Crazy quilts were at their height of popularity in the Victorian era when the Industrial Revolution made many Americans wealthy, according to Betty Pillsbury, president of the Omaha Needle Artists Chapter, which is part of the Embroiderers Guild of America.These newly rich families could afford servants to do their chores so the women could spend their time in virtuoso needlework. Crazy quilts, with their exuberance of asymmetry and their hodgepodge of shape, pattern, fabric and colour, departed from the rigid symmetry and patter of traditional quilts. Quilters used the finest fabrics they could afford, including wedding dresses, fancy silk dress materials or cigar bands. The quilts might be not much larger than a piano scarf or a table throw, but a woman could spend her entire life working on the intricate design. Today crazy quilts are still made from fancy materials, including wedding dresses.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Seam ripper
- Sewing machine
- Sewing notions
Clean the old wedding dress before you use it to remove any unsightly stains that might remain on the dress.
Use a seam ripper to take out the seams as carefully as possible. Try not to just cut them away, as this will take away from the amount of fabric you have to work with. It could also lead the fabric to start to unravel.
Cut your muslin to the size and shape you want your finished crazy quilt to be, plus 1/2 inch on all sides to accommodate for the top stitched seam. You can make the crazy quilt big enough to fit a bed, or you can go the traditional route and make it into a smaller lap quilt or scarf size.
Cut out a small piece of fabric in any shape you wish and pin it right side up in the centre of your muslin backing fabric, which can be spread out on a table to make finding the centre a little easier. You just have to eyeball it, it does not have to be perfectly accurate. A five-sided shape works well, because it offers more sides and angles than a three- or four-sided shape.
Begin cutting your wedding dress fabric into small pieces.
Place the edge of one piece of wedding dress fabric against one edge of the centre shape, with right sides together.
Sew a 1/4 inch seam through the wedding dress fabric, your centre shape, and the muslin, either with your sewing machine or by hand, whichever method you choose. Repeat with other pieces of wedding dress fabric around the centre shape.
Unfold the wedding dress fabric and iron the pieces flat.
Add new wedding dress pieces, fitting and sewing them on to all the new hard edges you have created.
Use different fabrics from your dress in different areas. Lacy sleeve pieces can go next to satin skirting. Try to make an aesthetically pleasing arrangement.
Continue adding fabric around the original piece, extending further out until you have reached the edges of the muslin background fabric.
Sew a zigzag stitch around the edges, sewing from the back.
Trim the edges of the wedding dress fabric.
Add embroidery or the embellishments from the wedding gown to add designs to the top of the quilt. Ribbons, lace, beads, sequins or trinkets can be sewn randomly or in a design on the front of the quilt.
Tips and warnings
- If you do not want to cut up your own wedding gown, you can find inexpensive gowns at thrift stores or newspaper and online classified ads
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