as I pieced it - but not as much as the 5 - 8 inches you're thinking of! If I remember correctly, I allowed only 1/2 inch excess fabric all around, and I ended up having to add some fabric to some areas.

    But regardless of what shapes are typical, or what the quilt is called, I would suggest you use the kind of shapes that suit you and/or your materials best. Are you planning to embroider pieces in the themes of his activities, or use photos, or use scraps of jackets, t-shirts, etc., he wore in his activities? Regular rectangles might suit you best.

    I often find I'm overwhelmed with possibilities at the start of a project, unable to decide how to proceed. When you get the fabrics and materials out and start trying to arrange them, it may help you to see how they'll best work together. Your work is always beautiful.

    1. MaryinColorado | | #4

      Thank You for the compliment and your suggestions!  My grandson loves the idea of the Crazy Quilt, especially since we are using such a variety of themes and colors that don't "go together".   (I always imagined one using velvets, laces, more feminine so this is more of a challenge for me to make it masculine).

      Did you use strips or different shaped pieces of fabric?  I had cut half of each fabric into strips, but it looks too log cabin like when I layed it out.  It will take longer, but I think I should cut them into a variety of shapes, if I can figure out how to do that.  Mary

      1. Josefly | | #6

        We used different shapes, no two shapes the same, to construct the squares, which were then separated from each other by strips of solid fabric. A single color dominated in individual squares, though the prints used were quite varied, so there were other colors as well in each square. It was something of a challenge for me to use the random shapes - it's much easier for me to work with patterns, order, and structure. But I enjoyed it once I could free myself up a little. I ended up drawing a square the size of the finished square, then drawing a main, center piece, and arranging other pieces around it. I used only straight lines, no curves. I had some suggestions about how to do the placement and stitching from folks on this forum - great help, as usual, here.If you want to, look at message 4200.8 on this forum. Carol Freesia gave me some helpful info about placing, cutting, and stitching the pieces.

        Edited 10/24/2008 12:27 am ET by Josefly

        1. MaryinColorado | | #8

          Thanks, I did go back and read that and several others, discovering that I had posted about it way back in Feb. so it would qualify as a UFO if it had any stitches in it.  I'm so b-a-d about finishing projects sometimes.  Mary

          1. Josefly | | #9

            Aye, don't we all have those "intended" projects? This one will be a treasured one, though, and I'll bet you'll have fun with it as you progress. Maybe by Christmas?

          2. MaryinColorado | | #10

            Thanks for your encouragement!!!  I really want to make this for him, he's such a great young man and it would be like giving him a hug I think.  Mary

          3. starzoe | | #11

            When I was making crazy quilts, I did not cut the pieces beforehand. I worked on one square at a time and cut pieces as I worked. Also, don't cut down the backing squares just yet, mark the new size on them just to keep within the area you want as you will have to re-square/cut each one after sewing all the patches on (as someone has already mentioned).

          4. MaryinColorado | | #13

            Thanks for your input.  You make an excellent point about working on one square at a time.  I think it has been too distracting and chaotic to keep thinking of the whole quilt.  I am going to try to focus on one or two blocks at a time and try not to worry about when the whole project gets done. 

            Everyone has given me really helpful advice here.  Thanks to all of you!  Mary

          5. damascusannie | | #15

            Even when I'm working on a planned quilt, I usually work on maybe four to six blocks at a time. I don't like spending hours at my cutting table, so I cut the patches for a few blocks, sew them up, pin them up on the design wall and then cut a few more. Most efficient? No-but very satisfying to watch the quilt growing each day.

          6. MaryinColorado | | #16

            When I made my first quilt last year I read about some great design walls.   I only have one large enough wall and didn't want to sacrifice it since I'm so new to quilting and might not use it enough.  So I designed a cornice type shelf with a rod hidden inside.  When I make a quilt, I pin the batting over the rod.  The fabric quilt top pieces stick to it or I pin them on.  It really does help to be able to look at it and move things around till you get the look you want.   It works well for my small studio space.   Mary

          7. damascusannie | | #17

            I'm fortunate that I have a permanent studio, with a design wall but I've seen lots of ways to handle them on a temporary basis. I like your solution very much. I have a girlfriend who pins her blocks onto the fabric curtains that screen her washer and dryer from view. Another friend has a rod that slips into a couple of brackets and when she needs to take it down, she just pops the rod out, rolls the whole shebang up and props it in a corner in her closet.

          8. MaryinColorado | | #18

            I think people who sew are particularly good at improvising, don't you?  One of my favorite tools is a 48" dry wall rule with a cross bar that really helps with  squaring up fabric.  I used it on my first two quilts too. 

          9. damascusannie | | #19

            Thinking outside the box is a hallmark of creative people in general, I think. I use a T-square for marking my cutting line on the big rolls of quilt batting that I get. My pin-basting table is two hollow core doors set up on the legs and cross-bars of an old handquilting frame. Then there's my "big board". We made the top ourselves and the base is the bottom of my mom's old hutch, which we put on big casters so I can roll it anywhere I want in the room. I figured I might as well have the storage space if I was going to take up that much floor space with a big board. I store my WIPs (work in progress) in it.Gotta go--I have to finish a tote bag for an exchange and it needs to be mailed out by Friday!

  3. Teaf5 | | #12

    This sounds like a fun project, much like one my seven sibs and I made for our parents' fiftieth anniversary.  Each person made a square, and then we connected them with a single solid-color banding that matched their decor.  There were no color requirements, and each person picked a different motif, method, and range of colors, but they all worked together beautifully when combined.

    One way to make a masculine quilt is to use chambray for the backing and the banding.  Plain black fabric often bleeds into lighter colored squares (or rubs off on light-colored pants) or fades badly, but denim-colored chambray lasts for decades and fades into "favorite old shirt" only after many, many washings.  And denim blue usually goes with everything a young man wears!

    Have fun with your project; I'm sure that he will treasure it!

    1. MaryinColorado | | #14

      More food for thought, you are so right, chambray would be softer and so much less of a concern against the skin. 

      Did you bat and quilit each square and then but them togeather?  I haven't tried that technique in a quilt, but am considering it. 

      What a lovely heirloom gift you made for your parents, it will be treasured always.   Mary

      Edited 10/26/2008 3:15 pm by MaryinColorado

      1. Teaf5 | | #20

        Since our quilt was designed as a wall hanging, we used a very thin flannel as a batting.  We didn't have much time, so we did not stitch quilting lines in it but just tied it at the corners of each block, just as our mother used to make her many, many tied quilts for us.

        1. MaryinColorado | | #21

          My grandson is very warm blooded so I am thinking of either a light or no batting since it will already be three layers.  Thanks for the idea of using flannel instead of batting!  Mary

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