I have to admit that although I have absolutely no desire to make a crazy quilt—I really do love them.
In fact I love the unholy mess of them. There’s a charm in the odd mix of whacky fabrics in different weights, shapes and sizes. Few of these fabrics are what I’d call “pretty” on their own, but somehow the collage of all that old repurposed garment fabric sewn together in a haphazard sort of way and then top stitched with fanciful embroidery, gives them a personality all their own.
I’ve seen some wonderful examples of crazy quilts in quilt shows and museums, but it wasn’t until just recently that I had a chance to spend some significant quality time with one.
Allison brought in a crazy quilt top (pictured right) to be finished. She told me that her father found this in his mother’s attic. Since he doesn’t remember his mom making quilts, they think that it was probably the work of his grandmother--her great-grandmother!
The crazy quilt craze really took off in the late 19th century during the Victorian era but we can date this quilt top to the 1920s because of the fabrics used in it. We can also tell that this was a collaborative effort, probably made in a quilting bee by multiple ladies because the size of the embroidery stitches varies across the top.
A close up shot of the top reveals the elegant embroidery stitching done by different hands.
You can also see how the fabric has worn well in most places. But sadly, time is not kind to fabric like the red satin. Eventually it will fade and disintegrate with light and age. But I don’t worry about “fixing” this sort of thing because I consider it to be the “patina” of an old vintage piece. What antique doesn't have some sort of nick or ding? It's sort of like us with our laugh lines! Better to enjoy the piece for what it is, than to make it over into something it isn’t. And this is a wonderful old crazy quilt!
A favorite place to visit is the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. If you can't get to Lincoln Nebraska, then visit their web site where they've posted a searchable archive of their vast and amazing collection of quilts. Talk about eye candy!
They also feature a quilt of the month. October's quilt was made near Niu Jiang city, Guangzi province in China. It's an appliqued duvet cover made by the Maonan people circa mid-20th century.
"An important part of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's mission is to discover new quilt-related traditions. Bedcovers like this one from South China are rarely seen outside of Guangxi, the province from which they originate. Made by the Maonan people, an ethnic minority with a small population (just under 110,000 members), textiles like this would have served as the top of a quilt cover--an "envelope" into which an undecorated, utilitarian quilt or loose batting would have been inserted for warmth.
The quilt cover top is made in a similar way to the "pot-holder" quilts some Western quiltmakers are familiar with: each block is constructed on a foundation fabric, individually bound, then put together with many other blocks to create the final piece. This quilt top was constructed by hand, primarily with a back stitch and a widely spaced couching stitch. The quatrefoil (four-lobed) design is a common one among Maonan quilts, as is the dark-colored background.
The IQSCM now has six Maonan quilt covers in its collection and will continue to add quilt-related textiles from other Chinese ethnic groups as they are documented and become available. These groups include the Yao, Dong, and Miao (a large minority group, with nearly 9 million members, who are ethnically related to the Hmong of Southeast Asia)."
Carol, a very young great-grandma, sent along this picture of baby Lilia on her baby quilts. Yes, that’s plural. There are two identical quilts here.
These quilts were a multi-generational effort between the great, grand, mother and extended family and friends. They made the blocks at a baby shower where guests were invited to select fabrics and appliqué the birds to various scrappy backgrounds.
By the time they were done, they had enough blocks to make two baby quilts!
What a brilliant idea—one quilt for home and another one for the road.
In fact I have a friend who made identical baby quilts for each of her kids because she knew it would be easier to wash them—a little trick she discovered after her oldest awoke from a nap early one afternoon and discovered that her prized blankie had been taken from her while she was sleeping. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than watching your toddler stand next to the dryer sobbing while their quilt is drying—so my enterprising friend decided to stage a mommy switcheroo. She made a duplicate quilt. This way her little one had one quilt she could hang onto while she washed the other.
Two quilts = one happy baby and one less stressed out mom. As I say, brilliant!
I love it when students send me photos of their second quilt projects.
In the spirit of the season—I thought I’d share.
They say that solids are the underdogs of the fabric world—but they really make a statement when contrasted well.
Allison (left) did just that by using a nice mix of muted pastels to recreate the “Thea’s Puzzle Quilt” from Amy Butler’s web site. This quilt says, "curl up and read!"
It might be a little too chilly for picnics right now, but doesn’t Jane’s quilt make you want to open a bottle of wine and nibble on cheese and crackers?
Jane used lots of fat quarters to recreate the Blue Underground Studios’ In & Out pattern. Just goes to show you—buy what you like—and use what you buy!
Keep all those emails and pictures coming…!
Are you ready for an OMG moment? Check this out….
...the front of the quilt...
Quiltologist Paul Davis has executed another feat of fabric engineering genius!
This two sided t-shirt quilt was made for his niece—a freshman at Vanderbilt—thus the giant V emblazoned on the back. The picture doesn’t do it justice. While the rest of us would have appliquéd the V, Paul challenged himself to piece the V into the backing. That’s right folks—we’re talking curved AND INSET piecing in the shape of the logo. Very few quilters are brave enough to try this let alone pull it off.
Of course this quilt has generated lots of buzz with students in the dorm asking where they can get something like this. And the answer is simple—they can’t. This quilt is one of a kind—a true labor of love—and a treasure to last a lifetime.
What’s next Paul?