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Crazy quilts are one of my favorite types of quilts to make because they allow you to really be creative and combine your favorite fabrics with hand embroidery. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know on how to make a crazy quilt of your own!

What is Crazy Quilting?

Crazy quilting became popular in the Victorian Age. Luxurious fabrics like velvet, silk, and satin were easier to find than ever before. Women of the time made crazy quilts to show off and display their hand embroidery and needlework skills.

Modern crazy quilts today can be found in all sorts of styles and colors. Many people use crazy quilt blocks to make a variety of different items – from vests to purses to pillows.

Unlike traditional quilting which typically is made by piecing geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles and triangles into a pattern, crazy quilt blocks can use almost any shape and there really is no pattern to be used, although of course many people do choose to use crazy quilt block patterns to plan their layouts.

Here is an example crazy quilt block I made – you can see it has all sorts of different shapes and patterns!

Another characteristic of crazy quilts is that every seam is embroidered, typically with elaborate stitches. If you enjoy slow stitching, crazy quilting is a great art to explore, especially if you want a more refined look to your work and enjoy different embroidery stitches.

Don’t like sewing by hand? That’s perfectly okay too – many modern crazy quilts are made by machine and don’t always feature the hand embroidery on each seam.

Now that we know what crazy quilting is, let’s move on to the fun part: making your very own crazy quilt block!

How to Make a Crazy Quilt Block

Crazy quilts are typically made in 10 or 12-inch blocks, though of course, you can use any size that makes sense for you. If you want a fun way to use up small scraps of fabric you could even opt to make 6 inch or 8-inch blocks.

Supplies + Materials for Crazy Quilting

One of the fun things about crazy quilting is you don’t need a lot of fabric to get started. It’s a great way to use up small scraps – many people I know even use fabric from old dresses, shirts, and suits in their work!

Here are the supplies you’ll need to make a crazy quilt block:

Fabric Scraps in Assorted Colors and Patterns:

You really only need about 1/8 of a yard of each fabric you want to use.

Many people use a “neutral” color such as black, gray, or white in each block to unify the different blocks together, so you may want at least a half yard of a neutral color if you are making a throw blanket-sized quilt.

Foundation Fabric:

In addition to the fabric you will be using to make the quilt design, you will need blocks of fabric to use as foundation fabric to sew everything on. The pieces of fabric should be cut to your desired block size – 10 or 12 inches square is a good size to start with.

Muslin is a popular and inexpensive choice – plain cotton also works fine. Because the foundation fabric will not really be seen, you could even use leftover fabric from another project, though you will want to make sure any bold colors or patterns won’t show through the top fabric.

Scissors and/or Rotary Cutter: A good pair of sharp fabric scissors is needed for trimming your fabric as you sew it down. A rotary cutter with a straight edge is good for cutting your blocks into straight squares.

Sewing Thread: When piecing together your blocks, you’ll want to use a thread that coordinates and blends in with most of your fabric. I usually use a neutral color such as black for darker quilts or white for lighter quilts.

Sewing Machine: You don’t need an expensive fancy sewing machine to sew together the blocks – you only need one that sews straight stitches.

Pressing Iron: Neat seams are important in crazy quilting and a pressing iron will make it easy to keep your seams flat and even. Note that some fabrics should really not be ironed, such as velvet. Unlike traditional quilting where you typically set the iron very hot for cotton, you will likely want a cool iron if you are working with fabrics such as silk or satin.

Sewing Pins: Most people use pins to pin down their fabric while sewing. I am not most people though and usually don’t pin things down. If precision and neatness matter to you though it’s a good idea to have some.

Embroidery Needle and Embroidery Floss: After the block is assembled, you’ll be ready for the fun part – embellishing all of the seams with decorative stitches. A regular embroidery needle and a few skeins of embroidery thread in coordinating colors is all you need.

Optional Goodies: A lot of people like to further decorate their crazy quilts with a wide variety of other embellishments. Silk ribbon, beads, silk flowers, and lace motifs are all optional things you can use!

Now that you have your supplies gathered, let’s get crazy quilting!

Step 1: Start in the Center of the Block

To get started, cut your center piece of fabric into the shape of a pentagon with 5 sides. The sides do not need to be the same size or angle – in fact, different sized sides and angles will make your quilt look more balanced and interesting.

While you can technically make a crazy quilt block with any shape to begin with, I find pentagons are the easiest thing to work with, especially as a beginner.

You will also want to sew down your second piece in this step, so choose a fabric that looks nice with your pentagon and cut it in a shape with 4 sides, making sure that one side is the same size as the side you are sewing it together with your pentagon.

