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Beginner's Guide: How to Embellish Patchwork Crazy Quilts

Quilter, author, tutor, and columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been sharing her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

Embellished crazy patchwork

Embellished crazy patchwork

Adding the Fun Stuff to Your Crazy Patchwork

When you make a crazy patchwork block, you start with a foundation shape and cover it—either by machine or by hand—with many patches of fabric until the backing is no longer showing.

The fun part comes when you start adding seam embellishments—the ribbons, embroidery stitches, beads, etc. Each seam is embroidered with some stitchery, such as a fly stitch, herringbone stitch, feather stitch, Cretan stitch or many other fancy stitches. You can also add twisted ribbons, lace pieces, buttons, beads and sequins until you have a finished crazy patchwork block.

Patchwork block

Patchwork block

How to Beautify Your Block Foundation

In my previous beginner's guide article, I showed you how to make the crazy patched foundation. Now you can learn how to embellish the block. It's time to beautify!

What You Will Need

  • Your foundation block covered in lovely scrap fabrics
  • Embroidery threads
  • Silk ribbons
  • Beads, buttons, sequins
  • Satin ribbons, picot edged ribbons and nylon ribbons
  • Lace scraps
  • Lace motifs
  • Crewel needles about size 8
  • Anything else you think you'd like to add to the block
  • Scissors, snips, thimble, finger guard and pincushion
Yummy 'special' stuff for embellishing your crazy patch block

Yummy 'special' stuff for embellishing your crazy patch block

Zing from unexpected fuchsia fabric on this embellished crazy patch collar by Jan T

Zing from unexpected fuchsia fabric on this embellished crazy patch collar by Jan T

Step 1: Gather Your Beads, Ribbons and Threads

Place the threads, beads and so on onto the block to see which ones you like with the sewn-on scraps.

Use the colours in the patches as a guide for your selections, but a little zing happens when you use some unusual combinations of colours in the embellishments.

I chose a very bright fuchsia satin to go with the patches on the collar at the right, and the result was a wonderful surprise. You can bring in unexpected colours in your beads and ribbons.

Tip: Keep Your Final Selections Together

Find a divided tray or a plastic container with several divisions and use that to keep your selections in so that they are within easy reach while you work.

My favourite is a cut glass divided sweet dish that was my grandmother's.

Step 2: Prepare to Embellish Each Seam With Fancy Stitches

There are two main ways to cover your stitches: by hand or by machine.

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By Hand

Traditionally, this was done with hand embroidery. Feather stitch, and its many variations, were used extensively. Herringbone and fly stitch were also very popular.

Choose a thread which picks up the colour from one of the patches in the foundation block but not the colour of the patches you are sewing along. This distributes the colour across the block. (A good use of design principles.) Then, decide on the stitch you are going to use.

By Machine

Now that's fast! With the advent of wonderful embroidery stitches built into many sewing machines, even the inexpensive models, you can stitch over the seams with a multitude of new stitch designs.

If you use machine embroidery threads, the stitches shine on the block. Very pretty! Choose from the many fabulous new machine embroidery threads that are currently available.

Now it's time to start stitching!

Put This on Your Wish List!

Step 3: Choose Your Stitch

Here are some of the stitches that are traditionally used in crazy patchwork, along with how to stitch them.

  • Fly Stitch
  • Feather Stitch
  • French Knot
  • Herringbone Stitch
  • Lazy Daisy Stitch
  • Butterfly Chain Stitch
  • Cretan Stitch
  • Blanket Stitch
Fly Stitch

Fly Stitch

Fly Stitch

A staple crazy patch stitch, easy to learn, easy to build on.

How to Stitch Fly Stitch

If you learn Fly stitch first, then Feather stitch is an easy next step.

You can use embroidery floss, silk ribbon, or DMC Pearl cotton.

  1. Hold the skein or ball of thread in your lap and draw up to your forehead. Cut at this length. Longer threads cause knotting and tangling.
  2. Thread a crewel needle, about a size 8.

    These needles have an eye that will take thicker threads. For thick threads you may need to use a darning needle or a tapestry needle.

  3. Tie a small rolled knot in the end.
  4. Bring the needle up from under the block and pull the thread through.
  5. Put the needle back into the block about ¼ inch away from where it came up.
  6. Slant the needle so that it will come back up at about half way across the space between where the needle came up and where it is going back into the block.
  7. Make sure that the thread lies underneath the needle's point in order to form a loop, and pull the needle through.
  8. Take a vertical stitch about ¼ inch away from the loop you just formed.

    You can take a shorter stitch to get the first style in the picture.

  9. One beautifully stitched fly.
Feather Stitch

Feather Stitch

Feather Stitch

This pretty stitch is easy to do.

How to Stitch Feather Stitch

Once you have mastered fly stitch, you can quickly graduate to feather stitch.

  1. Follow the steps for fly stitch until step 7.
  2. Instead of taking a vertical stitch, take a slanted stitch like the top of the fly, moving the needle tip away from the first loop about ¼ inch.
  3. Form the next stitch at the same angle.
  4. Slant the needle in the opposite direction to make the next couple of loops.
  5. Continue in this way for the length of the seam.
French Knots

French Knots

French Knots

They are so useful and very beautiful.

