Crazy for Crazy Quilts!!!

In 1876 the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition showed Japanese ‘crazed’ pottery (cracked glaze) and asymmetrical design to the United States.  In addition, it demonstrated fine English Embroidery.  Soon the Godey’s Lady’s Book and other periodicals were encouraging their readers to make crazy quilts.  Most crazy quilts consist of irregular patches sewn onto a foundation (there is usually no batting, so, technically speaking, they are not a ‘quilt’).  The crazy quilts from the Victorian era (late 1800s) were made from silk, velvet, satin and ribbons.  They were embellished with paint, embroidery, beads and buttons.  Many included ‘cigar silks’ ribbons included as a premium with cigars and souvenir ribbons (perhaps from the fair, or cities).


The above example has ribbons, embroidery motifs and a lacy edge.  Most crazy quilts were never intended to  be used on a bed, rather they were used as a decorative element in the living room.  The presence of a crazy quilt showed off the household’s wealth–the maker did not have to do housework so she had time to do ‘fancy’ work and she had scraps of expensive materials, e.g. silks, velvet’s, and ribbons.

s-l500-3Most crazy quilt embroidery is on the seams utilizing combinations of stitches, such as herringbone and fly stitch.  Motifs embroidered in the patches include flowers, birds, spider webs, and animals.  Many crazy quilts have fan blocks or spider web blocks.


By the end of the 19th century, lady’s magazines were actively discouraging crazy quilts, decrying the waste of time involved in making them.

However, quilters continued making crazy quilts (albeit in smaller numbers).  Many crazy quilts made around the turn of the century were made from wool and cotton.


Stitching became more utilitarian and the use of souvenir ribbons decreased.  Generally speaking the individual pieces were larger (although there are exceptions, such as the quilt above, ca. 1910).

Crazy quilts from the 1930’s and 1940’s show off the pastel color palette of the new aniline dyes although the embroidery continued to simplify.  s-l500

They were either constructed in blocks as above or sewn utilizing a sheet as the foundation.  It is not unusual to see a crazy quilt with fabrics from a large range of time periods because most of them were made with scraps.s-l500-6

I have even seen crazy quilts made with polyester double knit fabrics from the 1960’s and 1970’s, such as this example:il_fullxfull-1110677381_sa3o

Preserving crazy quilts from the 19th century can be difficult because many of the silks ‘shatter’ (disintegrate) over time due to the mordants (dye fixatives) used.  Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to stop the process.  Treat your crazy quilts gently, and shelter them from dust and light.


On my longarm today…5 reasons to go quilt shows

It’s fall here in the Upper Midwest, the trees are all turning magnificent colors and the weather is beginning to cool.  It is also quilt show season, before winter driving becomes an issue.  Here are my top five reasons to go to quilt shows:

  1. To see amazing quilts, such as this stunning Best of Show, AQS Des Moines 2016 (plus many additional ribbons) quilt by Bethanne Nemesh.  It is a whole cloth quilt with an Art Deco inspired peacock design as it’s central motif and beautiful feathers.  The quality of the machine quilting was excellent.  I particularly noticed that despite the heavy quilting the motifs stood out from the back fill.  In addition she used ‘advanced’ edging techniques such as covered beaded piping and tiny scalloped edging.20161005_110535
  2. To discover new gadgets, such as how my Gammill Dealer attaches a tablet to her longarm.20161005_113636
  3. To get inspiration and ideas for my own quilting projects–how to fill up negative space.  I liked how Judy Mercer Tescher used block design along with back fills to complete the stars in her quilt Stars and Sparks.  20161005_112750
  4. To take classes–I took a class with Judy Woodworth, an amazing quilter, about back fills.  I can hardly wait to try some ideas and practice in my studio.  I won the class demo with Judy’s stitching.  I love those little feather blooms.20161018_165018
  5. To meet old friends and new friends.  I always have fun going through a show with friends because they see things I don’t notice.  It’s also fun to meet new friends–sit at a table with someone or on a chair next to someone and ask about their quilts.

I hope you enjoy some quilt shows this fall!!


