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How to Make Crazy Patchwork Blocks: Beginner's Guide

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

Crazy patchwork block

Crazy patchwork block

Crazy Patchwork Was My First Love

I love all the wonderful bright fabrics, the different shapes, and best of all the lovely embellishment on crazy quilts.

My very first attempt at patchwork was a crazy patchwork stole.

I used to wear it around my hips (they were slimmer then so it fitted!) and clip it together with a large gold and turquoise brooch. It has a long black fringe on which I threaded sparkly beads here and there. A real bohemian piece!

The block in the picture is what you will make.


How Is Crazy Patchwork Made?

The patchwork is made by applying scraps to a foundation.

Seamstresses would completely cover some not-so-good-fabric with scraps of velvet, satin, and all sorts of 'good stuff'. Then they'd embellish all the seams with stitchery.

The one above was made by one of my students and it was embellished by machine.

The Idea Is to Have Fun!

The first rule of patchwork is that there are no rules!

Many different books are available to help you learn more about this type of patchwork. The authors will suggest different ways of sewing the patches.

If you want to make a block by hand, then you just sew patches onto the backing fabric overlapping each one and appliqueing them down to hide the raw edges.

By machine, you sew two pieces onto the foundation/base, press and trim. Sew another patch on, press and trim.

I'm going to show you my method for machine piecing the background.

Where Do You Start?

First, collect all your bits and pieces together that you want to use in the piece.

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Read More From Feltmagnet

The fabrics can be of any weight, slippery, shiny, woven, coarse, dull, bright, patterned...

The fun aspect of crazy patchwork is the different textures and fabrics put together for contrast.

Materials and Supplies

This is for an eight-inch crazy patchwork piece by machine.

  • 10-inch square of foundation or backing fabric. I like to use the lightest weight I can, and my favourite is pre-washed lawn.
  • Scraps of many types and colours
  • Neutral coloured thread to join the patches together
  • Sewing machine
Pile of wonderful crazy bits

Pile of wonderful crazy bits

Step 1: Collect All Your 'Bits'

  • Start with one colourful fabric that you love the colours in. Find as many bits from your scraps that 'go' with it. Don't be too fussy about matching the colours, they will change when the embellishing happens.
  • Find all the embroidery threads and other notions you have which could look great on the palette you have chosen.

Step 2: Cut the Background Fabric

  • This is the foundation for all the scraps to be sewn to.
  • You can use fine muslin or unbleached calico instead of lawn. The foundation is never seen but should be lightweight so that the block doesn't become too 'heavy' or thick. Hold it up to the light and see how 'see-through' it is. (My hand is easy to see behind the lawn.)
  • Decide on a size for the finished block and cut the foundation piece (from your lawn or other fine cotton or poly-cotton fabric) at least two inches bigger.
  • If you want to get a 12-inch block, cut the foundation 14 inches; a 6-inch block, 8 inches; and so on.

Step 3: Cut the First Piece

  • Cut a smallish piece of one of your chosen fabrics to start the block. I chose my multicoloured scrap, but it need not be the colourful fabric, just a starter patch.
  • It needs to have an uneven number of sides, and all the angles should be irregular. The idea is to use a shape that's 'crazy'.
  • Position this piece somewhere near the centre of your lawn/muslin.

Step 4: Cut the Next Piece

  • Select a piece from your pile of scraps that contrasts with the first patch.
  • Cut a straight edge on one side to make sewing it to the next patch easier.

Step 5: Place the Two Patches Together

  • Lie the new patch right side down on the first patch.
  • Align the straight edge with one of the centre patch's sides. If you need to, pin at right angles to the seam to hold the pieces together while you sew.
Press the second patch away from the first.

Press the second patch away from the first.

Step 6: Join the Two Patches

  • Starting just a tiny bit before the beginning, sew along the seam ¼ inch away from the raw edges, or use the side of your machine's presser foot to guide you.
  • Sew to just a tiny bit after the end.
  • Press the new piece away from the first patch. Pin down if it wants to 'ride' up.

Step 7: Tidy Up the Edges

  • As you add patches, you will find that the edges are longer or the angles are not quite right, so each time you add a patch you will have to make some 'adjustments'.
  • When you have finished pressing the patch that you sewed to the centre, lay a ruler along the sides to see if you need to trim the edges to make a continuous line.

Step 8: Draw a Line as a Cutting Guide

  • Using a chalk liner, or a pencil that contrasts with the fabric (so you can see the line), cut the crazy fabrics only along this line.
  • This is so you can easily sew on the next patch.

Step 9: Trim the Patch

  • Cut the excess fabric from the last patch sewn to whatever size you like, ready for the next patch of scrap fabric.

Step 10: Cut the Next Scrap Patch With One Straight Edge

  • With right sides together, lay the straight edge along any straight edge you made after sewing the second piece on.
  • Sew as before. Press away from the patches underneath, usually towards the edge of the block.

Step 11: Draw a Straight Line

  • Use as a sewing guide for the next patch, as above. Trim off the excess fabric on that patch (see step 7).

Step 12: Trim to the Edge

  • When a patch reaches the edge of the background, you can trim it to that edge, or reduce its size.
  • Line up the ruler with the edge of the block, and cut off the excess.

Step 13: Trim Patches at the Edge

  • Cut off the excess fabric to fit the foundation.

