Tuesday 13 January 2015

Crazy Patchwork...

I like the freedom of sewing projects where I can make things up as I go along. It brings out the creative side in me. Crazy patchwork is one such technique - joining scraps of fabric together in whatever formation takes my fancy and ending up with a quilt block; not that it has to be used in a quilt.

In the past, I've used crazy patchwork to make an open wide zippered pouch and that's exactly the project I had in mind this time. To refresh my memory, I looked at the crazy patchwork tutorial at Instructables

A quick read of the directions - yep, exactly as I'd remembered - super easy.

I had a vague idea as to how the finished piece would look - linen at the centre, surrounded by various blues and neutrals. Making the block was very easy!!! However, the end result was not quite as I had imagined. I like the look of the angles and lines, but am not so happy with the combination of fabrics. I know it's subjective, but the colours aren't quite right. They're not bad, but there's definite room for improvement.

And so I made another block using similar colours. This one just doesn't work!!! To my eye, it looks awful and again, it's the combination of fabrics.

Back in 2013, I wrote a post on co-ordinating fabrics - something that doesn't come naturally to me. I have to work at it, but with practice, I am becoming more confident and pleased with my choices when combining fabric in clothes. It was very interesting to read the comments - some people can just see in their head which fabrics will work together. 

My third and fourth blocks I am very happy with. These two will definitely become the front and back of an open wide zippered pouch.

Thing is, even though I really like these two blocks, I'm not sure why I prefer them over the first two. I've eliminated most of the darker colours, but is that why they work or is there something else at play that I'm unaware of? 

So, while my skills at combining fabric in clothes has most definitely improved, I think there's a difference when it comes to patchwork. With clothing, there's generally only two or three, maybe four, different fabrics and usually one main fabric. Patchwork, on the other hand, combines a lot of small fabrics, often without a main fabric.

I think I've hit the nail on the head with the last two, but I'd like to know why, so as to make the process easier in the future. I really would value your input...
  • Are there rules when combining fabrics in patchwork?
  • Why do the blocks above work or not work to your eye? 
I'm asking for your opinion, so I won't be offended, even if you say none of them work.

On looking back to my first crazy patchwork, why did it work? I purchased a packet of trimmings, so choosing the fabrics was done for me. 

I am going to use the first block. Even though I'm not deliriously happy with it, I do still like it. However, I have to redo the second block, even if the zippered pouch ends up being for me. What would you do?

... Pam


  1. I'm terrible at mixing prints - that's why I like to buy fabric sets, or else use only 2 colours together - anything more than that and I get skittish :D The first thing I noticed when looking at your 4 blocks is that the first two contain light and dark - lots of contrast. The prints in the second two blocks are all about a similar colour saturation - mainly lightish-to-medium prints. I would certainly use all the blocks - you could use the ones you don't like, as the pocket inside a tote!

  2. I think you are being too hard on yourself Pam! It is OK to prefer softer combinations but the ones you don't like would look stunning on something that you want to 'stand out' eg a bag. Step back from them or even looking at your first photo you can see what I mean - they are strong and just as valuable (in my humble opinion) - of course it would also depend on the size of the block! :)

  3. I think all your blocks "work" - it comes down to preference. :)

  4. I do think a lot of it is just personal preference, but then quite often I might see blocks or quilts that aren't necessarily to my personal taste but yet I can still see that they work really well. I'm sure a lot of it is trial and error, and then building up a bank of experience on what works from that. I bet even those people who are great at visualising an end result still frequently lay out combinations and switch them around lots before they're happy. Your 4 blocks all look fine to me, but the 2nd one is my least favourite, and I think it's mainly because I don't like the centre fabrics so much, which is where your deign draws my eye - the other 3 have prettier/more striking centres, to my personal preference anyway! I think if you built it up more and made it larger, the centre would have a bit less of an impact, for me personally again, either that or I'd try crazy stitching in an alternative centre. You'll have to show us if you change it though now, in whatever way you decide on - before and after photos and how you did it please!

  5. I've got the "wantta make a crazy quilt" stored way way back in the back of my mind lol! your blocks look great!


    1. Thanks, Helen. It was certainly fun doing the crazy patchwork.

  6. Personal preference I'd say. I like just taking off and doing something without directions, because when it comes to matching fabrics for a quilt, I'm the world's worse. At quilt shows I'm always noticing something that looks great and then thinking I would have never put those 2 fabrics together, but they look great! I'm thinking one could over analyze?

  7. What I see in your first block is that the 2 very dark pieces are not balanced, I would replace the beigey strip on the left with a dark strip and there you go! Balanced!
    I LOVE the second block, it really works for me :) there is enough of the light and dark fabrics and it looks good.
    And the other two blocks are lovely, perfectly balanced, no individual strip speaking louder than the others--really pretty!

    1. Thanks so much for adding to the discussion, Sheila. I can see what you mean re adding another dark strip to the first block to balance it.

  8. I just have to pop in and say, like Sheila, I really like the second block. The combination of lights and darks, and the prints you used, work well together. Perhaps the reason why the first one doesn't work is the use of novelty fabric? I have tons of novelty prints, but find them very difficult to use for quilting, especially when they get cut down small like for a block like this. The last two blocks really look nice. Practicing on the first two resulted in the last two coming together perfectly, which is exactly what practice is for!!

  9. When i studied Fiber art in BU, my weaving teacher encouraged me to weave with Color combination i DID NOT like, he told me that working with combinations i like would be EASY , and that i will more creative when using combinations i did not like. He was right. I like all 4 squares , but i to my eyes the 2nd one is un restful because it is imbalanced between the dark and light colors, The left side stripe [black with white shapes needs to be a bit more blue].

  10. I suspect that getting the perfect fabric combinations is a skill that has to be worked at just like any other Pam. I suspect also that most of us are not confident in that area, which is why the fabric retailers do so well at selling us curated fabric bundles :)

  11. This does look difficult, not just the sewing part but the combining of different prints. I think I would need to collect quite a number of scraps to get the desired look, but it does look pretty!

  12. These look great, I am going to have to try this with the pieces of fabric I have now :)

    Thanks for sharing at Creative Mondays

  13. Last year I learned the hard way the same lesson you've illustrated here, too much/too stark value contrast. It's not always about the color, as the problematic fabrics in your first two examples are blues like the rest of your color scheme. Rather, it's the strong contrast, the extreme difference in value, that's making those patches look jarring. There is a saying that goes like this: "Value does the work, color takes the credit." One way to judge whether the value contrast is having the effect you want is to photograph your fabrics together and view the photo in black & white. The contrast - or lack of - will be more readily apparent, especially if the fabrics are multi-colored.
    Congrats on solving your problem, learning from it, and creating some great looking low-contrast blocks.

  14. It is challenging, but I can seem to sew straight, so I like crazy quilt designs...although I did mine different...not in squares like that.


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