Sunday, September 7, 2008

What If-ing

Jude over at Spirit Cloth has a second blog called What If wherein she publicly explores the possibilities that open up when she applies the question of "what if I do this?" to her textile adventures. Recently she began considering crazy quilt blocks in this second blog of hers. The upshot is that she has created a collaborative project (and a montser apparently!) in which anyone who is interested can participate. I tried to resist, truly I did. In the end I fell down the rabbit hole after my friend Calamity Kim. Once you ask that question of "What If?" all sorts of things begin to happen...

My experience of crazy quilts and blocks is rooted in the traditional Victorian genre. At that time crazy quilts were for show, not function. They were a not-so-subtle display of a Victorian woman's wealth and needlework skills (which were valued more highly by the general public than is the case nowadays). So one of the first questions I asked myself was, "What if I use materials that are the direct opposite of what a Victorian woman would have used?" Instead of luxurious silks and velvets I would use vintage, thrifted, or salvaged textiles. In place of elaborate stitching I would keep my stitches and embellishments simple and humble. With that in mind I went through my stuff and unearthed this:

I think it must be some sort of dresser scarf. It's only about 11" x 15". I picked it up in a thrift store some time ago just because it appealed to me and it was cheap. I had no idea what I might do with it. (There's a goodly amount of that sort of thing in my closets and drawers.) My next 'what if' was, "What if I didn't cut this at all but used it as-is for the foundation of my block?" Seems reasonable; we'll give it a try.

Now, I don't particularly enjoy hand applique so I've never made a crazy quilt in the purely traditional style of appliqueing organic shapes onto a foundation. I'm all for rotary cut straight edges, especially if they're a bit wonky. So it will be a stretch for me to simply lay additional pieces of fabric on top of this foundation and stitch them down. I'm not planning to turn under any raw edges though. I want to experiment with raw edges and alternative seam treatments. Jude has come up with some wonderful ideas in her explorations that I want to try for myself.

So, here are my humble beginnings for a thrifted, salvaged, What If crazy quilt block (or quiltlet - who knows?): the dresser scarf, a machine embroidered scrap from a skirt I once owned, vintage rick-rack and embroidery floss. Stay tuned to see what else, if anything, makes it into my 21st century mini crazy quilt.

What if I began by cleaning up my work space so I have a little elbow room?!


  1. Im looking forward to seeing what you do with this And your fungly quilt . i had to laugh when you wrote you never buy fabric big enough for borders etc - im the same!

  2. I love Jude's work. Look forward to watching the progress of this What If.

  3. This looks like a lot of fun! I hope you come up with some possible uses for all those dresser scarves many of us have stored away.

  4. I too have alittle box of old ...very old vintage actually, linens...all with something wrong.... stained, holes.... maybe they would work well for a vintage crazy patch. Can't wait to be inspired by what you do with yours!

  5. I'm off now to my favorite thrift store - very classy "next to new" goodies - this justifies it. But clean up my work space? I only do that when I'm down to a space on my work table about the size of a placemat and have an order for a canvas 18" square. Or I simply move to the dining table and start over. I'm looking forward to watching this progress.


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