What is A Crazy Quilt
Traditional Crazy Quilts
Before learning how to make a crazy quilt with batik scraps, let’s first take a look at how this project has evolved from our quilting ancestors. Crazy quilting dates back nearly 200 years when thrifty women reinvented worn clothing into usable household linens. Many years later during the Victorian era, a different style of crazy quilting became very popular with aristocratic women. Elaborate quilts were designed with scraps of silk, satin and velvet fabrics. Multi-shaped pieces were sewn together to create larger blocks. Then intricate hand embroidery was added to the surface of each seam creating beautiful tapestries. Filled with bright colors, these finished blocks may have been made into pillows, small purses, or even used to adorn clothing.
Today’s economical quilters continue the tradition with what’s known as scrap quilts. This style of quilting has morphed into a multitude of techniques based on scrap sizes and of course the personal preference of each quilter. Though a form of the traditional crazy quilt still exists today, it’s a much simpler process making use of all the modern conveniences. This is the style of crazy quilt I want to share with you.
How to Make A Batik Crazy Quilt
Choosing Batiks for a Crazy Quilt
When you think about how to make a crazy quilt with batik scraps you probably visualize lots of color. While I love vibrant colors, I prefer to keep it controlled with a couple simple techniques. First, choosing a color scheme will set your vision. Pick a print that you love with lots of color and contrast. It will become your center block that all the strips will surround. Its colors will become your focus. Pull plenty of scraps that are within your focal color scheme. You want to think about which colors you want most dominant and which may fall more into the background. Secondly, include both small and large prints. Contrasting print sizes allow bolder fabrics to be prominent while also allowing subtler prints to recede. These two steps will make a huge difference in creating a visually appealing design whenever you use lots of different fabrics.
Easy Crazy Quilt Method
Thinking about how to make a batik crazy quilt becomes much easier when you understand the process. While you can begin piecing without any backing, you’ll find your block will become skewed. Many scraps are random leftovers and probably not cut on the straight of the grain. These strips are very hard to sew into straight blocks. Using a backing for your block will provide a stable surface to hold your desired shape. Method 1 is to use a fabric square. I’ve used muslin as well as old sheets cut to size. Then I create a 3-layer quilt sandwich and quilt it all together.
Method 2 is my new favorite way to make crazy quilt blocks. I begin with the same fabric block that’s cut 1″ larger than my desired finished size. The magic is adding a sheet of fusible fleece to this piece of base fabric. Now as I add my strips, the block is also quilted to a layer of batting for dimension. It’s perfect for a pillow like this project as it creates a nice clean backing inside the pillow cover with a beautifully quilted top.
Prepare the Crazy Quilt Sewing Surface
For this 18″ pillow, the backing is cut into a 19″ square and the fleece is cut into an 18 1/2″ square. Adhere the Fusible Fleece (aff link) to the backing following the manufacturer’s directions. The quilting will be sewn with the fleece side facing up to create a smooth quilted surface. Now comes the fun part of adding all those beautiful batik fabric strips.
With your focal fabric right side up, determine which area you want to use as you central block. Use some fabric scraps to create a few different shapes and find what you like best. An odd number of sides generally works best. My favorite layout is with 5 sides. It’s not a perfect pentagon, but allows plenty of space to for my focal fabric to become prominent. See how those sunflowers look like a fresh bouquet from the garden? Using a small ruler cut your shape with an extra 1/4″ – 1/2″ to allow for your seam allowance. You don’t want your perfect centerpiece to be cut too small!
The trimmed pieces of your batik fabric will now become extra scraps for you next project!
How to Make A Batik Crazy Quilt Block
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Consider the fabrics you’ve selected and how they may be arranged. These colors are predominately yellow, green and blue. With the batik sunflowers in the center, yellow’s a great next choice to make those flowers pop. Then it’ll be green for the leaves and blue for the sky. All together, it’s a simple arrangement to showcase my favorite batik fabrics.
Place your focal block off center towards one corner. This is generally an aesthetically pleasing arrangement and provides balance without creating a bullseye. Once placement is decided, you may choose to pin your block in place. I find that the fleece holds the fabric fine for sewing.
Begin laying your first row of strips around the center block. Choose some that are wider than others. Mix up the colors and prints to keep it interesting. Once satisfied, move them an inch or two away and pin in place so you know where each will be sewn. I start sewing from the smallest strip and work in a circular pattern around the center. Place your strips face down with right sides together and sew a 1/4″ seam from one side to the other. It’s okay to sew beyond the end of the block to secure the seam. Open the strip out and press the seam. You may finger press the initial seams, but the longer strips will do better under a hot iron. This will keep your strips smooth and flat.
