Bead Crazy:
A Beaded CQ Sampler

Amy Munson © 2008

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Beads have a special quality that makes me want to work with them. I have beaded on a loom, created beads out of polymer clay and often created my own beaded jewelry. In 2002, I took a weekend of classes with Nancy Eha and was inspired to start adding beads to my quilts.

Bead Crazy started out as a sample for a bead embroidery class I taught this past fall. My initial plan was simple enough - create a crazy quilt block and embellish it with a variety of traditional beaded embroidery stitches. Once I started beading, however, something happened. The block kept asking for more, the beads took over and I could not stop.

Before any stitching started, a color plan was established for the block. The intent was for the bead work to stand out and contrast with the fabric. Color is a great tool to use to create contrast. A triadic color scheme was the foundation to all the elements in the quilt. Triadic colors are those spaced evenly around the color wheel, such as red, blue and yellow; or in the case of Bead Crazy, orange, purple and green. When used together, triadic color harmonies become vibrant and create a pleasing contrast.

The block was foundation pieced starting in the center, and working to the edges using the sew and flip method. The unfinished block was fourteen inches to allow a one inch seam allowance on each side. I found the one inch seam allowance nice to allow for ample wiggle room when squaring the block after embellishment.

I like to work in layers to embellish my crazy quilts. The first layer creates the foundation stitches for further embellishment. The goal of this first layer is to cover most of the seams with a simple stitch such as the feather, fly or chevron stitch. While working on the first layer, it is the best time for the planning and placement of the appliqué motifs to fill in larger areas.

The second layer of embellishment adds the details to each basic stitch. Single beads can be dotted throughout a stitch for extra shine or as floral enhancements to feather stitches. This systematic approach to embellishing can be used by any crazy quilter to achieve a balance of embellishment and design throughout a block.

My favorite beaded embellishment in the quilt is the beaded flower motif around the monogram. The flowers and leaves were created with a beaded detached chain stitch, and a backstitch was used for the stems.

Creating the scalloped border for the quilt was a challenge. The border started as a sketch from an antique quilt and was developed into a pattern to fit the size needed for the block. The scallop design required precision piecing, but I know my own limitations and lack the piecing skills to achieve such a feat. The solution was fusible appliqué. First, a four inch border in the orange fabric was sewn to the quilt. Then, each dark maroon scallop was cut from Ultrasuede® and fused to the orange border fabric. The orange fabric was trimmed to match each scallop.

The scallops were beaded using a floral and vine motif and I agonized over the orange triangles in the border. Do they need beads or don’t they need beads? Bead stitch after bead stitch was tried and removed. In the end, the spaces were left blank. With the near excessive embellishment already in the block this space gives the eyes a place to rest.

The block was finished with a beaded backstitch to frame the block and a picot beaded edge.


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