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How I Learned that Crazy is a Good Thing!

Our vocabulary word today is “crazy.”

Detail from LancasterHistory.org Crazy Quilt

“Crazy” in quilting lingo means decorative, fancy, unstructured, frugal, meaningful, and unique, according to the West Virginia Extension Office.

If that’s crazy, then I’m in!

Photo of my first crazy quilt block

Quite the Trend

A crazy quilt is technically a quilt put together haphazardly with pieces added on a foundation fabric, free from strict geometry and conventions. It was quite a trend in the quilting world from the 1880s to the 1920s. The Victorians termed these quilts “crazy”  because the patchwork associated with these quilts looked like the cracked or “crazed” surface of ceramic pottery that was popular in the Victorian era. Quite modern! Most crazy quilts were dark and rich in color palette.

After the crazy quilt blocks were assembled, the early crazy quilters often added embroidery, applique, paintings, and beads, often referencing animals and flowers, and interestingly, a spider in its web was a good luck sign for the quilter. Flies and butterflies were also often included.  

I decided recently to make a crazy block from my Spoonflower fabric swatches—I found instructions in Fresh from the Clothesline by Darlene Zimmerman.

Most Important Lesson from Crazy Quilting

I learned an important lesson in this little project. Because you are sewing everything to a foundation, allowing odd corners requiring two edges to be stitched down is a bad idea. Once you sew a new piece to one edge, right sides together, you’re locked out of the other.

In this video of my crazy block assembly, I hit one of those corners and decided to rip out and replace one of the previous bits. A Victorian would have done it differently.

This is a quick video on the procedure I took for making a simple, crazy quilt block from my stash of Spoonflower test swatches. If you are a surface pattern designer, you may have similar stacks of swatches.

I learned from eminent British quilter Tracey Pereira that folding under and topstitching a seam is allowable in this quilt genre. She said the Victorians did it all the time. That would have been much easier than ripping a seam.

Glass is Gorgeous, But Fabric is Friendlier

So, onto the glass. Here are some of my crazy-like stained glass panels. Glass artists don’t use the word crazy like this, but maybe we could start. One can have a lot of fun improvising stained glass panels in the spirit of decorative, fancy, unstructured, frugal, meaningful, and unique.

I will say that being crazy in quilting is much easier than being crazy in glass. Hard, unforgiving glass is more tedious to piece as each section has to be cut and ground for a precise fit. And you will start to go insane unless you make paper templates. Internal angles aren’t possible in glass since when you “cut” glass, you essentially break it along a controlled score. Once the break line starts, it continues.

Since glass is not destined to cover a bed, one can contain an abstract glass composition within a rectangle or choose a more organic frame.

How would embroidery and other embellishments translate to a glass block? That’s fuel for a future article, but for now, we can see that unconventional and delightfully nongeometric craft projects are fun for quilters and glass artists alike.

This is the second in a series of articles titled Stained Glass as an Other Language (SGOL) that discusses the overlap in the vocabulary and grammar of various arts and crafts with the craft of stained glass.

If you are interested in hearing more on the topic of stained glass, stay tuned for more SGOL articles.

Interested in how watercolor techniques translate to glass? Check out this SGOL article.

My newsletter, Patterned Visions, addresses cross-craft theories in action and how-to guides for stained glass artists. You can get Patterned Visions delivered to your inbox by filling in the fields below.

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