Sourcing Crazy quilting materials

Sourcing Crazy quilting materials

I have had an email about how I source materials for crazy quilting. You can simply buy materials and embellishments but that is an extremely expensive way to go. I am sure that one of the reasons I love crazy quilting is because this style of work appeals to my hunter and gather instincts. Although the fabric, laces and beads are all expensive you do not have to spend vast amounts of money to do crazy quilting. Most of my fabric has accumulated over the years. Unlike regular quilting you do not need a huge amount of any one fabric. Individual pieces of fabric can be as small as a hankie for in crazy quilting it is the variety that counts not quantity.

Most of the scraps that I have are from trades, items scavenged in second hand shops, markets, old family clothing, and friends sewing scraps. Check out the local soft furnishing shops as often you can buy their swatch books. If the fabric is not rubber backed and not too heavy a weight you can use it. Of course I scavenge in remnant bins and specials counters but it is via the second hand market that I really build a selection of materials that i draw on when assembling a project. In second hand shops if ‘after five’ dresses are going cheap I pick them up. I am not a fabric nazi, in other words I use polyesters as well as the traditional silks, brocades and velvets found in crazy quilting. I feel the original crazy quilters in the past would have used anything that was attractive so I do the same. Not everyone feels this way however. After a good scavenge which I have to admit is weekly, I bring home my goodies and toss the lot in the washing machine. I feel that if the fabric doesn’t stand up to it is no great loss and to be honest I have yet to have anything destroyed. I wash the lot, then iron it (the bit I don’t like in the process) and cut it up removing all the seams, any stains and sign of wear. The fabric is then ready to be used.

I have also been active in the community for a good few years. It seems to me that just by joining in on various activities that fabric and the like comes my way. This is so much so that I don’t actually buy new fabric for crazy quilting at all any more. Of course I buy fabric for clothing and costumes but not for crazy quilting as I have more than enough.

I am a member of the key online discussion lists and they often run swaps. These are a great way of building up your stash of stuff. If you join them not only is there swaps galore, but they will open a whole world of ideas and tip and tricks. If you live in Australia or New Zealand there is the southerncrosscrazies. The three large global lists are CQembellishers and the extremely active Crazy Quilting International which are both associated with Yahoo groups. The oldest list online is Crazy Quilt which you subscribe to via the Quiltropolis site. All the lists and welcome beginners and old hands alike.

If anyone is going to include recycled fabrics in any of the swaps that are held by these groups read the guidelines of the swap to find out if it is acceptable. Also find out if it is acceptable to include polyesters in the swap. If in doubt ask the hosstess.

Old hankies, lace doilies, costume jewellery, bead necklaces that can be pulled apart and used, buttons, mens ties, all turn up in my scavenging. Do not be afraid to experiment, pull apart stuff and reuse it in interesting ways. Items can be painted, dyed and treated to fit in to a block. For all this I do still buy embellishments for crazy quilting. I suggest that if you are new to this form of quilting put your money into embellishments rather than fabric as it is the beads, lace and threads that are both harder to find second hand and accumulate.

I also suggest that people look at expanding their range of threads to include more than DMC Cottons. Crazy quilting opens the doors to the wonderful contemporary needlework threads that are available. Metalics, silks, cottons, and ribbons can all be used in crazy quilting. These too are expensive at the start but once again you do not need a lot of any individual thread type and via swaps you can build up variety.

Don’t forget the dye pot as if you have a large amount of any one thing you can dye it a number of different shades or colours. You can dye lace, ribbon, shells, and buttons with relative ease. Once again when building a up a crazy quilting stash variety over quantity is the key.

The image above is a selection of fabric that I have currently on my design board as I am trying to resist starting a crazy quilt of 7 inch blocks. Every time I find something that might fit in this next project goes up there while I try and complete the 8 inch block quilt. As you can see there is far too much stuff hanging around and I will break down soon and start piecing! Please don’t leave a comment encouraging me to jump in as I really do want to get a few more of the 8 inch blocks completed before I do. Goodness knows why 7 inch blocks have recently become more attractive in my mind but they have. That problem of self control aside the reason I decided to take the photograph is that many of these pieces are all I have of that particular fabric. Many are between 6 and 12 inches square and that is it. I do not have a cupboard full of fabric by the meter, just a lot of little squares and that is all I really need for it is variety of texture, weight and shade that I feel is important.

That is all for today. Leave a comment if you can think of a tip about how you accumulate stuff for crazy quilting as I am sure people who are new to the style will find the information useful. Do the same if you have any questions. I will continue another piece in this series later on in the week.

In case you have just landed on the site to put things in context, this series of posts was sparked off by this block. Other pieces in the series cover introductory tips, piecing and fabric selection, the design process and seam embellishment and how to transfer your designs to fabric. Also silk ribbon is another embellishment technique used in crazy quilting



  1. I ask for "odd buttons and broken jewelry " for my Christmas gift list. I got a lovely small box filled with odd pieces of jewelry I never would have bought, for a retirement gift last spring. Now I find that several pieces are exactly what I’m looking for! Having others do my scavenging helps them with keeping down expenses for gifts, and pushes me to look at objects differently than I would have, or perhaps I would have brushed past them, not thinking to try something new.

    Mary Lou
  2. I have not E-mail anyone but I have been reading about cray quilts and collect the stuff. I GOT ALOT STUFF i WOULD LIKE TO TRADE WITH SOMEONE i AM 68 YEARS OLD, i AM NEW TO ALL THIS. vERNELL

    vernell gibson
  3. Thrift stores can be a great source for silk–in the form of shirts and blouses. Bag sales are something I look forward to every year–stuff a grocery bag with all it will hold for a set number of dollars.

  4. Mary Anne – I am testing out a few ideas here in order to see if firstly I can make myself understood and secondly if people are interested. If so I will put a proposal together and see if I can interest a publisher in the idea.

  5. Hi Sharon:
    This is slightly off topic, but that’s the way my mind works! I’m really enjoying your series of articles about crazy quilting (even tho I don’t consider myself a beginner anymore…if you could see the size of my stash you’d know why I said that!).
    Anyway, the point of this is: are you planning on using your articles as a basis for a book? If not, you should!! Combining your wonderful articles with your stitch library would make a terrific book (and one I would buy in a heartbeat).
    Just a thought!
    Mary Anne

    Mary Anne Richardson
  6. I’ve definitely enjoyed swaps as one of the most entertaining ways to increase my stash. I’ve also purchased stuff from,, and assorted ebay sellers. If a quiltshow of some size shows up near you there will often be a few booths with folks selling materials appropriate for crazyquilting, even though the majority of the show is traditional cottons, at least in my experience.

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