Crazy patch quilting incorporates small scraps of many different fabrics into one block. It came into vogue in Victorian times as a way for ladies to show off their needlework skills whilst passing the time in their parlors. The parlor went out of style along with the bustle (and the word "whilst"), but crazy patch quilting remains a terrific way to use lots of different fabric scraps in one project. This is a great project for incorporating old silk ties or bits of worn-out corduroy pants.
Our sample uses all cotton fabrics, but you may choose to incorporate lace, silks or velvets into yours for added texture. Round up some contrasting thread, and experiment with some of the decorative stitches on your sewing machine. There are no rules with crazy patch, so if you want to use five different contrasting and complementary threads in your pillow top, go right ahead. Explore your local fabric shop for specialty threads, like metallics or even beads and buttons to decorate the pillow top. The scraps can all be in one color palette, or you can vary in color and texture. It's like coloring outside the lines – no rules.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome DC2010)
Fabric and Other Supplies
- Fabric scraps (enough to create a 15" square, but have a wide variety so you can play) *
- 15" square of muslin or other lining fabric
- ½ yd backing fabric
- All-purpose thread in contrasting or complementary colors to fabrics
- 17" square of tear away stabilizer
- One 14" pillow form
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
* You might notice, being the observant sewer you are, that the scraps used in the photographed sample and the scraps used in the in-progress photos below are different. It's because the whole idea behind this clever little pillow is to NOT go out and buy any new fabric. You should be using up what you have or foraging through the scrap bins in NYC, which is what I did!
- Gather your scraps of fabric together and start sorting them as you would puzzle pieces. Check to see which colors or patterns go well together, then check to see which sizes and shapes make a good fit with one another.
- Find one scrap to be the "base" and work around this. You'll find it easiest if your base fabric has quite a few sides, so you have a lot of angles and edges to work with and can find easily pieces to be add.
- For the bow: cut one piece of fabric 3" x 6" – this will be the center of the bow. Cut a second piece 6" x 7" – this will be the actual bow.
At Your Sewing Machine
In ordinary sewing, you should always place pieces of fabric "right sides together," which means the "fronts" of the fabric face each other. This is so the seam between the fabrics is hidden and safe from raveling. Crazy patch doesn't always follow this rule!
Because of the way fabrics sometimes need to go together using this technique, you might baste fabrics together and then hide the seam with a pretty decorative stitch. If your machine doens't offer a wide selection of stitches, a simple zig zag will suffice - or you can shorten your stitch length to create a satin stitch from your regular zig zag.
- Stitch your base fabric piece to the second fabric piece you have selected. Place the second fabric right sides together with the first, pin, and stitch along the edge using a ¼" seam.
- Open the seam and press flat.
- Trim the edges of the piece to create a straight edge.
- Identify the next piece of fabric you want to stitch in place. Try to find one that will easily share a side with your sewn piece.
- Stitch this piece to the other two, right sides together, using a ¼" seam. Press and trim.
- Continue in this manner to add more and more pieces to your pillow top.
- If/When you come to a space in your patchwork where two fabrics cannot be sewn with right sides together, that's okay! (Remember, no rules.) With the right side UP, lay the next fabric piece on top of the sewn pieces so it overlaps and baste it in place. To baste, elongate your machine's straight stitch length to the maximum (generally 5) and stitch using long stitches in a matching thread. We'll cover up the basting stitches with decorative stitches later.
- Follow these steps until you have completed the 15" pillow top.
- Place your 17" square of tear away stabilizer under your pillow top. We use stabilizer at this point to make sure that the stitches don't bunch or wrinkle the fabric. It just gives you a more 'stable' surface on which to work. We're just going to let the stabilizer "float" under the pillow top - no need to pin. Note: Stabilizer sometimes comes in a 12" x 5' roll - if you have purchased this stabilizer, just cut and layer it under your pillow top to cover the entire surface.
- Cover the seam lines with decorative stitches. You will definitely want to decorate each seam that has been basted in place, to cover up the stitching. You may choose to decorate all of the other seams, or just some of them. Check out our Decorative Stitches article, or look below for more tips on using these fun stitches.
- Turn the pillow top over, and tear away the stabilizer. Be careful not to pull too hard at the ends of your seams, but the stabilizer should tear away fairly easily.
- Because we have a lot of seams on the wrong side of this pillow top that may ravel, we're going to add a lining to it. Place your pillow top right side up on top of the muslin or lining fabric. Pin in place.
- Stitch a scant ¼" seam all around the pillow top. (We will finish the pillow with a ½" seam, so make sure the stitching is within this range, so it doesn't show on the final pillow).
- Next we will make the bow. With right sides together, stitch around the 3" x 6" center bow piece, leaving a 1" opening for turning. Turn the center bow piece right side out and topstitch the opening closed with matching thread.
- Repeat for the 6" x 7" actual bow piece. Wrap the center of the actual bow with the center bow piece and slip stitch in place at the back of the bow.
- Place your bow in a pleasing position on the pillow top, and tack the four corners of the bow, as well as the top and bottom of the bow center, in place.
- With right sides together, sew the pillow front to the back. Sew three sides. On the fourth side, leave an opening just large enough to insert your pillow form.
- Turn your pillow cover right side out and press the seams flat. Remember, the edges of the opening should be pressed so they fold in to match the stitched edge.
- Insert your pillow form.
- Hand stitch the opening closed with a slip stitch.
Hints and Tips
Decorative stitches can add extra embellishment to any project. To ensure your lines of stitches are straight, use a foot with a guide that allows you to sew down the center of a seam, like the Ditch Quilting foot, or line up the edge of your foot with your seam. You can also play with decorative stitches by adjusting the stitch width and length.
Other machines suitable for this project include the White Fashionaire Model 3260 or the Pfaff Expression 3.0.