Archive for the ‘crazy patchwork’ Category

When I last wrote about this project, I had just finished embellishing the seams on what would be the front of the bag. That was on May 24th! Good heavens! Much has happened since then, including lots of time with family; but when I could, I was “still stitching” on Tangie’s bag. Now it’s just about finished.

Step-by-step: after I had embellished what would become the back and the flap, I decided to add beads and sequins to the patches which I had used with some on them.

You can see the need for them here.

More needed

Having used all the beads and sequins I had harvested from the patches I’d cut,

All gone

I had to go back for more. You wouldn’t believe how long it takes to get those tiny bits off the fabric and the threads removed from them.

The patches filled with more beads-on-sequins, I was ready to remove the work from the frames and stitch the front and back together.

Seams finished

Then I lined the bag and the flap and made a shoulder strap. I have not yet attached one end of the strap because I want the length to suit Tangie.

Flap liningLining

And here’s the finished (almost finished) bag.

Finished front

Closer look

Here’s the back and bottom.

Back and bottom

And the button that doesn’t really close the bag. There’s Velcro inside.


I found this button when I was shopping for beads and a button for my black jacket. Works perfectly here.

Here’s what’s left of Tangie’s top, from the front, the back, and one sleeve.


And here is Tangie herself, having just adjusted the shoulder strap to the right length. I’ll stitch that tonight and she shall have it to take to Atlantic City this weekend.

(I’ll be  in New Jersey myself, this weekend.)


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Though  I haven’t posted about it in a while, I am still stitching—on something very unplanned and unexpected.

A few weeks ago I saw one of the care center receptionists with whom I’ve had many conversations. When I saw the top Tangie was wearing, I exclaimed that I loved it. She said, “Oh, this is so old. I don’t even like it any more.” But I loved the colors. “When you’re done with it, don’t throw it away. Give it to me. I don’t want to wear it; I want to use the fabric to make something.”

“You may have it sooner than you think,” she replied. I thought we were just bantering, but then I thought, what if she’s serious?

Well, the next week, as I passed the front desk, Tangie handed me a bag with the top in it. OMG, she’s given it to me. Now what do I do?

I hung the top where I’d had Josh’s jacket hanging, so that I could see it all the time and hope for an idea to come. Here I show the back of it with some fabrics I was considering using with it. Unfortunately, I inadvertently deleted permanently the original shots I took of the front and back of the top. If you look closely, you can see sequins and beads on the ends of the sleeves and on the shoulder. The front had a yoke  of these clear glass beads on silver sequins.


The idea that came to me was to make a small shoulder bag of crazy patchwork. The first thing I did was to construct a mockup using a bit of an old bed-sheet to make sure I could do it.

Bag shapeFlap closing

It’s just two rectangles, the back longer than the front so it can flap over it, and stitching over the bottom to make square corners. It will be lined.

Then I began sketching some patchwork designs as thumbnails.


After settling on one,  I enlarged it on the computer and used it to make patterns for patches. This is for the front and back


and this is for the part of the back that will be the closing flap.


Next, because the fabric, though pure cotton, is thin and rippled, I fused part of it to fine Pellon interfacing. Then I traced the designs onto my foundation (old bedsheet remnant) using the light table. I also prepared stretcher bar frames.


Not necessary, but I like a firm foundation to work on when stitching, especially with beads. This goes back to the course I took in silk and metal thread embroidery where I learned to frame the piece for working.

I’ve repeatedly acknowledged my ineptness at piecing. Although I carefully pinned the paper patterns on to the fabric and cut leaving plenty of seam allowance, as I began to put the patches in place on the foundation, I wasn’t at all pleased with the effect, and machine stitching and flipping made it worse.

I wasn’t getting the parts of the fabric design and the direction of that design as I wanted them to combine.

In the end, I discarded a lot of patches and cut new ones.

Rejected patches

I cut them one at a time, making a paper pattern for each and pinning it in place before choosing the part of the fabric from which to cut the next one.

