This is the fabric that the crazy patchwork is pieced onto. It needs to be a firm weave fabric. For most projects I use calico (Muslin for USA cqers) which I pre-wash but you can also use other cotton fabrics or pelon which gives a slightly padded finish or interfacing if you want less weight. If you are on a budget you can use old sheets but be wary of using dark or printed fabrics as they may show through the top fabrics.
The foundation fabric is cut to finished size plus seam allowance. Some people add an additional allowance and re cut after embellishing, as the embroidery can shrink the work and they can select the area they want but I have never found this a problem and I find the extra size distracting.
In theory you can use any fabric for crazy patchwork but in practice there are limitations which you need to take into consideration when choosing your fabrics:
*** Can the fabric be ironed, I have had very few fabrics that can't be ironed with a little care (sometimes a pressing cloth is needed).
*** If making cloths, bags or other items that are to be used avoid fabrics that will snag.
*** If an item will need frequent washing you will need to choose cottons and easy care fabrics.
*** If it will be framed you can use just about anything from thick velvets and brocades to fine silks and satins.
*** On an item that will be heavily embroidered and embellished use mostly plain fabrics to avoid losing your embroidery which will blend into prints.
*** If the piece is to have little or no embellishment use mostly printed fabrics to add texture and interest.
*** A decision you will have to make is whether or not you are going to prewash your crazy fabrics as you do cottons for traditional quilting. I don't prewash mine, a lot of it has come to me as small bits that would be a nightmare to untangle and iron after washing and I don't intend my work to be washed. Having said this I do wash recycled fabrics and I have washed a few blocks, had problems and solved them. On one block I ended up with a water mark on a neighbouring patch to a fabric that ran, an additional embellishment took care of that. On another block one fabric shrank badly and I had to remove the piece and applique a new patch, easy to do on crazy patchwork. The other thing to watch out for when washing crazy patchwork is rust marks from metal embellishments.
*** How will the finished item be cleaned: washed, vacuumed or dry cleaned (protect buttons and charms from dry cleaning chemicals by covering them with aluminium foil). TIP attach a cleaning and care label to your crazy quilts so that other people and future generations will know how to care for your quilt.
Besides the more obvious silks, satins, velvets and other evening fabrics, you can achieve wonderful contrasts by including some of the following more unusual choices; hessian (burlap), netting, denim, corduroy, linen, cheesecloth, suede, leather, flannelette, and toweling.
Always look at both sides of the fabric, as the colour, texture and pattern can be very different. I particularly like the reverse side of a lot of the old brocade ties.
Crazy patchwork is a good place to use samples that you have made in classes or to learn new techniques i.e. fabric that you have dyed, marbled, stenciled or printed, samples of silk ribbon and small bits of embroidery.
As well you can include doilies, hankies and serviettes.
Ribbons, laces and braids can be stitched in as you are piecing or put on later when you are embellishing.
To quote Shakespeare 'To thine own self be true'. Your own likes and dislikes will also determine what colours you choose, you may like very bold colours or you may like more subtle colours, there are many variables as crazy patchwork can be monochromatic or multicoloured, it can have every piece of fabric different or have just a few fabrics each used several times, it can be dark and Victorian, soft and subtle, bright and bold or light and airy. Choose colours that you like together and you will like the piece that they make. If you are still unsure or you feel your selection lacks zing the colour wheel may help you find the colours that will compliment what you have.
Crazy patchwork piecing can be pieced by hand or machine. Both methods are stitched onto a foundation fabric.
By hand the patches are placed with their edges overlapping on the foundation fabric. Many Victorian crazy quilts have raw edges held in place with the embroidery stitches but you will have a stronger quilt if you turn the edges under and applique them before doing the embroidery.
By Machine the patches are joined with a sew and flip technique, this is the method that I use, it is a lot more angular than hand piecing but it is much quicker. I use embroidery and embellishments to soften the angles and make it flow.
At this point I suggest that you print the notes for general information, Machine Piecing and Solving Piecing Problems, then make a cup of tea/coffee, get yourself comfortable and read through all the instructions before you start.
Crazy patchwork (note that I use crazy quilting and crazy patchwork interchangeably) is a patchwork technique where random (crazy) shaped pieces are stitched to a foundation fabric. The piecing can be left unembellished or you can add a little or a lot of embellishment - there is an endless variety of ways in which embroidery, ribbon, lace, braids, buttons, beads and charms can be manipulated to add dimension and beauty to your crazy patchwork.
Crazy patchwork is very versatile and the way that I describe it is not the only way to do it but is the way that works for me. Machine piecing with mostly hand embroidery and embellishments to soften and blend the angular patches.
Before you get started, RELAX, crazy patchwork is very forgiving and self correcting: pleats can have beads sewn in them; puckers can be scrunched and held down with beads; Small holes can be covered with ruched ribbon or be the start to a lovely flower trail. So think 'creative' rather than 'mistake' and you will enjoy your crazy quilting.