Crazy quilting a response to questions about design

Crazy quilting a response to questions about design

Boy have I had a response to the crazy quilt block I posted yesterday! thankyou everyone for your comments. I have also had a number of emails asking me how do I do it? So I am working on a post – or it might turn into a series that explains the process a little more and links to the numerous resources online that people can draw on.

For Linda I have found an image of the block when it was just started. Both the ribbon and lace was included as I pieced the block. I always do this particularly with large pieces of lace as their size effects the composition of the block. As I piece I also look at what buttons and embellishments might eventually live on the block. So right from the start I think of the block as a whole.

The idea is to guide the eye to weave around the block. To reward people for looking and in doing so have them look longer. The longer they look the longer they enjoy it.

When I piece I do think about composition I do things like place plain fabric next to a patterned fabrics but I also start the balancing act from there. If there is a bright colour in one corner that I know will draw the eye I immediately use some (or a similar bright colour) on the other side of the block so that I now have two points of interest and not a battle. The next step is to add lace and braids. I do this at the piecing stage as these are key elements need to be balanced too. As elements they are also often linear. The eye will always travel along a strong line so I use the lace and braids to lead the eye.

As I work I also often use wide seam treatments to lead the eye to other areas on a block. One of the reasons a long seam is such a problem on a block is that the eye will travel along that line and simply slide off the edge of the block. You don’t want that to happen because you want people to linger a bit. If I have this happen I either attempt to seduce the eye to travel along other lines on the block by working a complex seam treatment elsewhere on the block. Or, the other method I use is to employ clusters of flowers or richly embellished areas to draw the eye to another area. Generally I try and get the eye to move along lines and rest on interesting bits and I try to make sure the eye does not slide off the block.

Speed is also an issue you don’t want people speeding about the place and not noticing the detail. So I try and place some point of interest in such a way that the eye travels along a line then gets stopped by a motif or buttons because it is interesting, then moves on. The tricky part is to have the eye move on from there, usually the buttons or motif is placed in such as way as to point the eye off on to another seam. So that the eye starts moving again back over the block and continues on its journey. Of course what I am talking about is employing the elements of design to structure composition. Elements such as colours, texture, pattern, scale all influence the balance and harmony of a block. All of this is thought about as I piece and reinforced as I stitch. The block as whole is always considered from the very start, not simply at the piecing stage then again at the embellishing stage.

I have also had a number of questions via email I hope to answer these on a post by post basis so stay tuned. if you want to have more of an idea about what I am talking about take a look at the I dropped the button box crazy quilt or the series of 8 inch blocks I am working on which will be another crazy quilt. While I am pointing to eye candy I also have a section of other crazy quilting projects.


  1. Alli as I make them I have an idea as to how they will be set but this often get reshuffled as before I stitch them together I lay the blocks all out on the floor and play with the layout to see how it reads.

  2. Hi Sharon! I love your discussion of the composition of the CQ block. Very clear! I went over to your Button Box quilt and got struck by how great the blocks look as they are arranged separately above the finished quilt. I sure would love to see how they would look all joined together in the exact order that you have them there, as if the quilt was actually sewn together in that order….do you ever arrange blocks digitally before sewing them together?
    Your blog is in my tool bar…thanks so much for all you do for us “textile practitioners”!


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