Pin piecing back

My worktable at this stage:


I returned to my method of last resort–hand basting the patches. Here’s the pinned and partly hand-basted front.

Partly basted

As you can see, I kept some of the beads-on-sequins. To do that, I had to secure them with my own stitching. Talk about fiddly work!

Here are some of the beads and sequins I had to remove to allow for seams. This took forever.


Both sides stretched and ready for seam treatments.

Stretched on frames

I was finally able to think about how to embellish the seams. I did that first on paper—a scan of the work on which I sketched some ideas.

Eventually I actually got to the fun part. Here’s the front of the bag with all the seams embellished. I don’t know whether this is enough, or whether I’ll add to these seams.

Front stitched

For now, I’m working on the back. I’m re-stitching all the beads-and-sequins to make sure none come off. As usual, this is slow going. It takes me so long to finish any project. So much unnecessary work because I don’t have the skills and experience to do what I want to do.  I wish I were more productive.

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Second card

This piecing for the second fabric card I’m making took about an hour and a half, maybe less. No design. I just cut and pinned patches before hand basting them. It will be interesting to see how these two crazy patchwork pieces turn out.

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I’ve written about Ernie’s pillow earlier. Here’s the back story. Whenever Ernie is seated, except at table, he’s in his recliner, with a heating pad against his aching back.


That wasn’t quite enough to relieve the pain, so we tried all the small pillows we had. Since none was comfortable, I made a pillow by sewing a rectangle of old bed sheeting and stuffing it with fiber fill. It took some adjusting of size and amount of stuffing to satisfy Ernie. Now he has a Goldilocks pillow—not too fat, not too small, just right.

Shortly after I’d made the pillow, I decided to make a cover for it. At the same time, I had been thinking that I needed a background, a venue, for using TAST 2010 stitches. Of course: Make a crazy patchwork and use TAST stitches as seam embellishments. This is intended to be a utilitarian pillow, not a decorative one. It will spend its life behind the heating pad, behind Ernie’s back. It has to be durable and comfortable, so nothing too dimensional, or too fancy to take the wear.

Ernie’s favorite colors are green and blue. In my stash I found plenty of pieces of denim and chambray, which are remnants of old clothes, as well as various print fabrics—all cotton, and old sheeting for backing. (I may soon have to declare a sheet “old” so that I can put some more of that fabric in my stash.) Of course the patchwork couldn’t be just blue and green. It had to have some hot color for me.

I’m lousy at piecing by machine; I’ve done so little of it, and then only very small pieces. This seemed like a good opportunity to work on my machine-piecing skill. After doing one side on the machine, and having to finish it by hand-basting, I just hand-basted the other side. I wish I could whip out pieced blocks, several at a sitting, as others do. Haven’t learned how to do that. Here are the two sides, pieced.


Now I had something on which to use TAST stitches. All the seam treatments I’ve done so far are on Flickr, but here are a few.

Vandyke stitch_edited-1 Chained cross stitch Three more

This is definitely not traditional crazy quilt seam treatment. For the most part, I resisted the temptation to add more decorative stitches to the TAST stitches. Further, the seams are almost exclusively stitched in #5 pearl cotton, not a variety of threads. The next shot is WIP, not all seams covered:

Pillow cover WIP_edited-1

When I’d covered all the seams, the large patches were too blank. If not stitch embellishment, then what? Appliqué? You may have already read about this process. Back to my stash and cutting some small shapes from various print fabrics—still all cotton.


After fusing these shapes to patches, I had places to put more stitching—on and around these shapes. A few examples:

Turkman stitch as a borderTurkman and Spiked_0002

Spiked knotted cable chain stitch

Turkman and Spiked_0001

Flowers, stitched over and around. Raised close herringbone for the leaves, from TAST


Tight, or tailor’s buttonhole, not from TAST


Don’t remember this stitch. Anybody recognize it?


For stitching these appliqués, I used DMC cotton floche and #8 pearl cotton.

Shown again, here’s the finished first side of the pillow cover.


