It all began with a gift to the West Bridgford Patchwork Group (Nottingham) of a box of carefully prepared hexagons-over-papers. We decided one way to use some would be for each member to work a crazy block and to include some hexagons in it. I’ve never considered myself to be even an average embroiderer & am not a fan of hexagons but as the worse job was already done on them, I was happy to participate.
Photo 1. shows my effort. For visual unity, we had agreed to include patches of fabric from our group collection & I had pounced on the scrap with the dragon, photo 2. To my surprise, I enjoyed the process of decorating the block with embroidery more than I expected, though some of it was unpicked a few times as it was uneven! I found it hard to maintain a consistent size of stitch, tending to increase the size of the pattern as I worked along the row. What did become fun was finding lots of variations and combinations of stitch patterns to try, photo 3.
When all the blocks were gathered in, we drew lots to see who would win them. There seemed to be enough enthusiasm – and still lots of fabric in our group collection of exotic scraps – so we later embarked on another crazy block. My effort is in photo 4.
Meanwhile after the first block, I had found myself feeling rather lost without it to pick up and embellish during the evening! So when I acquired a rather superior bear (named Allen, my maiden surname) as an early Christmas gift that year, I decided he could not spend Christmas naked – cue a crazy waistcoat (vest) for him. It took a few attempts to cut a suitable pattern but them I was off, photo 5!
The fabrics I used were scraps from men’s ties, sent to me long before by my French quilting penpal, Therese Lauze. Their light yellows seemed perfectly suited to my bear’s fur and as they included accents of muted blue and grey, I confined my stitching to this limited palette, photo 6. It was a great chance to work with a long-hoarded collection of silk threads, photo 7. I sewed the fabric scraps to a calico (muslin) base then lined the final garment with a little slubbed silk left over from my elder daughter’s wedding dress!
Yet once again, completing the project left a hole in my sewing life so the autumn found me making a chicken bumble pin cushion as a birthday gift for a friend, photo 8. It was a great opportunity to use another hoard of scraps, this time kimono silks whose colours also could benefit from my silk thread collection, photo 9. The project pattern was taken from Judith Baker Montano ‘s book, The Crazy Quilt Handbook (C&T Publishing, 2001, p.51) and is both simple and fun to complete.
The next project also used kimono scraps to make a needle case for Christmas for another friend – but it seems I sent it off without taking any pictures! This project was inspired by J Marsha Michler’s book, Magic Crazy Patchwork, (David & Charles, 2004) which I treated myself to at a quilters’ area day because it includes inspirational sketches of just how much variation is possible with a relatively limited number of basic embroidery stitches.
I have used it again to stimulate my decoration of another crazy block for the West Bridgford Patchwork Group, photo 10. The central motif was composed of tiny polished and drilled amethyst gems given to me towards decorating the block by Kay Anderson, along with the pewter-look leaves and two tiny carved soapstone(?) bunnies, photo 11. This was my first attempt at using ribbon as well as thread and I am delighted with the rich effects it produces, photo 12.
Did I ever expect to become a fan of crazy patchwork? No, I didn’t – but I thought my experience might inspire others to have a go. But be warned, it can be strangely addictive – crazy, but true!