How to Cut Crazy Quilt Strips
Notice how the small yellow rectangular strip below fits along the edge. It needs to be at least a long as the block’s edge. Once this strip is sewn and opened out, it will be sewn within the seams on either side. There are two different angles you’ll be working with. First, as in this example, both sides of the center block are coming together towards the cetner which means the strip will be sewn smaller when the side pieces are added. That’s why a small strip works here.
On the sides where the center block is cut wider and the sides head away from the center, the strips need to be longer to reach the extra distance. Given all that, it’s easiest to work with long strips. The short ones are great around the center, but as you move out a row or two, longer strips will be needed.
How to Lengthen Crazy Quilt Strips
Lengthening fabric strips for crazy quilting is simple. You may join two strips together end to end and sew a 1/4″ seam and it’s ready to be attached. Or, as you’ll notice below in the photo on the right, I chose to piece two strips of the same fabric together. They are pinned on the left side of the center block. There was some bright blue that I didn’t want, so I simply cut it out. I used a diagonal seam that you may be familiar with when joining binding strips. A diagonal seam can blend two strips together rather than having two strips butt up together. In this instance, the diagonal method did the trick.
Continue adding strips around the center block in a way that you like them best. The concentric circular design of this block carries out the sunflower bouquet theme. Your strips may be added in any manner your prefer. Each side may be a different color that continues outward. Or alternating between two different colors can create a modern pattern. The idea is to have fun and use those beautiful batik scraps!
How to Add More Interest to Crazy Quilt Blocks
Sometimes when strips become too long and straight, they may detract from the overall design. Instead, think about where you may be able to add an extra corner, or turn in your strips. This simple technique will create more of a circular pattern, eliminating too many sharp angles. Again, remember that this is solely dependent on your desired outcome. Laying out your strips as you add each row will give you a good visual of what your block will look like. In this case, rather than have a long golden-yellow strip across the lower edge, add a corner to bend the strips.
The left photo above, see how laying a diagonal strip across each corner shortens the golden-yellow strip so it’s not so prominent. It’s also an opportunity to add more color in those corner areas. In the right photo above, see how the previous layers are easily trimmed with just a bit off the corners. But the other side has a far larger area to remove.
Use caution when trimming away a large area of previously sewn strips. When possible simply fold the backing out of the way and trim the strip seam with a rotary cutter and ruler. When a strip that needs to be removed has been sewn in place, you may have to pull out a few stitches to open up the seam. That’s exactly what the above left photo shows. Since the golden-yellow strip was sewn in place. about an 1″ of stitches needed to be removed before it could be cut away. Then the seam of the green strip could be trimmed straight.
While this step can be a bit fussy, the overall change creates a much more appealing design.
How to Finish Crazy Quilt Block Edges
Once a few rows are in place, you will begin to get close to the outer edges. Consider how you want your design to finish around the border. Will it be the same all around or will the borders be different colors? Lay in a few pieces to see what you like best. As you sew the strip in place, sew it right off the backing. This will ensure your strips are well secured.
When your block is nearly completed, you will be adding strips to just the corners. As you add more strips, plan to keep those strips moving with your design. Alternatively, use larger pieces of different background pieces in the corners to keep all the visual attention on your focal fabric in the center. Be sure to keep your outer corner strips long enough to go across from edge to edge.
How to Trim Your Crazy Quilt Block
Give your block a final pressing from the top to ensure all the seams are smooth. Then turn your block over and trim it even with the fleece edges for a 18 1/2″ square. Since the fleece is fused to the backing fabric, it’s a very stable surface and there should be very little shifting. Double check the front of your block making sure your strips cover the entire square. Make sure there’s no fleece peaking through.
The final step is to sew a 1/8″ seam around the edge to secure all the seams. This will hold all the edges while your block is being assembled into its finished form.
While I won’t be adding any hand embroidery, I certainly had fun sewing some decorative stitches along the seam lines. The backside above allows the stitching to be a bit more visible. Variegated threads are a favorite of mine for both quilting and topstitching. This variegated thread had all the same colors and worked perfectly for this pillow.
My block became a beautiful pillow. Rather than sew an inner seam and turning the pillow, I chose to use a binding. First prepare your pillow backing with an opening. Consider using a zipper, buttons or velcro, which is my favorite method. With wrong sides together, simply sew the front and back together. Then add a binding to finish it off.
There’s so much you can do with a crazy quilt block. You can size it according to what you want to make. A rectangle will make placements, or a longer piece can be a table runner. A round crazy quilt would make a beautiful centerpiece for a table, or make a small one for a sweet pot holder or mug rug.
Crazy Quilt Your Favorite Photos
Here is a pair of my first crazy quilt pillows made many years ago. While the construction is the same, the focal block is a photograph. Printing on printer fabric is easy and is perfect for making memorable gifts for family and friends. Read more about Memory Quilts and how to use printer fabric for special occasions.
Crazy quilting is a fun technique to try. Once you get started, you’ll never look at your scraps the same way again!