Using Templates in Crazy Quilting

Sharon Boggon 2007

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I am often asked "How do you keep your stitches straight?" To be honest I must admit that I often 'eye ball it' but also being equally honest this means my stitches are not straight! It's a mood thing sometimes I stitch with the flow and sometimes I take more care. Apart from practice there is no great trick to it as I simply mark my work with a pen that will disappear. I use a selection of pens and pencils designed for quilters and needleworkers, which can be found in stores that specialize in needlework and quilting.
These are the templates I use. As you can see they have all sorts of shapes and curves, which allow me to leave the line of the seam if I choose. The two white templates are actually found in a hardware store. They are used to mark lines of texture in paint. If you look carefully they have edges, which consist of little triangles and squares. I use these to space the distance between stitches.  

Using these templates I simply mark the seam with a dot at regular intervals and then follow the dots. The dots can be the top of the stitching line as for instance in a line of herringbone or they can be the side of the seam such as in a line of Cretan stitch, or the dots may act as guides for a line of buttonhole.

I have also used Carole Samples Dream-a-seam templates for crazy quilting. The Dream-a-seam templates are a collection of 99 edges for pre-marking seams and motifs in crazy quilting projects. Carole Samples has developed a whole system for using these templates and developing variations. They are a very useful tool as each edge can also be combined with any other edge that as a combination can be duplicated, flipped and repeated. More than two templates can be used together, which makes the number of available combinations endless.

Another source of templates are found manufactured for use in decorating scrapbooks. They often contain small shapes such as hearts, stars and flowers that can be used as motifs on a crazy quilt block. It was using these that I had the idea to create my own template shapes. 

I started out cutting my own shapes from the lids of takeaway containers. Here in OZ they are usually clear plastic and you can cut them out with scissors. I discovered there are many plastics used in packaging that can be used and I have been told X-rays work well too.

The main thing is that you can cut the plastic with scissors. I started off with simple shapes such as fans and the like. Then I discovered quilter's plastic.**

In Australia quilters plastic comes in sheets 47.5 x 32 cms or for an approximate conversion 19 x 12.5 inches. They retail at about $3.00 (Australian). So it is not an expensive product to experiment with. It is simple to use and I have found since lashing out and spending $3.00 I have been developing more complex template shapes that can be used as motifs in crazy quilting.

I have included some paisley shapes in different sizes that can be printed out. All you have to do is lay the quilters plastic over the top of a print out, trace around the shape using a felt tip pen and then cut it out. You now have a template for the shape that can be used over and over. These can simply be traced around and you are ready to stitch the motif.

Here is a detail on a crazy quilt block that has used a paisley design and a small fan. In both cases the outlines for these motifs were created by using a template I had made. 

**Editor's Note: Shrink Plastic without shrinking the shapes works well, is sometimes less expensive and available in craft stores in the USA.

Sharon B of inaminuteago

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