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New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

Crazy Quilting Today
by Melody Crust,
Author and Quilter

Did you know that Crazy Quilts and heavily embellished garments were once a mark of affluence? Women used them to declare – ever so subtly – that they had time for elaborate hand sewing while their domestic staff toiled over the household chores. Few of us live the lifestyle of the ‘landed gentry’ these days, but what we do have is a wealth of time-saving products and techniques available to us. There are many clever ways to accomplish wonderful embellishments with the investment of very small amounts of time!

Embellishment includes everything from complex beading to sewing with basic thread. In Crazy Quilting, the philosophy is this: if it shows, highlight it! In today’s busy world, we have to grab sewing time whenever it presents itself, so be prepared at a moment’s notice to have something to sew. Red work is usually my favorite, but I don’t limit myself to basic red work. I’ll embroider tea towels, pillow cases and make quilt blocks, stitching with floss, pearl cotton, and, my favorite, thick thread made for the sewing machine. Any time you manage to have fabric in your hand, relish the moment and let your creativity flow!

When embellishing with thread, which includes everything from embroidering to quilting, use pretty much anything that appeals to you. Crazy Quilting is definitely the time to show off your thread collection! You can really add your own special touch to any project by putting a decorative stitch over the seams, couching over one or more cords or ribbons and adding beads or buttons for texture. Or make duplicate rows of stitching, highlight them with an entirely different stitch or use thread to work a specific design onto your fabric.

Why not try something new? Stenciling was popular on Crazy Quilts. Using today’s modern products, you can make you own painted quilts. Paint is easy, fast, and so much fun. If you don’t intend to ever dry clean your quilt, try oil paint sticks (Shiva brand is my favorite). Easy to use, paint sticks are shaped like over-sized crayons and have about the same consistency. Amazingly, they can replicate the look of air brushing without your having to invest in or bother with special equipment. Paint sticks applied to silk or cotton are simple and permanent and leave a very soft hand.

Simply remove the self-healing protective coating of paint from the flat end of your paint stick with an X-acto knife. For the sake of convenience, I suggest you use a favorite purchased stencil. Use masking tape to hold it in place and Post-It Notes to protect any areas you don’t want to color. Rub your paint stick with a stencil brush then dab the brush onto a paper towel to remove any excess paint. A light touch works best, and you can always add another layer or two. Using firm, short strokes, apply the paint in one direction. Start at the outer edges and work inward. When you are satisfied, pull off your stencil.

It’s a simple truth – beads are a blast! A quilt is a two-dimensional work of art. Add beads, buttons, or sew-on jewels and you launch it straight into the realm of three-dimensional pizzazz. There are any number of ways to use beads on your Crazy Quilt or garment. You can accent special stitches or highlight specific features, such as flowers, figures, baskets, or stars. A few single beads could add dew drops to a leaf, a string of them will quickly draw the eye to any particular part of a design that you want to emphasize.

One of the joys of embellishing with beads is that there is no real need to plan your designs ahead of time. You can start by choosing beads of a particular type or color, or even with a random sample of mixed beads, then design as you go! Make beading decisions one at a time as your work develops.
Start by threading a needle with a single strand of Nymo thread, about 25” long, and placing a quilter’s knot at the end. Start about ½” away from the first bead location and “pop” the knot between the layers of the quilt or quilted garment. Come up at the point where the first bead will be placed. Put the point of the needle into the bead and push it onto the needle with the tip of your finger. The stitch you make needs to be just as long as the diameter of the bead – any longer and the thread will show; any shorter, the bead won’t lay flat. Take a second stitch through every third or fourth bead – if the thread should ever break, two or three beads will come off, but not the whole group. As an extra precaution, run the thread through bigger, heavier beads three or four times. Keep going until you come to the end of your thread and end as you would for a line of hand quilting.

If you allow yourself to make one design decision at a time, beading projects are easy to return to after a lapse of time, so interruptions (and don’t we all have them!) won’t be a problem.

Want something more subtle? Through the ages, ribbons have been a source of delight. Luxurious, colorful, sensuous ribbons raise our spirits and make our hearts beat just a tiny bit faster. Nothing signals treasures within like a prettily wrapped package and the fancier the ribbon, the greater the anticipation of delightful surprise! Take any Crazy Quilt or other project up a notch or two by incorporating ribbons in dozens of ways – couching, ruching, flowers, stems and leaves, bows – the list goes on and on!

Perhaps not quite as obviously festive as ribbon but still providing us with a multitude of opportunities for creative expression, there is an abundance of other trims available. I challenge you to think about rickrack, bias tape, cord, fringe, doilies and lace without feeling your creative urges spring to life! Old handkerchiefs or special fabrics, such as lamé, ultrasuede or embossed velvet are other materials that can add that special something to any project. The possibilities are so limitless that they boggle the mind.

We may not all have the same quantity of free time that our affluent foremothers enjoyed, but by working smart and utilizing all the great new products on the market these days, we can make Crazy Quilts and embellished garments that will ‘wow!’ any audience!

Melody Crust is the author of Quilt Toppings; Fun and Fancy Embellishment Techniques A Fine Line; Techniques and Inspirations for Creating the Quilting Design, An award winning quilter and nationally celebrated fabric artist, her work has been featured in dozens of books and magazines.

See samples of Melody’s work, check out her workshops, order autographed copies of her books or contact her directly at www.melodycrust.com. She is a popular quilting instructor who brings her natural teaching ability and contagious enthusiasm to quilters from coast tocoast. In addition to her busy teaching schedule, Melody is in constant demand as curator and judge for national and regional quilt exhibitions.

She is proud to be participating in the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative, a program to raise awareness and fund research for Alzheimer's disease. It has two parts: a traveling art quilt exhibit interpreting Alzheimer's in fiber art that will tour the US for three years, and an on-going sale of small art quilts. All proceeds will go to Alzheimer's research. www.AlzQuilts.org

Contact her at: melody@melodycrust.com or 26530 Lake Fenwick Road S Kent WA 98032   p 253.859.0446   f 253.859.6450.

Thank you Melody, for sharing your awareness of how the old and the new come together in today's embellished quilts. Your book is full of easy-to-understand ideas, to encourage us to make our own fancy objects or quilts. The photography is excellent, and your writing is encouraging and clear. I highly recommend your book, which is published by Breckling Press. To view their other books, go to: http://www.brecklingpress.com/. Their toll-free number is: 800-951-7836.


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© 2006 - 2016 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

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