Now I’m working on the other side, still using TAST stitches. Here’s a scan of part of it.

WIP second side

Back to work. Because I’m pushing to finish this pillow cover, I made a list of previous TAST stitches that I hadn’t used on the first side. I’m working my way down the list, putting them on this side. This time I’m documenting the stitches as I go, so there won’t be any I can’t identify. And each Tuesday, I add the new TAST stitch.

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I’ve just finished embellishing one side of Ernie’s cushion cover. I’ve used it as background for TAST 2010 stitches.

Here’s the last patch outlined with Eastern stitch. It follows curves nicely.

The idea for stitching on these print patches comes from Broderie Perse, a popular style of embellishing quilts in the 19th century. Chintz fabric printed with beautiful large flowers and floral arrangements was very costly. Women couldn’t afford to buy much of it. So they cut out the flowers and arrangements and appliquéd them to their quilt squares.

Here’s an example from an antique quilt.

I found this at Barbara Brackman’s website, Material Culture. She shows many exquisite examples of 18th and 19th century quilts with Broderie Perse.

What I did is not really Broderie Perse, but that was the source of the idea.

I cut out the flower from print fabric, then outlined it with stitching—outline and back stitches. The leaf is raised close herringbone from TAST 2010.

I made this blue flower pop out by stitching around it with tight buttonhole, or tailor’s buttonhole stitching.

Ernie’s colors are blue and green, but I had to add a third color family—red for eye appeal to please me. The small patches of print fabrics are all stitched with the same three threads—light green DMC cotton floche, blue and pink/mauve DMC #8 cotton pearl.

I was going to add a second button, but Ernie said he found the single button more intriquing. I’ll decide after I look at it for a while.

Now on to the other side of the cushion—pieced and ready for seam treatment stitching. Since this is a utilitarian cushion cover I’m making, there’s no fancy embellishment, none of my usual beads, metallics, gold metal work, or heavy dimensional stitching. Only cotton fabrics and threads. It has to be comfortable behind Ernie’s back, and durable.

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Shell chain stitch

This week’s Take a Stitch Tuesday (TAST) stitch is the shell chain stitch. Though I haven’t blogged about it, I have been keeping up with the TAST challenge. Because of other projects, including a wedding gift I can’t post about until after it’s been received, I haven’t tried to be creative with most of the stitches this time. I’ve just practiced making them. A few weeks ago I decided to make a crazy patchwork pillow cover to give myself something to use the stitches on.


Here are the front and back of the pillow cover, tacked to my portable design board.

I learned how to make the stitch, using just a single length of #5 pearl cotton.

Then I wondered whether I could make it go ’round.

It might work with a heavier thread.

Today, uninspired by the shell chain stitch, I resolved to use it on the patchwork anyhow. When the basting stitches of this denim patch pulled loose, I replaced them with a row of small-scale chain stitches, just to keep the patch in place and hemmed. I decided to combine the shell chain stitch with this row of chain stitching.


First I tried placing shell chain stitching directly over the small stitching, thinking it might yield interesting texture. That didn’t work, so I did shell chain stitching beside the denim patch. Each small stitch is the length of one of the original chain stitches, and each large stitch is the length of two of the original stitches.


Well, you can recognize shell chain stitches, but it looked boring to me. After a couple of trials, I settled for lacing the two rows of chain stitching with a rusty #5 pearl cotton thread. The awkward angle I covered  with a button.


Maybe if I used the shell chain stitch for a different purpose, I would like it. So far, it doesn’t interest me.

Here’s the pillow cover thus far. I expect it will get more embellishment in addition to TAST stitches.

Pillow cover WIP_edited-1

Do take a look at the creative stitching done by other TAST participants at our group site on Flickr.

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Last May, when I was in the most manic phase of my recovery from ME-CFS, I could not sit still to stitch. I couldn’t bear to work on the Elizabethan embroidery I’d been laboring since January to learn. You may remember that hanging on my portable design board was a piece of orange silk scarf with some sample swatches of silks and some novelty threads. It had been there for a couple of years, I think, while I wondered what I might do with the materials. Here’s what it looked like.


