Sunday, August 09, 2009


Now I fell in love with Crazy patchwork as a small child. We had a great aunt, living in a little village near Canterbury, who was both thrifty and creative - what a wonderful combination! One of her favoured activities was creating crazy patched cushions for family members. She used a variety of scraps, including the dressmaker's samples from the lady for whom she had worked as a maid. These were embellished with basic feather and herringbone stitches. I thought they were wonderful.

I did not start exploring crazy patchwork for myself until about 20 years ago. The biggest obstacle to overcome was the necessity to learn some basic embroidery, and night after night I would practise on "samplers", until I felt I was good enough to decorate a seam or two.

I did not look back, although the embroidery thing is still only a "means to an end" for me! It is the opportunity to collect and "play" with bits and pieces, and make a creative decision each step of the way until the piece finally looks "just right" that attracts me to the medium. For years I had wanted to make things that looked more "organic", and ibn recent times crazy patchwork, for me, has become a starting point for even more crative and personal textile art and mixed media work.

I have realised over the years that although many crafters admire crazy work, they feel intimidated by it, because there is no pattern or guidelines to follow. There is an old saying among Crazy patchworkers that there is only one rule - and that is that there are "No Rules" (with the possible exception of needing to enjoy it!)

I was really delighted, therefore, when one of our local group of patchworkers asked if I would come and start them of on some Crazy work.

I decided that it would need to be a small project, easily achievable. So I prepared some bases of either hearts or small Christmas stockings.

About 16 girls turned up to try their hand, and we had a busy afternoon mastering the basics of the "sew and flip" method, and learning to "audition" fabrics and arrangements for the best effect.
Auditioning fabrics and embellishments. Crazy work does not have to be "random."

One of the main messages I tried to get over was that there is no right or wrong, and that mistakes are just opportunities to try something you had not planned for! I also stressed that many traditional quilters need to discover a new and different mindset when working on Crazy patchwork, while still using their basic needlework skills and their sense of colour and design.
Raewyn, who has some experience with crazy work and embroidery, tackled a more ambitious teacosy front.These girls preferred to lay their patches down by hand.Getting ideas and inspirations from finished pieces brought along for display It took great concentration at first.But that did not mean it wasn't fun!
Everyone got on really well - and all the efforts turned out surprisingly different, bearing the stamp of their maker! And that is how it ought to be. When Crazy Patchwork first found popularity in the late 1800's, it was not so much about economy and using up scraps - it was an opportunity for women (and a few men) to express themselves and celebrate their own creativity!

Next time, we are going to tackle some embellishing techniques, including some embroidery stitches.

1 comment:

Karen said...

You hit the nail on the head with your comment about being intimidated by the patchwork. I admire it as well but have yet to give it a go. I have to admit to being one of those persons who doesn't like random things.

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