Art with Fabric Blog Hop–Landscape with Birds

I have always loved the artist, Paul Klee, so when Alida invited me to join the Art with Fabric Blog Hop, I jumped at the chance.  Alida asked us to choose ‘a’ work of art to inspire our textile creations.  I couldn’t choose just one!!

Instead, I chose two pieces by Paul Klee:

The first is titled, “Landscape with Yellow Birds,” and the second is “Fire in the Evening Sky.”(Museum of Modern Art, New York).  Of course, one can’t have two without three so I found a poem on Jill Berry Design‘s blog which really spoke to me about hope.

Shuntaro Tanikawa (1931-    )

there are birds
so there is sky
there is sky
so there are balloons
there are balloons
so children are running
children are running
so there is laughter
there is laughter
so there is sadness
so there is prayer
and ground for kneeling
there is ground
so water is flowing
and there’s today and tomorrow
there is a yellow bird
so with all colors forms and movements
there is the world

Paul Klee’s ‘Fire in the Evening Sky’  inspired me to construct my landscape with horizontal lines.  Our beautiful sunsets over the Mississippi river this summer gave me a color scheme.  My birds are drawn from the ‘Birds in Air” block:


I inserted triangle birds into my landscape–red, for the cardinals which visit my yard, and a yellow bird to add color and hope.



I chose a quilting design which also used horizontal lines and triangles.  In addition, I drew yellow and red birds with big stitch hand quilting.  Finally, I added some random big stitch quilting lines to add spark and interest.


I used pearl cotton thread and a chenille needle to do my ‘big stitches’.  I also used a thimble–which, in my opinion, is necessary when doing any type of hand quilting.

Please visit the other bloggers up today:

Bea @ beaquilter (http://www.beaquilter.com/)

Heather @ heatherquilts (http://www.heatherquilts.blogspot.com/)


On my longarm today–White on White??

I look all over for inspiration for my own quilting.  I found this amazing piece when visiting the nearby town of Winona, Minnesota. I love the way that the borders and center are different, yet all are related to one another.  Notice the graceful curves and organic shapes.

Who is this amazing quiltmaker??

Perhaps this photo will give you a clue:


Yes, it is the embossed tin ceiling of the Winona Art Center.  Tin ceilings were popular in buildings beginning in 1880s as an economical way to decorate a room’s ‘fifth’ wall.  Many historic buildings still exist with their tin intact. Don’t forget to look up for design inspiration!!


On the Longarm Today–Minkee

I love quilting Minkee,  my machine likes it and the back shows off quilting stitches beautifully.  The picture above is the back of a traditional spools quilt.  The nap (the raised thread) of Minkee and it’s polyester thread reflects light and shadow.  It is also soft, cuddly and warm…as the temperatures continue to drop here in Wisconsin I will be pulling out everything that is warm!


I used an edge to edge feather design in the center of the quilt and a feathered scroll design in the border by One Song Needle Arts.  The traditional look of the quilting fits well with the traditional quilt design.  The spool pattern has been used in quilts for over 100 years and can look traditional or modern depending on the choice of fabrics, or how the blocks are set into the quilt top.


This quilt will make a lovely gift.





On the Longarm today….Creating a Square and Flat Quilt Top

Builders use levels and plumb lines to keep houses ‘square’.  A house that is level and plumb is less likely to fall down.  Likewise a quilt which is flat and whose angles are intentional is more likely to survive washing, hanging on a wall or in a quilt show.  In every step of the quilt making process we introduce a chance of error.  I have learned through the years (by painful experience mostly) to reduce some of the errors.  My worst quilt ever was a lap quilt made from a brocade fabric, I pieced each block and then had to ease them to fit each other, then because I ‘knew’ that I pieced 12″ blocks, I calculated the ‘theoretical’ length of the borders and quilted it.  It had more waves than a surfer’s convention.

I took out the quilting, ripped off the borders, measured the quilt, reattached the borders, and quilted it.  It still was wavy–I took out the quilting, blocked the top, quilted it, blocked it and attached the binding.  It was as good as it was going to get.  My friends labeled it the ‘quilt from h***”.  I never wanted to see it again.

