Personal Style in CQ

Jo Newsham © 2007

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I often get comments on my ‘style’ of Crazy Quilting, which I have never consciously considered before. I must create, therefore I just…do!  I love the encrusted look, but as a student of all things Fung Shui in a previous life, things must be structured, uncluttered (encrusted doesn’t mean cluttered), orderly and balanced, definitely balanced.

How I embellish a block is dictated by its purpose. If it is a block for a round robin, or wall-hanging, then no holds barred. I love to add texture, height and beads to catch the light, lots of visual eye candy. Silk Ribbon Embroidery, button clusters, bead trails. I am not a particularly “girly” girl, and I love to vent my feminine side through laces and trims and all things petite.

How I piece a block depends on what its purpose will be. Items I make for sale, swap or gifts tend to be a monotone palette for the foundation, with embellishments in the same color family, with only one or two contrast colors. If I am making a round robin block, I will use two or three colors in piecing, just to give the stitchers more options. I rarely use prints in my piecing.

I don’t shy away from large stitches, or thicker threads. My preferred thread is a perle 8 or 12 cotton. For me the block is about the story the embellishment tells; you have to be able to see it from a reasonable viewing distance. My very first block was made out of all prints, and I spent many hours executing perfect, tiny seam treatments, only to be disappointed with the overall result. Luckily, I learn quickly.


While putting this article together, it struck me that my blocks (pieced and embellished by moi) are very much a reflection of my personality. Things are clearly stated from the beginning. Stitching is no fuss, clear and concise, and wants to be viewed as strong and dependable, definitely not flamboyant. When I stitch on other's blocks, I can empathize and see their point of view, and be considerate and inclusive of that. I hadn’t realized that my work varied so much depending on what I was doing. Do you feel your work reflects your personality??

…back to our original program...

Since finding the online CQ community, I have learnt many techniques and tricks to add to the appeal, and visual balance of a block. The “rule of threes”– three main focal points on a block. Taking motifs across seams and patches to keep the eye moving around the block. Breaking a long seam with a motif or cluster of stitches to “rest the eye,” the same applies to a piece of lace. In the block pictured you can see this with the lace running up the right side. Before I took the vine across that lace, and into the next patch, my eye was drawn to the whiteness of the lace, and just slipped off the top of the block. Now you follow the vine around to the next patch, which leads your eye down around the other embellishment on the block.

This block was for a Do Your Block round robin. The block was pieced by someone else, and embellished by myself. You can see again how I limit my color palette with the embellishment. When working a traditional block round robin, I take the time to look at the overall composition. Is there a focal point? Does it need off-setting with something on the other side of the block? Are the shades, density of color, or texture of the fabric balanced around the block? If not, how can I use embellishment to create a balance? Is the block a stand alone project, or will it be incorporated with others?

I don’t have any hard or fast rules when starting the embellishment of a block. If I have a favored seam treatment currently, I might start there. If I am first to stitch on a round robin block, I like to add a big bold motif, to set the tone of the block for subsequent stitchers. If I don’t know where to start, a feather stitch vine with some silk ribbon leaves, and some beads will usually get the ball rolling.

One of my most useful design tips, is to take a photo of the block when you ‘think’ you are finished. Viewing your work on a screen gives you a different perspective. You can see any gaps that aren’t obvious when the block is in hand. Look away from your block several times and see where your eye goes when you look back. Do you need to break a seam, or pull one forward with the addition of some bugle beads or sequins (never underestimate the power of sequins). Does your eye move around the block, or become ‘stuck’ on one feature (my eye still gravitates to that piece of lace!).

I find Crazy Quilting an incredibly rewarding pastime, and especially enjoy stitching for others. I would stitch regardless, and I think my husband is thankful that most creations leave in an envelope to head off to a new home.

Jo Newsham

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