Tips for Crazy quilting seam embellishment

Tips for Crazy quilting seam embellishment

Todays dash of eye candy is a 6 inch block in the I dropped the button box crazy quilt This is a continuation of my post yesterday. Before I go on however I would like to stress that there are no hard and fast rules in crazy quilting so anything I say is simply in the category of advice.

Yesterday I concentrated on describing what I do when I assemble a block. My order of work is that as I make up my blocks I include lace and braid stitched in during the piecing process. The next step is to start the stitch embellishment phase. After the stitching is done I then add buttons, beads, and charms. These are attached last as if I add the embellishments before I have finished the embroidery phase I am forever getting my thread tangled on the buttons and doo-dads. This takes away the pleasure of stitching so I work in this order.

Stitching the seams themselves is not all that difficult if you know the basic stitches. The key stitches I use are Buttonhole, and a type pf buttonhole, Feather stitch, Herringbone is also another key stitch in contemporary crazy quilting, as well as Chevron stitch, Fly stitch, Chain stitch and Straight stitch. Couching is also an invaluable technique to learn as you can incorporate heavy weight threads on to your block using this stitch.

There are dozens of other stitches to be found at my stitch collection. However as I have said you do not need to know hundreds of stitches to work a piece of crazy quilting. If you know the few basic stitches I have listed above it is possible to build up visual texture by layering your stitches in hundreds of different combinations. For ideas on how to arrange the stitches have a look at the diagrams of stitch combinations I have online

The key is to think about stitch combinations as a series of interesting visual experiences for your viewer. It is about creating difference and surprise as you stitch. When building your stitch combinations experiment with changing both the angle and the size of the stitch. Also think about what thread you choose. When selecting thread I aim also for a contrast of texture and colour rather than a simple contrast of colour. My hint is to experiment and vary your threads. Threads are found in all sizes, thick and thin, shinny and dull, smooth and lumpy and using a variety adds plenty of interest to stitching. Use thin threads against thicker threads as when you vary their weight it sets up a contrast that adds interest for the viewer. The same applies to dull and shinny threads use them against each other is another form of contrast. The contrast can be brash or subtle it’s your choice. I think in terms of interesting little contrasts to make the pathway that I am trying to guide the viewer along a pleasure.

Throughout the whole process from beginning to end I think about texture in fabrics, trims and thread and the visual contrasts that can be subtly explored. If the fabric is a shiny choose a thread that is flat and when building up stitches think about the shape of a stitch. If a stitch is angular top it off with something that has a curve. For instance if you have worked a row of herringbone stitch which if you think about it, is a row of lines placed at an angle use a row of curved stitches such as detached chain along the top. This is about creating visual contrast on the seams. For other ideas read the article that Betty Pillsbury has written on Stitching Crazy Patch Seams which is in two parts.

One topic that often comes up is how to store threads. I have all my threads sorted to colour. In other words I mix DMC Pearl along side hand dyed silk. Stranded cottons next to textured knitting yarns. Rayon threads along side chenille and boucle. Fine metallic thread sits beside and rough cottons and silk ribbon. Threads of all weights sit side by side and then when I am stitching I look for the colour first and then reach for a contrast in weight because in crazy quilting you are always looking for a thread that adds zing to a particular area. It does not matter if its cotton, silk or rayon or what the DMC number it is. What matters is the sheen, weight, texture and colour of the thread so I keep them like this.

When using a variety of threads you will need to think about the needle you use. A key tip is a mantra I heard at the Embroiderers Guild. Choose fabric first, thread second and your needle last. After you have chosen the thread choose the right needle. Choosing the correct needle means something that the thread can go through the eye with a reasonable amount of ease but not too large an eye that the thread rubs and frays as you stitch. Check to see if the needle slides through the fabric easily as a fabric with a tight weave will need a different needle to a fabric which has a loose weave. Also for some stitches such as French knots, bullion knots, Cast on stitch and Drizzle stitch you will need a needle with a eye that is level with the shaft of the needle. These stiches are easier to work if you stretch the fabric in a hoop and use a milliners needle. For some of the laced stitches, such as Threaded arrowhead stitch or threaded back stitch use a blunt-ended tapestry needle to weave a second thread through the foundation stitches. In stitches such as these you want to avoid splitting the foundation row during the lacing. If you are not sure about needles an article that covers needles and needle types titled Needlework Basics has been provided by the Heritage Shoppe Journal of Needlework.

I also encourage people to use a hoop. I am not dictatorial about this as I know some people just don’t like using a hoop. It is often that the hoop they choose is too large for their hand. When you hold a hoop you should be able to easily place your index finger in the centre without strain. One of the key tricks to any textile practice is tension. Think about techniques such as weaving or tapestry tension is everything. Embroidery is the same and life is much easier if you use a hoop. When you assemble your crazy quilt blocks make sure that you leave a border of the foundation fabric so that you can use a hoop. Wrap the hoop so that marking does not occur. Stefania Bressan has provided an article on how to fully dress a hoop. The other key tip is never leave your needlework in a hoop overnight.

That’s it for today I will continue with this topic later in the week as it takes a bit of time to put these longer posts together. I hope people are finding useful. This was the Show and tell block that started it off. The others in the series cover piecing and fabric selection, the design process.


  1. Hi Sharon
    learnt a lot from your ‘teaching blog’ on tips for embellishing the blocks selecting patrtern ,thread ,and needle..gained more confidence to move on with the projects.
    thanks A Lot

    Ansu Chennai India
  2. I am pleased people are finding this little series useful
    re the book I am putting together a proposal and looking for a publisher as I frequently get asked if I have a book – I will see what happens

  3. Hi Sharon. Great reading. I definately want a book.
    Re: publishers who want project oriented material; have you
    considered self-publishing? I have a closet full of project Your way of explaining what you
    mean with text and photo is a terrific learning tool

    Lynn, SoCal
  4. Hi Sharon, just wanted to say how useful I found your discusion of threads and combining stitches – makes the task of starting my first CQ RR less daunting – thank you πŸ™‚

    Jacqui Mulcahy
  5. Sharonb these ‘lessons’ are wonderful… They are clear progressinal and they make easy reading… I am really enjoying them… Since becomein a more appreciative lurker in the world of CQ I have started to look at those bits and pieces with new eyes… Nothing is safe!!!! In other words ‘resistance is futile’… S

  6. All you work is so very delicious! I nevery tasted such wonderful
    eye candy before. It would be wonderful to curl up with a book with
    all your stitches in it. I could dream forever that someday I might
    just be 1/10 as good as you are!

  7. Bravo Sharon! You are so informative…so when are you writing a book?
    However, I have a question (this may be a question for further on)…probably the most difficult problem I have with crazy quilting is looking at the bare block – trying to decide what stitch to put where, and how “full” to make the block.
    Any hints?

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