Yesterday I finished the project I’ve been calling my crazy recovery improvisation. Now it looks like this. (Click to enlarge.)

You know that when I began, I had no idea of what I was doing. In fact, this piece is just a doodle cloth. There was never any design. Whenever I could make myself sit still long enough, I’d grab needle, thread, beads, or whatever came to mind and do something on this cloth. (By the way, every swatch, every patch, has been embellished.) I didn’t even count on keeping the darn thing. It was just a way to make myself do some stitching, something creative, something productive.

The closer I got to completion, however, the more I liked this crazy patchwork, this wild thing. So, how to finish it? How to make it presentable for display? It had to be stretched over foamcore to keep some of the sequin waste, motifs, and stitches in place. It couldn’t be a quilt-like wall hanging. It had to be firmly mounted. It also had to have a border, as I had stitched right up to the edges of the orange fabric. That made adding a border problematic. See what happens when I don’t plan?

I knew I wanted to use the purple scarf for the border, but it is thin silk, not sturdy enough in itself. I pulled out all my fusibles—6 or 7, looking for one that I could use to back the scarf.  No. Wouldn’t work.


I just folded the scarf so that I could use it doubled.

Ironing border

As you can see here, I had almost no margin of orange fabric to which to attach the border.

No margin

Moreover, the border fabric did not give me enough material to wrap around the foamcore and it is not strong enough to take the lacing to stretch the piece.  As backing and extension, I opted for more of my salvaged bedsheet. I hand-sewed strips of the cotton as extensions for the purple border, which then had to be hand-sewn to the orange fabric. Here’s the border, backed with white bedsheeting, pinned to the edge—barely.

Now what With the border attached, I was ready to mount the piece over padded foamcore—padded with two layers of Pellon fleece, wrapped over the edges of the board and glued to the back. Then began the lacing. Does anyone know a better way of stretching a large work like this over mounting board? I used fine crochet cotton for the lacing and the biggest-eye needle I could find.

First lacing

Using pins to hold the yarn/thread in place, I estimated how much I would need

Using pins

And what a lot of loose “string” I had to deal with, repeatedly tangled, of course.


But here it is, successfully laced and stretched taut.


Now, with such an opulent front, I couldn’t leave the back like this. Did I have a piece of fabric large enough to cover the back? The first piece in my under-bed stash that caught my eye was Tibetan brocade, the kind that’s used to border thangkas. I’ve had it and some other pieces of Tibetan fabrics for years.

The back

This brocade had to be hand-stitched to the wrapped-around border with the foamcore underneath. Not easy. Not easy.

And after I’d done that, I belatedly decided to put a label on it. I printed the label on cotton, then stitched over the printed letters and numbers. To attach the label, once again, I was stitching to fabric already stretched over board.

What a job of work I made for myself when I started this project—without a plan. Everything about it was so much harder to do than it would have been had I planned it out in advance, had I known what I was doing.

Nevertheless, I am surprised at how pleased I am with this project. Not elegant. Not, definitely not, impeccable stitching. Not refined. As far from Elizabethan embroidery as I could get with a needle and thread! Wild, exuberant, flamboyant. Crazy!

As crazy as I’ve been feeling since I began to recover. Though I am 100% functional, can do anything that my circumstances allow, I am still dealing with residual symptoms of ADHD—agitation and anxiety, restlessness, and difficulty getting to sleep. Some evenings I pace the hallways, sometimes seeing one or two other, perhaps equally frantic, inmates. I am not the calm, content, reclusive contemplative I was for 15 years or more. More work to be done, figuring this out.

Anyhow, my recovery crazy patchwork improvisation announces that I have recovered, right in the entry-way of our apartment. At Ernie’s suggestion, it is attached to the wall with Velcro.


Now I have to prepare to teach my course. I’m having even worse panic attacks!

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