How to make an old fashioned Crazy Quilt

Posted by Rona Herman on

How a control freak creates ‘random’

I’m a bit of a control freak. Seriously, I make lists for my lists. Where quilting is concerned, I like to know exactly what my quilt will look like before I cut my first piece. So, when I committed to making 20 Crazy blocks for my next quilt, most people thought I’d lost my mind. Honestly, so did I.

A few weeks ago I took a Modern quilt class with Carol Lyles Shaw. In this class we took multiple fabrics and placed them together in random order using arcs. There’s that word: “random”. This technique was the first step in pushing me outside of my comfort zone. But, I learned to trust the process, and my own instincts. If it works, great! If not, we break out Jack (the seam ripper).

For my current project, the entire quilt will be almost all made of green fabrics, so I put out the call to my quilting tribe asking for any and all green scraps they could spare. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint. I ended up with a bag full of scraps. All different shapes, shades and sizes. It was wonderful! Now, what to do with them?

WARNING! Control Freak alert!

As I mentioned, I like control. Staring at my piles of green fabric my mind went blank. My friend Heather suggested putting all the scraps into a bag and blindly draw one out as I go. Fabulous idea! But, several of my scrap pieces are full fat quarters and others of about the same size. I can’t exactly add a full fat quarter to the other little pieces. Then, I’d definitely lose that ‘crazy’ appeal.

So, looking at the Fat Quarters I thought back to making my Geo quilt. In that pattern we stitched 3 jelly roll strips together and cut them on an angle to get stripped triangles. I could do something similar by cutting a couple strips from each fat quarter.

Keep it Crazy!

The key, in my mind, for making these crazy blocks is to be inconsistent. This was VERY HARD for me. I have a math brain. I like things to be very linear and precise (control freak). So, simply placing the ruler willy nilly over the fabric and cutting a random sized piece was, shall we say, difficult. These pieces are not identical! This side is wider than that side. Oh, the troubles.

But, somewhere inside I was able to push past that nagging voice and just focus on my straight edges. Taking 2 strips (roughly 2″ wide), straight edges aligned, I stitched them together (using standard ¼” seam of course) and pressed to the dark side.

Now, knowing I don’t want to use the entire strip for one block I held my breath and did 2 random cuts with the rotary cutter across the strips, like so:

Oh my, that little rebellion actually felt kind of good. Maybe I CAN do this non-conformist bit after all.

Next, I did what Heather suggested and just grabbed a random piece from the smaller pieces pile and added it on. Ok, now I need to cover this next edge. Finding another piece long enough and bam. Next piece.

Things are coming up ‘Random’

This whole randomness isn’t so bad after all, once you get the hang of things. Meaning, once you force that control freak inside to shut up and move on.

When I was faced with adding a piece (or strip) that needed to cover the entire width of the block, I decided I definitely did not want to use one whole strip. That did not fit into my new found definition of “random”. So, I found a square piece and stitched it to the ends of another set of strips. Perfect!

Piece by piece I went until I had created something that was at least big enough to cover the 12 ½ x 12 ½ required. Using my trusty 12 ½” ruler, I trimmed up the block and stepped back to look at my work.

Key Tips:

  • When adding new pieces, make sure at least one side is straight. I used my ruler and rotary cutter for this.
  • Once seam is stitched, trim to the seam allowance (1/4″)
  • Press your seam in the direction the fabric wants to go. Once you open the seam you’ll notice one side will usually seem more ‘forced’ than the other.
  • Use a 12 1/2 x 12 1/2 square ruler to keep track of your block size and to trim when complete.

Actually, I was shocked. I LOVE how this whole random thing turned out! There seems to be some sort of comforting style in the chaos of it. It’s almost as if the imperfections are what make the block perfect. Now, I’m definitely ready to tackle the remaining 19 blocks. Wait… 19!? Do I have enough scraps?!

As always, Hoppy Quilting!

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