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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Book Review: Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting

 

If you’ve been reading Needle ‘n Thread for a while, you’ve probably gathered that I’m not a crazy quilter. It’s not that I don’t like crazy quilting – it’s just that I don’t do crazy quilting. My attempts have been … well … half-baked, at best! But I love looking at crazy quilting, and I love watching what other people do with crazy quilting.

One crazy quilter in particular that’s fun to watch is Allison Aller. Allie takes crazy quilting to a level of such richness – in color, in embellishment, in construction – that I often find myself boggled at what she creates!

Allie wrote a book, and it is finally on the shelves and available. So I bought the book, and I thought I’d show it to you.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

The title is Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting, and the sub-titled description is “Modern Piecing & Embellishing Techniques for Joyful Stitching,” which sums the whole thing up pretty well!

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

Like all technique books, it begins with the Needful Things – materials and tools – and for crazy quilting, that especially includes a good discussion of fabric, threads, and embellishments. Accompanied by colorful pictures, Allie discusses the types of fabrics suitable for crazy quilting (are there any that aren’t?) with tips on how to build a stash of supplies. Allie’s writing style is very easy, like having a conversation with a good friend.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

She discusses embroidery threads and other embellishments, including trims, laces, beads and so forth.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

In addition to materials, the dedicated crazy quilter will find Creative Pursuits easier with the right tools, so Allie lays out the tools that will help get the job done well.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

Also discussed are other ways of embellishment and the necessaries involved in those – from computer printed graphics to stenciling with paints.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

The meat o’ the matter, when it comes to a technique book, is the instruction on technique. This is where I fall apart on crazy quilting, so I paid close attention to this section. And you know what? Even I “got it” after reading through this part carefully. Allie discusses four ways of constructing the crazy quilt block, and each of the four methods is clearly laid out and explained for the beginner. I’ve read other crazy quilting technique books for hints on block instruction (for when I wrote this article on incorporating goldwork in crazy quilting), and I have to admit, I never really got it until reading Allie’s instructions. They’re very clear and they make the block constructing process sound really easy.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

Now, what sets crazy quilting apart from regular quilting is not only the wacky construction of squares made out of irregularly shaped pieces of fabric, but more obviously, the embellishment that happens on those squares. So there’s a good section devoted to embellishment, of course!

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

And along with the suggestions and tips on embellishment, you’ll find nice little photos along the way to inspire you!

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

Allie focuses a bit of the book on three-dimensional flowers (she’s really good at them!) …

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

… and there’s even a little “primer” on silk ribbon embroidery.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

Then… there’s the gallery! This is the part of the book for relaxed browsing. Vivid color, abundance, florals. It’s all there. It’s fun. It’s cheery. It’s a lot like Spring.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

Allie’s “Crazy for Flowers” quilt is my absolute fave – and you should see the whole quilt! I’m glad the photo is in the book. She blogged about it back in 2007 at one point, and I think that’s when I got hooked into reading her blog regularly.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

And – yes! – there are projects in the book, too. Among them, this needle cushion…

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

… and this beach scene, made using CQ techniques.

Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller

At the end of the book, there’s a section on finishing, too, so that you can pretty much go from start to finish on a crazy quilt, with Allie’s book as your guide.

If you’re into crazy quilting – or if you want to get into crazy quilting – this is definitely a book you’ll want to get your paws on. If you’re like me, you may not be looking specifically to make a crazy quilt, or even to delve deeply into crazy quilting techniques, but the book serves as a great source of inspiration for things that can be done with needle and thread and fabric and beads and ribbon and…. well, you get the idea! It’s a fun book, easy to read, packed with beautiful color. What more could you want?

Where to Find It

You can find Crazy Quilting by Allie Aller through the following book affiliates:

In the US, Crazy Quilting is available through Amazon.

Worldwide, with free shipping, Crazy Quilting is available through Book Depository.