Match your two pieces of fabric and place them right sides together on top of the foundation fabric. Sew along the edge of the fabric pieces with your sewing machine, leaving about 1/4 inch seam.

Flip the top fabric over and press the seam so that it is flat.

Step 2: Add Your Next Piece of Fabric

With two pieces down, you are ready to add your next fabric. This piece will go along the top edge of both pieces, so make sure it is big enough to cover the edge. This piece should also have 4 sides though of course, the sides do not need to be any specific size other than long enough to cover the edge where you are sewing it.

Place the fabric right side down on top of the other fabrics and sew a straight stitch with your sewing machine leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Once it is sewn down, flip it over and press with your iron.

Step 3: Repeat Step 2 Around the Block

The next several pieces of fabric will be sewn in the same way as the piece we sewed down in step 2.

If you have a particularly long edge and no fabric scraps that are big enough to cover it, you can first piece together two pieces to make it big enough. Doing this can give you some more variety and interest in your crazy quilt.

Continue around in rounds until the foundation block is completely covered from corner to corner.

Step 4: Topstitch along the edge.

When your block is complete, it’s a good idea to topstitch around the edge of the block about 1/4 inch from the sides.

Doing this will help make sure all of your pieces stay in place.

Step 5: Embellish Those Seams!

Once the block is complete, you are ready to embellish it!

Depending on the size of the project you are making, you may want to sew all the blocks together first and then do your embroidery – but of course, you can also simply go one block at a time. Working one block at a time can be easier to manage, but you’ll want to make sure you allocate for the seam allowances when the blocks are joined together.

Generally, you do not want to sew blocks together before embroidering because the piece will be too bulky to easily manage on your lap.

Be sure while you embroider each seam you do not go past the topstitched border so that it will be easier to join the blocks later.

You can do a wide variety of different embroidery designs on each seam {often referred to as “seam treatments”}.

Some popular crazy quilting embroidery stitches include:

  • Herringbone Stitch
  • Fly Stitch
  • Chain Stitch
  • Feather Stitch

Of course, you can mix and match the different stitches together for different results! You can also optionally use silk ribbon or add embellishments like beads, lace, and silk flowers in this step.

Step 6: Give Your Crazy Quilt Block a Backing (Optional)

The backside of a crazy quilt block can look, well – pretty crazy! If you want to give your work a more finished look, adding a backing can cover up all those crazy stitches.

To add a backing to your piece, you’ll want a piece of fabric that is the same size as your block. Place the “wrong sides” of the fabric and the block together and then topstitch in the same place as you stitched the border around the block earlier.

While you can add the backing AFTER you assemble the blocks together, I find it is much easier to add the backing in a “quilt as you go” fashion. This way you aren’t dealing with large pieces of fabric potentially sliding around everywhere.

Step 7: Join Your Blocks Together

Sewing your blocks together is just like sewing together regular quilt blocks. Place two blocks together with right sides facing each other, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Your stitches here should line up where you did your topstitching.

Flip the top block over and press the seam with cool iron for a nice smooth finish.

You can treat crazy quilt blocks just as you would treat any piece of fabric – so from this point, you could optionally make a project like a pillow or even a tote bag.

Step 8: Bind Your Quilt

Quilt binding is one of those things you either love or hate doing. While it can be tricky to get the hang of at first, there are ways to make it easier and still look nice.

One way to bind your quilt, though somewhat tedious if it’s a large piece, is to embroider the edges by hand using a large, closely spaced-together whip stitch so that the edges of the fabric are no longer visible.

Of course, traditional quilt binding methods look great and are much faster to complete!

There are a number of ways to bind a quilt – I usually use pre-made quilt binding strips and then topstitch them down into place, taking care at the corners to make sure they are all consistent.

While mitered corners are beautiful, you can also opt for flat fold-over corners. If you like, you can always add some decorative elements to the corners.

Step 9: Sign Your Work and Admire Your Piece of Art!

Once the quilt is finished, the last remaining step is to sign your work and admire your piece of art – and yes, crazy quilts ARE a work of art!

Many quilters like to name their pieces, as well as include the date it was completed.

You can simply write this on the back using a permanent ink pen {Micron Pens work well for this} – or you can choose to make your own quilt labels by printing them onto fabric from your computer and then sewing the quilt label on the back.

I hope this intro to crazy quilting is helpful for you – and of course, we will be sharing many upcoming tutorials for different techniques you can try in your crazy quilts!

Do you like to crazy quilt? Have any questions for getting started? Comments + questions are always welcome below!

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