CQ Takes the Cake

Lisette Root 2012

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Have you ever looked at a fantastic wedding cake, been totally wowed by it, and thought to yourself, "I could never do that" or, "how did they do that?" Well, at its most basic level, cake decorating and crazy quilting are quite similar! With a cake, you start with the finest ingredients you can afford; real butter, cake flour, fresh eggs and great baking pans. You have to bake the cakes and have a plan in mind for the basic design. In crazy quilting, you buy great fabrics, the right threads and the right foundation fabric, quite simply, the most basic foundation, strong enough to bear the weight of all your stitches and embellishments.

With a cake, after it is baked and positioned properly upon its base, you do a basic crumb coat. This is an application of frosting spread thinly all over the cake, so that you don't have any spots that will crumble later. With a crazy quilt, that is the foundation fabric, of the right weight and stretch; usually muslin is the best foundation, although other fabrics can be used as well. Now you have a choice of how to proceed by deciding what type of sewing method you want to use to construct your quilt, and there are several to choose from. As with a cake, you have a choice of basic design: do you want a sheet cake, simple yet fun, with a nice base to build on, or do you want a tower cake, elaborately decorated?

With a simple design, you can simply sew together shapes that please you and add the rest at the end, after it is sewn together. With a more elaborate piece in mind, you plan out the design a little more carefully, and you decide if you want to use your best laces, ribbons and beads. With a more elaborate design in mind, you will incorporate the laces as you construct the basic quilt, they will be tucked along a seam and secured gently with large basting stitches or straight pins, so you can adjust before the final securing. It is like building a puzzle and tucking in your lace so the edge will catch under the next puzzle piece. You can also stitch a piece of lace across an area at any time during construction "freeform " style as well. This type of construction allows you the most freedom of design, and for me it is the most fun!

Now, with a wedding cake, you start the decorating by making your frosting roses and leaves ahead of time, have them set aside and ready to go, so you don't have to stop in the middle of decorating. With crazy quilting, this means gathering all the pretties you want to use, and if you make your own ribbon flowers and leaves, this means several days of constructing those blossoms and leaves. You can speed up that process by buying ready made elements if you choose. Both are great fun!

With the fancy cake, you start with a thick coat of icing and apply the swag lines and decide on your spacing of the flowers and leaves. With the crazy quilt, you stitch down your laces where you want them, and start thinking about the stitches you want to use. Just like a cake, the type of decorating tip matters, do you want to use heavier threads for faster construction, or do you want to build a more elaborate design? A very simple stitch such as a Feather Stitch can stand alone as a design, and with a flower, or cluster of buttons tucked here and there, it is lovely. But, as with the cake, if you start with a Feather Stitch and you build on that stitch with several layers of stitches and different colors and types of threads, it becomes much more exciting!

The size of your project really matters also. With a cake, you think about how many people you expect to serve; and with a quilt, you decide how much of your time and energy you want to invest and if the recipient is yourself or another person. For a nursery shower gift, for example, a beautiful panel 12" x 12" inches, hand embroidered and placed in a great frame will take you a reasonable amount of time to create; possibly several weeks to a month is how long it will take. For a special piece, or a larger piece, more time will be required.

Now, these examples are of hand embroidery. For those who choose machine embroidery, the time is much much less, but the results can be quite fantastic! That nursery panel can be basically completed in a few days, you can choose to add on embellishments at the time of stitching, or after that part is finished, it's all good! A hand embroiderer has a whole different timetable; as Einstein said, "time is relative!"  For me, I try to forget the time it is going to take, and just live in the moment, enjoying every single stitch. With a beautiful wedding cake, you usually have a whole crew of people working on that cake, or it would be too stale to eat by time you were finished! You know, I think it could be fun to do a group crazy quilt someday!

With every layer of stitching you add to your quilt, and every layer of decoration you add to your cake, it transforms it, and elevates it to an artform. Worthy of all the "ooohs" and "ahhhs" you will surely get!

Happy Stitching to all! Lisette

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