 
 

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(11) Comments

  1. This post could not have come at a better time. Last night I was working on a piece of crazy quilting, I wanted to use some gold thread to stitch stars. I have never been able to use gold thread in my stitching. It is next to impossible to thread the needle with gold thread. When I stitch it kinks up, shreads as it goes through the fabric, or is basically just a pain to use. What am I doing wrong? I see you use gold threads beautifully and others as well. Is gold thread only to be couched down? Help!
    I agree Allie’s blog is joy to read and so full of information. The review you have given has encouraged me to purchase the book.
    Thank you,
    Deb

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    1. Hi, Deb – I think it depends on the type of metallic thread you are using. I’m assuming you’re talking about a “metallic” thread as opposed to a “real metal” thread…. You might try a larger needle with a larger eye (a chenille needle, for example), to help get the thread through the fabric. I’m not a huge fan of metallics, myself – they always seem to have problems similar to the one you’re experiencing. But definitely try a larger needle with a larger eye, and use short lengths of the thread. That may help.

      Alternately, what about couching instead of stitching through the fabric? Maybe you could couch the metallic thread over your design line? Then just “plunge” the ends of the couched thread and whip them to the back of the work. Just a thought!

      ~MC

  2. Have you tried a thread conditioner? I use “Thread Heaven” whenever I use metallic embroidery thread. I can’t believe the difference it makes.

    2
  3. Mary and DJ,
    Thanks for the suggestions. The particular thread I was using last night was a DMC metallic. It may have taken a gallon of Thread Heaven to tame that mess. I am glad you have the same problems Mary, that makes me feel better. Not that you have problems just that I am not alone. The old misery loves company thing. So, if I want to use metallic threads….are there any threads that you recommend?

    3
    1. Hi, Deb – When I was chatting with the lady at a local cross stitch shop, she swore by Petit Treasure Braid made by Rainbow Gallery. It’s a relatively small thread (I’d say equivalent to no more than 1 strand of regular floss), and it can be stitched alone or it can be combined with other threads. I haven’t tried it myself, but the lady at the shop says it’s much easier to stitch with then the DMC metallics. Lots of folks seem to like the various braid weights of Kreinik metallics as well. I’ve used them a few times, and the are easier to stitch with than DMC’s metallics, which I think are a real pain. Any metallic like these is going to be easier to use for cross stitch and counted thread techniques, because the holes in the fabric accommodate it better. Surface embroidery with this type of thread is rather a bear, but another thing that definitely would help for surface work is to make sure that you stab your stitches instead of “sew” them. Hope that helps a little! ~MC

  4. THANK YOU for this review. I love this book just from your review and went ahead and ordered it from amazon!! I can’t wait to have it in my hands. I also looked at Allie’s website/blog and can’t believe all the lovely information available on there. What a great resource. I can’t thank you enough!!

    5
  5. Mary,
    It just so happens that I was in a needlepoint store today and saw those Rainbow Gallery threads. I did purchase some and will give them a test/try. Thank you for all your information and for sharing your knowledge with us.
    Deb

    6
  6. Hi Mary!
    Thanks for the review. I am not a quilter, but I am looking forward to learn a new things. I have to ask you – is there a practical aspect in crazy quilting? I mean what crazy quilts can be used for? With all beads, lace, hand died threads – can it be washed? The only thing I imagine quilts are for – are the bed covers. But most households have kids, cats or (and) dogs – as I have – so, I have to wash my old quilts often. How people keep crazy quilts clean? It sure looks nice on the book cover, but in real life …
    Stitching is different, in most cases in gets framed. Quilting is not. With stitching I always know where the finished piece will go -on the wall framed, gift, kitchen supply …
    I would like to try crazy quilting but the only thing that is holding me back , is ” what am I going to do with my finished crazy – crazy quilt?” (after I learn how to do it, of course!!!)
    May be someone have ideas?

    8
    1. Hi, Yullya – Originally, crazy quilts were definitely for use. They were made from scraps and adorned with scraps, but certainly meant to be used. They were, in a sense, “recycling” materials and ornamental bits for embellishment, to make quilts to use for bedcovers. Now, crazy quilting has become a kind of art form, in a sense, and whether or not the quilts are actually used to the point of needing laundering is another question. However, I think if you are judicious in your choice of embellishments and fabrics, there’s no reason why a crazy quilt couldn’t be used. Just make sure that the embellishments and fabrics you use are washable in some way. Cotton lace, cotton and silk threads, beads and buttons can all be washed. It’s when you start adding elements like read metal threads, overdyed threads that can run, and so forth, that you’d run into trouble. So, if you’re concerned about washability, I’d start by developing quilt blocks out of materials that you know can be laundered. Then go from there…! ~MC

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