I have another quilt, a pleated log cabin with a heavily embellished border, hand appliqued with dimensional flowers.  It also does not lie flat, it hangs ‘pregnant’ (with the center bulging out).  I took out the quilting twice, measured and reattached the borders 3 times–it still does not hang straight.  I gave up, it is finished and resides in a very comfortable place in the closet.  Both of these quilts were finished several years ago and they inspired me to improve my technical skills so that I would not ever have to take out quilting stitches again.

Here are some techniques I learned to improve my accuracy:

  • Fabric matters:  The ‘gold’ standard for quilts is 100% Cotton fabric made for quilting.  Yes, you can quilt with fleece, silk, wool, fur, pleather, leather, satin, jersey, polyester, brocade….But if you choose another fabric choice you will have to change some of the techniques and perhaps add some steps in order to achieve accuracy.  For example, the brocade in the quilt above should have had a stabilizer, such as French Fuse or Shape Flex 101, fused onto it.  Then the fabric would not have stretched to create waves.  I also should have stay stitched with a walking foot around the quilt top before quilting it.  100% Quilting Cotton has  minimal stretch, creates a defined crease when pressed, and can be washed.
  • Double starch:  Before cutting cotton fabric I starch it, press it dry, starch it again, and press it dry again.  I use regular grocery store Niagara spray starch, if my grocery store gives me a choice, I purchase the heavy duty, professional, super-duper spray starch.  I don’t mind the smell, of the ordinary starch but I avoid any floral scented starches.  Most of my quilts are made to be used, washed and loved and the starch will be gone after the quilt gets it’s first ‘bath.’
  • Cut accurately:  Know where to place the lines of your ruler, use sharp blades in your rotary cutter, use accurate templates.  Make sure that the fabric is folded parallel to the selvages and only layer your fabric thick enough so that your rotary cutter will cut through it easily.
  • Use an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance:  Even if you have been using a machine ‘forever’ and you ‘know’ it has an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance, test it before starting a new project.  I sewed all day without realizing that somehow my needle position had been changed.  aargh!
  • Measure frequently:  Before putting on sashing or piecing blocks together, measure your blocks.  Fabric moves and small errors can add up quickly.  I measure and fix things as I go along.  It may slow me down, but I don’t have to ‘frog’ (rip it, rip it) as often.
    • Before putting on borders measure your quilt top 6 times in 6 different places.capture
      • Add the horizontal measurements together then divide by 3:  this is the horizontal measurement of the quilt (note:  If the measurements differ more than an inch, I would double check the measurements, then I would double check the construction of the top).
      • Add the vertical measurements together then divide by 3:  this is the vertical measurement of the quilt.  (see note above)
      • Use these measurements to determine the length of your border cuts of fabric.
  • Be a Quilt Engineer:  None of the above techniques would have helped my heavily embellished and appliqued pleated log cabin.  The combined weight of the pleated log cabin blocks sewn to a muslin foundation and the weight of the applique was too much for the borders.  I should have stabilized the borders with a heavy stabilizer.  I think that sometime in the future I might add a heavy stabilizer to the back of the quilt or frame it.

Every quilt has it’s own unique challenges, I problem solve through out each step of the process in order to get the results I want.  At the same time I leave myself open to creative opportunities.  Some times there are happy accidents along the way which require me to change my plan.  Lovelli Signature



On my longarm today—Looking ahead to Christmas

One of the best times of the year for me is coming just a few short months from now–Christmas.  I love to give gifts, to make gifts and to decorate my house with special things which are made by ‘makers’ or ‘artisans’ such as the tree skirt above.  The tree skirt, which can also be made as a round table topper, was made on my longarm, then I assembled and bound it.  It is beautiful in this pure white Kona cotton, but it would also be beautiful in a variety of different fabrics.  I’m thinking of making another version in silk.


In addition to tree skirts, I plan to quilt pillows, placemats and table runners for the Christmas season. . .  I need to get started today, to get everything done in time.  Last Christmas everyone received a UFO under the tree (not my finest moment).  We did have some laughs over that and I’m sure my family won’t let me forget it.  I plan to pace myself this year and manage my time time better.  My goal is to have everything done by Thanksgiving, so I will be posting ideas and finished projects until then.

Lovelli Signature