The “Crazy Quilt” was named about 1880. The quilt pattern’s name was thought to reflect the sewing together of asymmetrical pieces of fabric into an abstract design. The history of the pattern indicates that the idea of varying from the traditional set pattern for each block came as the result of viewing the Japanese art exhibit in the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The fad continued for several decades, ending about 1920.
The first crazy quilts were more of decorative show pieces than functional. The most expensive fabrics were used including velvet, silk and brocades. The seams or edges were covered with decorative stitches. These stitches were named with interesting titles like feather, herringbone, fly and chain. Today, a crazy quilt usually implies that it features the use of multiple decorative stitches.
Later the thrifty seamstress began to use the “crazy quilt” design to make functional bed covers. These were frequently made by using the traditional block as a base and covering it with the cotton pieces. The blocks were then stitched together. The quilt top was then attached to a layer of cotton or batting with a backing piece.
Today, very few of the original silk and velvet quilt tops remain. They are rapidly deteriorating due to age but also the process used to manufacture the silk fabric. The “Victorian silks were embedded with metals to give skirts rustle and weight”.
The beautiful embroidery stitches are all that remain of some of the first quilts. There is a quilt top made of silks and velvets that includes a vast number of decorative stitches on view in the main gallery of the Museum in one of the glass cases. Some of the lavender silks are almost gone. The pieces have been attached to muslin blocks and then stitched together.
Two other versions of the crazy quilt design are on view in the east outside display window. The first quilt uses the crazy pieced idea to cover stars in wools and heavy cottons to form a design on a solid black background with decorative stitches embellishing the stars. The quilt layers were tacked together with black yarn. Part of the Loy Collection, this quilt was dated and signed by its maker. The stitches read “By F. de Bolt for her son Bert, 1927”. The second quilt is an example of a functional bed cover. Made of large cotton pieces in a block design without decorative stitching, the layers have been tacked together with yarn.
Featured in the photo are the two quilts on view in the outside display window. From the Crazy 8 Café, Leah Jones is standing next to the “everyday cotton quilt” and Betty Ihem is next to the “star pattern” quilt.
The Grady County Museum is open M-F from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is located at 415 W. Chickasha Ave. in historic downtown Chickasha.
For information or to schedule a tour, contact email@example.com or 405-224-6480. For more information on the Museum, go to www.gradycountyhistorical.org and its Facebook link.