How Do I Use French Knots in Crazy Patchwork?

They are wonderful for sewing on twisted ribbons.

If you use silk ribbon and make 'sloppy' knots, they are good for wisteria blossoms, wattle, any flower trails.

How to Make French Knots

See the two tutorial videos below to learn how to make these knots.

Herringbone Stitch

Herringbone Stitch

Herringbone Stitch

Simply follow the diagram for this easy stitch, and see the photo below for a fancy variation.

Herringbone stitch with Cretan stitch and chain stitch between.

Herringbone stitch with Cretan stitch and chain stitch between.

Lazy Daisy Stitch

Lazy Daisy Stitch

5: Lazy Daisy Stitch

This is a single or detached chain stitch. See the video below to learn how to make a chain stitch.

Butterfly Chain Stitch

I call this stitch Wheat Sheaf, and use it a lot on my crazy patchwork. See the video below for a guide.

Cretan Stitch

Cretan Stitch

Cretan Stitch

This is also one of my favourite stitches! Follow the helpful video tutorial below to learn it.

Blanket Stitch

Blanket Stitch

Blanket Stitch

This is also called the buttonhole stitch. It's another easy one; just follow the diagram. The photo below shows a variation.

Here's a variation on the blanket stitch, up and down across the seam.

Here's a variation on the blanket stitch, up and down across the seam.

Baubles, buttons and beads adorn this vest panel.

Baubles, buttons and beads adorn this vest panel.

Step 4: Add Some Beads to Block Seams, Plus Some Bling

Beads add dimension and texture to your crazy quilting.

Use them to make bead trails, to attach twisted ribbons, to embellish herringbone stitch or cretan stitch, etc.

They are simple to apply and look great!

Questions & Answers

Question: Where do I buy embellishments for patchwork?

Answer: Embellishments are found in charity shops, haberdashery departments in big stores, sewing centers. Buttons, embroidery threads and ribbons are good to start.

© 2009 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

Have You Made Any Crazy Patchwork?

Ellie S. on January 20, 2019:

Hopefully this site is still active! I started to make my first crazy quilt BUT I had a problem! After sewing my patches together I started to embellish BUT. What do I do with the raw ends of ribbon, lace, sequeins, yarn, rick-rack?

This made me think that I should sew the patches together a piece at a time so I could incorporate each embellishment in the seams as I go.

Advice please!

anonymous on May 06, 2013:

I've made several. The embellishment is my favorite part.

anonymous on October 26, 2012:

if you would like to see my quilt, please visit and fine crazy quilt on the left hand column

anonymous on August 23, 2012:

I was wondering if you are doing a vest with a seam do you sew the seam first or do the crazy patch then sew the seams together

GmaJane LM on August 13, 2012:

I used to embroider years ago, well hopefully not that many, but I'm afraid it is many years ago! I love your lens and you have obviously worked very hard on it. Great instructions. Inthink you have inspired me to start again. Thank you

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on September 26, 2011:

Very nice lens, I like it, have not seen patch work done like this.

Will have a try as soon as I can find some spare time.

Thanks for sharing.

AbigailsCrafts LM on June 12, 2011:

I made my first two blocks this weekend and found it enormous fun. Thanks for the lens, now I have even more ideas!

Ann Hinds from So Cal on January 04, 2011:

Blessed this lens. This is all helpful information, kind of a one stop shop. Thanks

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on September 11, 2010:

@The-Java-Gal: Can I see it when you're finished? I'd love to have a show and tell pic! Thanks for the nice words.

The-Java-Gal on September 11, 2010:

I have wanted to design fabric for a vest, and not being a quilter, I found your step by step directions most helpful, Inspired me to get out my scraps and embroidery threads.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on September 02, 2010:

@marsha32: Hi Marsha, I'm glad you found it useful. Thanks for the feature!

marsha32 on September 02, 2010:

I featured you in the rocketmoms section here

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on August 14, 2010:

@myraggededge: I'm glad you think so. Thank you for the blessing!

myraggededge on August 14, 2010:

Fantastic resource and gorgeous pictures. Blessed:-)

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on January 28, 2010:

@justholidays: They are my passion, in all shapes and styles. Glad you visited. Thank you for the blessing!

justholidays on January 28, 2010:

I love patchworks and if I was more skilled, I surely would have made a few ones myself. They are so stylish and warm!

Blessed by a SquidAngel.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on January 27, 2010:

@SoyCandleLover: Perfect? You are too kind! Thank you.

BWDuerr from Henrietta, New York on January 27, 2010:

Beautiful work and the instructional details are perfect. Thanks for sharing you wonderful hobby.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on January 18, 2010:

@Kylyssa: I am a cool grandma! Thanks for the compliment.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on January 18, 2010:

@myraggededge: What a loevly comment. Thank you.

Kylyssa Shay from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on January 18, 2010:

This is not your grandma's quilting - unless you have the coolest grandma ever! Awesome instructions, too.

myraggededge on January 18, 2010:

What a comprehensive lens. It really is an example of the best that Squidoo can offer. I've already clicked over to look at Part 1. Excellent.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on January 17, 2010:

@anonymous: Thank you so much, Bev!

anonymous on January 17, 2010:

What a lovely instruction guide for embellishing crazy patchwork! 5 stars!