A Crazy-Making Crazy Quilt — Finished at Last

A crazy quilt top cut into pieces to make into smaller quilts. Primary colored vintage calico. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The crazy quilt top I’d made of calico as a wedding gift back in 1971 was riddled with ripples. In hopes of making it lie flat I cut away a section. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

There I was, at Sue Mary Fox’s sewing studio in Berkeley. Pinned to her wall was the crazy-making crazy quilt that I had begun–but never finished–back in 1971. It was to be a wedding gift for my brother and his bride.

Forty-some years later, I decided it was time to finish the darned thing. It had languished in a drawer for decades; it was time to put it out of its misery. It was time to put myself out of my misery and guilt.

At home a few days earlier I had started by spreading the quilt out on the floor and cutting away

Multicolored calico piecing for a quilt top in the shape of a tree. Photo by Barbara Newhall

I cut away some more pieces, but it still didn’t lie flat, and now I had a gangly, odd-shaped quilt top on my hands. Photo by Barbara Newhall

sections of the pieced quilt top in hopes of eliminating the ripples and waves I’d sewn into it so many years ago—so that it could lie flat at last. Then I took the results, along with all my scraps and pieces, over to Sue Mary’s studio where she pinned it to a wall.

The whittled-down quilt top was pretty enough, but the shape was frightful – long, narrow and sprawling. What would anyone do with such an oddball, seven-by-four-foot quilt, Sue Mary wanted to know.

I concluded that it would be a kindness to spare my brother and sister-in-law such a gift, so we turned our attention to one of the sections I’d cut away from the main piece. It had a nice rectangular shape. It was pretty, and small enough that my brother and his wife might actually like having it in their house. They could use it as a wall hanging, they could toss it over the back of a sofa, they could put it on the floor as a play space for a visiting grandchild. And if they weren’t crazy about it, it would fit nicely in a drawer.

But, wait  — a grandchild? What a thought. I took the leftover calico pieces home and tucked them back into their drawer. Should a grandchild happen my way some day, I’m ready. With Sue Mary’s help, I’ll be able to get a baby blanket pulled together in no time. Well before the kid turns forty.

If you like this story, you might enjoy “The Berkeley Potters Guild –Three Artists” and “Shopping at the Sawtooth Building.”

Read all about the birth of those baby quilts at “The Baby Quilts Are Ready. Now All We Need Are the Babies.”

Sue Mary Fox mounted a calico crazy quilt --quilt top, batting and backing -- on her longarm sewing machine in her Berkeley studio. Photo by Barbara Falconer

I took the project to Sue Mary Fox’s studio in Berkeley. There she mounted a smaller, more attractive section of the quilt onto her long arm sewing machine, along with black batting and a red calico backing. Then, in video below, she used a freehand loop-de-loop pattern to quilt the three layers together. Photo and video by Barbara Falconer

Sue Mary Fox hems a colorful calico crazy quilt on a sewing machine in her Berkeley, CA, studio. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Sue Mary’s last task was to hem the quilt by wrapping the red calico backing over the quilt top. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Sue Mary Fox shows off the calico quilt that she stitched together and quilted for a client. It is Barbara Falconer Newhall's crazy quilt. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Sue Mary Fox and the finished work. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A crazy quilt made of vintage, mid-century patterned calico in primary colors designed by Barbara Falconer Newhall for her brother and his wife. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The quilt upon arrival in its new home. Its recipients were surprised and delighted to get it — and, yes, they remembered receiving it the first time around. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A crazy quilt made by Barbara Falconer Newhall with the help of Sue Mary Fox now lies on a little girl's bed in her grandparents house. Photo by B. Falconer

The quilt now decorates the little bed used by my brother and sister-in-law’s granddaughter when she visits. Photo by B. Falconer



  1. I love how this quilt turned out – sometimes the best of projects can span a lifetime and last many lifetimes after us! This will be a treasure for sure! Thanks for including us in your journey toward completion of you lovely gift. Sue Fox is an amazing seamstress and quilter! No place like Berkeley!

    Suzan @ Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley.

  2. James Bouse says:

    Hi Barbara,
    I’m sure you are happy to have the quilt completed and in it’s new home. It’s beautiful!

  3. Katherine Philipp says:

    Looks great! over the years I’ve saved some of my son’s t-shirts – thinking they would make a great quilt. I saw a web offer and had it made for him for $59 for Christmas. It was a bargain!


  1. […] Don’t miss the first two installments of my 40-year quilting saga at “The Quilt From Hell — Forty Years Later It’s Still Not Finished” and “A Crazy-Making Quilt — Finished at Last.” […]

  2. […] Coming soon: Sue Mary Fox and her quilting machine to the rescue — at “A Crazy Making Crazy Quilt — Finished at Last.” […]

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