Many beginners get stumped at the hand embroidery stage when they start Crazy quilting so I decided to write a tutorial on how to hand embroider crazy quilt seams. You do not have to be an expert stitcher to embroider a crazy quilt block. What you need to do, is develop the ability to adapt stitches and shape them to your needs. Today I will share how to use basic surface embroidery stitches to create seam decorations in your crazy quilt projects.
At the bottom of the article there is a link where you can download this tutorial as PDF and keep it as an ebook on a tablet, or you can print it out to store easily.
This is not a tutorial on how to work the stitches. If you need tuition you will find it in my stitch dictionary it is provided free here on Pintangle.
There are also the free modules in my stitchers worksheets which cover the basic stitches as well. Go get them! They are free and none of my stuff asks you to subscribe to anything, I don’t ask you for your email or ask you to join this or that. They are a simple give away.
How to Hand Embroider Crazy Quilt Seams
Most seam embellishments used in crazy quilting consist of basic stitches combined and built row upon row on top of each other. These are the basic stitches of crazy quilting I recommend all new hands learn. The basic list is: buttonhole stitch, Chain stitch and Detached chain stitch, Cretan, Herringbone, Chevron, Stem stitch, Feather stitch , Fly stitch, French knot and Couching. Other people may add a few more stitches but if you have these you will go long way on a crazy quilt before anyone notices you are just using the basics.
Change your stitch direction, size and spacing
As you build your seams think in terms of adding variety by changing your stitches. You can so this by shifting stitch direction, and changing the size of your stitches such as going from big to small and change the spacing of your stitches from close together to wide apart. You can also work on both side of the seam or flip the stitches working alternately from side to side. All these little tricks add interest to a line of embroidery.
Think about your thread choice
Another tip is don’t forget to change the colour, thickness and type of thread. I see lots of people simply use stranded cotton floss. This thread is fine for cross stitch work but get some cotton perle thread in sizes #8 and #5 as so many of the surface stitches look much better when worked with s thread that has a firm twist to it. There are no rules in crazy quilting so I am not being dictatorial about it but it is my tip towards creating interesting seam work on crazy quilting. Also many stitches can be threaded and laced so don’t forget that you have option too!
Detached Chain Stitch (or lazy daisy stitch) is quick, easy stitch that is very versatile. You can work it in all sorts of formations along a seam, along side a piece of lace or a piece of braid. A simple satisfying embellishment is to add straight stitches and a bead. You can add it to other stitches such as herringbone, or chevron stitch too.
Here is an example of working a line of stitching and by adding a few beads in the middle of the motifs it creates a bit of zest.
You can work either side of the seam, flipping stitches from side to side.
Or you can zigzag the motifs along the seam like these:
Or zig zag them either side of lace braid or ribbon
You can build little motifs up in zig zag bands
Once you have tried these techniques ie working a stitch along a line, flipping a stitch from side to side or placing it in a zig zag manner along the line, try building up more complex motifs by increasing the variety of your stitches and adding more rows of stitches.
In crazy quilting your seam embellishment can be as complex, or as simple as you wish.
This seam pattern consists of a motif made of three detached chain stitches and two straight stitches. If you look at my work regularly, you will notice I use this combination all the time. You could finish them off with either a bead or a French knot.
Stitches like buttonhole wheels can be worked as halves or quarters and arranged along a seam.
You can work them in line or turn them on their side.
Or flip each half wheel from side to side.
Here is another way to arrange them and what they look like stitched up in a crazy quilt project.
Or you can quarter the wheels and arrange them in patterns.
For instance you can flip them from side to side too!
It is simple and effective. You can work two lines face to face.
Here is another way to use buttonhole wheels which can be arranged in a different ways. These are interspersed with straight stitch arranged in a ray. French knots, sequins or beads can be placed in the middle of each wheel.
Often, the trick is to take a very basic stitch, work a row, and then add another basic stitch as a second row stacking stitches to create more interest.
For instance, you can work two rows of straight stitches in a zig zag formation, with the second row offset to form a line a diamonds. At the peaks you can work a fan of straight stitches, add a bead and you have an attractive seam. All from one type of simple stitch!
This type of seam embellishment where you start with a line to follow (the first zig zag line) is an instance of where Crazy Quilt templates are a very handy addition to your sewing box as you can use them to produce very even lines!
Here is another example of how to build a seam layer upon layer in a crazy quilt project.
This foundation row is buttonhole stitch, which is then decorated with straight stitches and a seed bead. It is quite simple, quick to work and made up of basic stitches.
Buttonhole stitch is an extremely versatile foundation row because you can change the height of the arms to form a pattern and Buttonhole stitch will follow a curve well. For instance here we can add a fan of straight stitches to the top of the row and sequins at intervals along the bottom.
If you flip units of buttonhole stitch from side to side it leads to more interesting ways to combine stitches for your crazy quilt project.
This pattern builds on the same idea and notice it is the same basic stitches which I have used. The stitches are arranged differently to create daisy motifs but they are the same basic stitch.
Herringbone Stitches have a zigzag like, crossed structure which means you can make all sorts of additions to a seam on the crazy quilt project.
On the top row straight stitches worked in a fan and beads have been added to the spaces between the herringbone stitches. On the second line detached chain, straight stitches and beads have been tucked into the base of the cross.
Chevron stitch is also a good foundation stitch for crazy quilters as you can add other stitches to the valleys and peaks. Straight stitches, detached chain stitches and beads have been added to the peaks of Chevron Stitch.
Or you can tuck extra stitches into the valleys. In this case I have added quarter buttonhole wheels.
Here are some of my chevron stitch seam samples taken from my crazy quilts.
Finally, I could not write a tutorial on how to hand embroider crazy quilt seams without including one of the all time favourites for crazy quilters, which is Feather Stitch because you can add stitches to the end of each arm or tuck stitches between the arms to create lovely complex patterns.
As you can see it is possible to build up quite complex patterns using these methods.
I hope this tutorial on how to hand embroider crazy quilt seams will give people a few ideas, and that you enjoy working and experimenting with some of them.
You can right click and download this article as PDF and keep it as an ebook on a tablet, or print it out easily.
Other resources from me on Pintangle.com.
If you need tuition on how to work embroidery stitches don’t forget my stitch dictionary which is provided free. There are also the free modules in my stitchers worksheets which cover the basic stitches. Go get them! They are free and none of my stuff asks you to subscribe to anything, or join this or that. Like the PDF for this article they are a simple give away.
If you find this tutorial on how to hand embroider crazy quilt seams useful. If you do share where you found it – feel free to print it out and share with a sewing group or friend, social media etc. Have fun with your stitching while learning something new.
Have you seen my book?
My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results shares detailed practical methods on how to design and make a crazy quilt. I cover such topics as fabric choice, tricky challenges like balancing colour, texture and pattern, and how to direct your viewers eye around the block. I cover how to stitch and build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways. My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be practical and inspiring.
My Stitchers templates
My templates aim to help you take your stitching to the next level. With them you can create hundreds of different hand embroidery patterns to embellish your seams with flair. These templates are easy to use, made of clear plastic so you can position them easily and are compact in your sewing box.
These are simple to use. You simply position the template in place and use a quilter’s pencil to trace along the edge of the template. Stitch along this line to decorate the seam. I have a free ebook of patterns to accompany each set which illustrates how they can be used.
TO ORDER your Crazy Quilt Templates