Step 14: Keep Adding Scraps

  • Press and trim as you go.
  • When you have some of the edges and corners covered, place your ruler along one edge and trim.
  • This patch is too big for the edge, so it needs trimming ready for another patch on the corner.

Step 15: Trim Away the Excess

  • Cut the patch down with your scissors, so that there is a smaller triangular area on the corner.
  • You will need to cut the other side of this patch to get a straight line.
  • The edge of the ruler in the picture shows where the cuts will be.

Step 16: Find a Triangle Scrap

  • The triangle will cover the corner of the foundation.
  • Choose a scrap that is a bit bigger than you think it needs to be.
  • Sew with right sides together and press as before.
  • Trim it to the foundation fabric.

Step 17: Address the Long Seam

Now, how are we to cover that big space? Large areas need special treatment.

  • At some stage, you'll have a large empty space to fill and need to piece together some scraps to make a crazy fabric to fit that area.
  • Join scraps in a random way until the 'fabric' is larger and roughly the shape of the area you need to cover.

Step 18: Straighten One Edge

  • On one side of the sewn-together patches, mark a cutting line so that the edge is straight when cut.
  • Sew to the foundation, press towards the edge of the foundation. Trim to the edge.
Straight stitch around the edge to stabilise the block until you have decorated it.

Straight stitch around the edge to stabilise the block until you have decorated it.



Sometimes when you lie the next patch on top, you see that the underneath seam isn't straight enough.

There's a simple fix:

  • Sew a new scrap on. Cut a straight side to place against the already pieced area, sew to the existing patches.
  • Press out to the edge, trim away the excess.
  • Trim level with the block's edge.
Another Way to Trim the Block: You can applique the heart to any other fabric to make a pretty block for a heart quilt.

Another Way to Trim the Block: You can applique the heart to any other fabric to make a pretty block for a heart quilt.

Pretty stitching (by hand or machine) embellishes crazy patchwork.

Pretty stitching (by hand or machine) embellishes crazy patchwork.

Step 19: Decorate the Seams

  • Beginner's guide: embellishing 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.

More About Crazy Patchwork

Questions & Answers

Question: How do you finish a crazy patch block for a quilt? Do you add batting?

Answer: These blocks are not usually quilted. They are tied after lining the top as though you were making a pillowcase.

© 2009 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

How did you find the lesson?

Eileen Douglas on May 02, 2020:

The section on decorating the seams doesn't tell anything about how to do that. Also, have crazy quilts always been made in blocks?

Kay Mullins on September 17, 2018:

This is the BEST explanation I have ever seen on HOW to make a crazy quilt block!..thank you SO much!

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on May 13, 2018:

Lisa, a universal needle will be fine,

Lisa on April 29, 2018:

What kind of sewing machine needle will sew on all these different types of fabrics?

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on January 15, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks for your comment. What happens if you draw first is that you are then going by a pattern, and the block won't evolve freely.

anonymous on January 11, 2013:

i like your way of doing it but i have seen an even easier way and that is to draw the crazy lines on paper or material first then add the pieces as you go, this saves having to keep suing the ruler to straighten things up

PatriciaJoy from Michigan on October 29, 2012:

Another excellent quilting lens of yours. Angel blessings.

Gayle Dowell from Kansas on August 11, 2012:

What a great technique for making quilts. Looks like fabulous fun! Makes me want to try my hand at quilting again.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on November 11, 2011:

@marsha32: Glad you are enjoying the lenses, Marsha. Crazy patch is really free, so give it a go.

marsha32 on November 10, 2011:

oh wow....I could go crazy looking at all of your quilting lenses! I love to quilt. I won't ever be more than just a beginner, but love it all the same. I am so wanting to do a crazy quilt with scraps. I've been saving some in a bag for awhile now. Smaller scraps do go into a pillowcase that once full enough will be sewn and donated to the animal shelter for a dog bed.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on July 24, 2011:

@Elle-Dee-Esse: I'll make another lens on how to get out of funny holes soon.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on July 24, 2011:

@Ann Hinds: Thanks you!

Lynne Schroeder from Blue Mountains Australia on July 24, 2011:

Thanks Jan - I think you have set me straight. I'll try to finish that project now

Ann Hinds from So Cal on January 04, 2011:

Came back to bless this lens. Great instructions and pictures that anyone can follow. Thanks!

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on September 13, 2010:

@Ann Hinds: Glad you liked them both. Have fun with your crazies!

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on September 13, 2010:

@Heather426: Thanks for that!

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on September 13, 2010:

@ElizabethJeanAl: Let's see it when you're done? Thanks for dropping in.

Jan T Urquhart Baillie (author) from Australia on September 13, 2010:

@Bemused in Tasm: Start with one block. That's a good plan! Thanks for visiting.

Ann Hinds from So Cal on September 13, 2010:

I like this so much I added it to my lens. I also added the embellished one as well. My lens is for me so I have all the information I want in one place. Great job, easy to read and very clear steps that leave me with no questions to ask.

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on November 14, 2009:

Very well explained! 5* and Blessed.

ElizabethJeanAl on November 13, 2009:

I've gotten lazy, doing mostly standard blocks. I haven't made a crazy quilt in a long time. It would be fun to do one again.

Thanks for sharing.


Bemused in Tasm on November 12, 2009:

Lovely lens. I've yet to make a crazy quilt, but it's definitely on my agenda! Congrats on a great lens. MM