Introduction: How to Sew an Easy Crazy Quilt Block

About: My name's Abby, and I make things. Lots of things. Sewing is my favorite activity, and any project that involves fabric is like a drug to me. I make lots of pretty things, you should check out my online shop! …

It is ungodly hot outside, so it seemed like a pretty good day to sit in the basement and play with my sewing machine... and on days like this I tend to go for Crazy Quilt blocks, which look awesome, are super easy, and require very little actual measurement (jackpot!). You can use these super interesting-looking blocks in typical things like quilts, but they are cool enough to stand alone in a throw pillow, wall hanging, or tote bag.

Step 1: Supplies

Cutting mat & Rotary cutter (but just plain ol' scissors will do, as well)
Sewing machine
Basic sewing gear
Lots and lots of fabric scraps, cut into 2" strips

It doesn't matter what sort of fabric you use in these blocks. If you're just starting out, I'd stick to cotton, as it is the easiest to deal with. But I've done these out of silks and velvets and they turn out awesome (but definitely not for the beginner!) Get a good variety of fabric, so you have lots of diversity in your square. And just remember that you only need tiny little pieces of fabric, so it's a good way to use up scraps from other projects, or to trade with a friend.

Step 2: This Is Optional.

You completely don't have to do this step, and if you don't have a fancy machine that embroiders you can certainly do it by hand. I just mainly wanted a cool embroidered focal point (and an excuse to play with my machine.

Each embroidery machine is certainly different, so you'll want to follow the directions for what you have.

1. Pick out your fabric for the center piece, and cut it so it's big enough for your embroidered design (my design is about 2") with plenty of space around it to actually trim a shape into it later.

2. Cut a piece of sticky stabilizer, big enough to fit in your hoop, and position your fabric in the center, then center it in the hoop itself.

3. Do your thing. Or really, let the machine do it's thing. Sit back and check your email or something.

4. Once it's finished remove it from the hoop, remove all of the stabilizer, and press.

Step 3: Cut Your Muslin

Now, I want each square to be 12" square when I'm completely finished. You by no means have to do this same size. Just be sure, that whatever size you want to end up with, that you add seam allowances onto all of the size. I like to use 1/4" seam allowance, so that means that I'm cutting a muslin square that is 12 1/2". This muslin square will serve as the base for the block, so you want it to be perfectly square, so take the time here.

Step 4: Trim Your Center Square

Now, the whole idea of a crazy quilt is that it is off-kilter and nuts. So you don't want to just leave the center square to be, well, a square. Use your ruler and cut some fun angles into it.

I would, however, caution you to actually use that ruler and get super straight lines. The reason that this crazy block is so simple is because it's all straight lines!!

When you get this piece trimmed, place it on the muslin square, face up. Try to keep things, once again, off of center. Also maybe think about how the angles that you cut into it may effect the look of the finished piece once it spirals out.

Pin this in place, and you'll finally be ready for some sewing. :)

Step 5: Stitch That Sucker.

I just basted the center square on with a big zig-zag stitch, being sure to stay within a quarter inch seam allowance.

And here is were I will just say it and get it over with... my 2 biggest pet peeves when sewing. Don't do them. They will instantly make what you sew look like homemade junk. Once you get into the habit of this you will find that I was right, so just trust me on this one!!

1 -  CLIP YOUR THREADS. EACH AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, WHILE YOU WORK. Nothing sucks more than having to fight a thousand thread tails at the end of the project, and it's just going to mean that you'll miss one along the way that will make your work look messy. You didn't spend your afternoon on this project to have something look like a thready mess, right??

2 - IRON CONSTANTLY. AFTER EACH AND EVERY STEP. This is absolutely what will make people ask where you bought that awesome thing that you're styling and not hear those pitiful "Awwww, did you make that yourself? You did so.... great." It just looks sloppy when you don't press. Trust me.

(Ok - I promise no more of that ranting)

Step 6: Start Strippin'

No, not that kind. Geez!

Now's the time to add fun fabric on! I use 2" strips, cut across the grain (from selvage to selvage) for this. You can certainly change the size, but I like it as a standard size and tend to just have a shoebox full of strips leftover from other projects.

Pin your first strip onto one side of the center piece, right sides together, lining up the edges. Stitch at 1/4", which is typically the edge of your presser foot. Clip your threads and press it over. At this point I like to baste the other side down with a big zig-zag in the seam allowance, which you totally don't have to do, but I find that it really helps to have everything nailed down and neat as I go along, then you don't have to worry about it later.

Keep going around the center piece, adding on and overlapping the strips, in sort of a log-cabin block sort of style. Just make sure you keep a constant 1/4 seam allowance, if you go off of that you go off of that it just won't work as well, and you'll get puckers and weirdness.

Step 7: Start Your Second Layer

Once you get your first round of strips around the center, it's time to add on. And this is when you can get a little more creative.

The fun part about crazy quilts is that they are all odd-ball shapes and sizes, and that nothing is really the same. So when you place your second row of strips on, vary the angles and the placement a bit. Just as much as tweeking a piece by 1/2'' makes a huge difference.

Just make sure that when you do this, you're still stitching at 1/4" seam allowance, and that you place your strips so that the seam allowances of the row before it are covered. You wouldn't want to stitch a piece on, flip it up, and discover that you didn't cover the piece before it well enough so that you see stitching or cut edges. If you do this, I'm afraid there is some seam ripping and trying again in your future.

Go around like this, and just fill in the entire square of fabric. Don't be afraid to run off the sides of the square, they can be trimmed. And really, it's a heck of a lot better to have extra fabric stitched on than run short, so try to run over the edges of the strips you are trying to cover.

Try not to get to much stuck in a pattern, both with the angle that you stitch pieces on, and with your selection of fabric. Mix it up!

Step 8: Trim Your Square

Once you've gotten far enough to have completely filled your square of muslin, it's time to trim off of the excess.

I flip the piece over on my cutting mat, so that the muslin side is up. Put your ruler along the side of the muslin, and just run your rotary cutter up the side. Repeat this on all sides of the square.

Once you have it trimmed, zig-zag around all four edges of the square, so that everything stays where it is supposed to.

Step 9: Embellish!

Now, crazy quilts squares are usually embellished with embroidery, beads, buttons, or anything that you really feel like doing. So you can do as little of this, or as much of it as you want.

Doing the embroidery by hand looks incredible, but since I'm lazy, I'm using my machine. I put in a multi-colored thread, which looks cool, and also means I don't really have to change the thread a lot of times for variety.

I pretty much just top stitched decorative stitches along the edges of the pieces, and that was pretty much it. I could have also put buttons and stuff on it, but I think I want this to be more kid-safe, so I'm going to stay away from that sort of thing. All of this is completely up to you, and what appeals to you!

Once you've finished this, your block is ready for all sorts of things! I'm going to make it into a bigger quilt, I think, but you could really use these blocks in all sorts of applications. Happy sewing!!

Summer Sewing Contest

Finalist in the
Summer Sewing Contest