Crazy Quilt Blocks — Machine piecing vs. Hand piecing

How many people out there machine piece their crazy quilt blocks? Raise your hands. Hmmm…eight…twelve….forty-seven…and many, many more. Wow…there’s quite a few of you out there.

The reason I asked is because although I know a lot of women machine piece their blocks, I have always made my crazy quilt blocks by hand. I like hand stitching and I really like how each of my CQ blocks looks different. It takes a bit longer to make each one, but the extra time spent is okay with me.

I just thought I’d share a few tips on how “I” piece by hand and see if I can find any converts to the “CQ hand-piecing way of life”. These are just a few suggestions on things I do to make hand piecing progress as fast as I can:

1.  Choose a color scheme.

2.  Depending on the size of the block (example: when piecing a 6 ½ inch square block), I would choose eight different fabrics. (I always choose one or two more fabrics than the length of the side of the block I’m making unless of course I’m piecing a block that’s forty-seven inches wide. Then I just use bigger pieces of fabric to cover the foundation.)

3.  Cut a center fabric. (I often use a 5-sided shape in the center of my block because it gives me lots of great looking angles in the block) If I am using a velvet fabric in my block, I often put it in the center because I do not have to fold the thick fabric over to make a seam allowance.

4.  Next, I fold seam allowances over on the edges of the larger pieces of fabric and iron them down. I cut off a piece of fabric with a seam allowance on it and lay it on the foundation fabric in a visually pleasing area.

5.  I continue to do this until I cover the entire foundation fabric. (Sometimes it will be necessary to iron an extra seam allowance down to cover the fabric adequately, but I believe in improvising if the situation warrants a change in the plan)

6.  Once the foundation fabric is completely covered, I pin the seam allowances down and use matching threads to hand stitch the foundation and fancy fabrics together.

I’d love to hear how “you” piece your blocks, whether by machine or by hand. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

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  1. Comment by Yvonne Streeter:

    Kate, I’ve hand pieced one block, when I was in a cabin in Pennsylvania waiting for birth of my daughter’s fifth child (long story ignored here). I did really enjoy the process. I machine piece usually, though, because I love my little Featherweight and it’s perfect. I usually DO, however, add a curved piece in the block somewhere which I hand applique down.

    I love your blocks AND your style, so I’m motivated to hand piece more. I DO have a sane quiting project that I’m hand piecing…. it just takes so much longer.

    Love your new blog, and SO glad you started one.
    ~Still going off the lines Yvonne

  2. Comment by Janet Popish:

    Hi Kate,
    I do almost the same as you, except I fold under each patch and pin as I go. When the entire block is covered, I can still make changes because each patch is just pinned on, and the unwanted patch serves as a template for the size and shape of the new patch. Then I used a highly contrasting thread to baste the seams down and baste around the entire block just outside the seamline. As I embroider or embellish each seam, that basting thread gets pulled out (with a silent, but heartfelt, little “TA-DAH”!). Mostly I let the embellishment stitching hold the patch in place, unless this is a project I know will need to be washed at some point, or on a seam where it looks like the embroidery won’t be up to the job, in which case I applique stitch that patch down.

  3. Comment by Pat Winter:

    Well, I hand cut, ironed, pieced and quilted 12 large quilts so I feel I deserve to machine piece my crazy quilt projects,LOL. Actually I am just too anxious to start embellishing so machine quilting works for me. I do try to keep the embellishing to embroidery, silk ribbon, etc, instead of just slapping on trims. I like detail and hand work is the best way to provide that. I start with a piece of muslin, fuse a printed image onto that then start sewing fabrics in a clockwise manner building from the image out to the edges of muslin. We will be hand piecing the purse for the 2012 Crazy Adventure class…does that count? :-)

  4. Comment by FairyKateH:

    Yes, maam…that DOEs count. Sorry I didn’t get back here sooner to answer you. (blushing faintly here) I like the embellishment part of it too, but in a hurry, the trim works and it definitely can cover a BOO-boo. ;^) I love your embellishment style. You are one talented CQ’er.

  5. Comment by Lisa DuCoing:

    I do a combination of hand & machine piecing. I do most straight seams by machine, but I love curves in my blocks and find I can’t do a good curve on the machine. Don’t understand why? I used to sew curves on a machine blindfolded…

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