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New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

1887: Crazy Blocks al dente

I bought these dated May 1887 unfinished crazy quilt blocks from a local California woman who was cleaning out her attic — lucky me! They are in the pre-embroidery stage, meaning they are completely free of any stitching but the basting. Some of the pieces are flapping free. I hope you find them as fun to see in this stage as I do.

1887 is in the phase of crazy quilting that contains the most embroidery and decoration of all kinds, the high crazy era. This is from approximately 1880 - 1890.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Block 1- notice the dog face made of silk and the fan. Fans are common on crazy quilts, included to reference to the Japanese culture so popular at this time in furnishings for the American home.  The Japanese are known for “crazing’ their pottery with a special glaze that gave it a crackled appearance. This method began before the Crazy Quilt fad in the U.S., but the pottery was shown to American’s in the states for the first time at the 1876 Centennial Fair.

Block 2- note the paper label with instructions for what to embroider on the block. This block is dated May 1887. They used a sparkling red thread to hand embroider it onto velvet.

Block 3- a silk ribbon with a happy New Year greeting on it is the center focus of this block. Note the pre-quilted piece of pink fabric on the right.

Block 3- a close-up of the ribbon


Block 3- close up of the metal lace and the machine embroidered ribbons below it.

Block 4 – Another fan- the third one.


Block 4- close-up of the painted silk ribbon with ducks in a pond.

Block 4- close-up of a 3-dimensional purple velvet daisey.

Quilt block back
The basting stitches are visible on the cotton 1880s striped dress print fabric.

This is Jan Thomas, curator of a recent crazy quilt exhibit at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden, Colorado. It was a stunning exhibit and my humble little blocks were a part of it!

This is a poster from a crazy quilt exhibit at The American Museum in Bath Britain. The 1983 exhibit was titled "Crazy for Quilts - 200 years of American Quilts" The quilts were from their collection which was considered to be the finest outside of the United States. The quilts dated from the late 18th century to the late 20th century from as far apart as New England and Hawaii, the poster states. Intriguing to say the least, late 18th century crazy quilt?! Kevin McCloud designed the exhibit.

Click to enlarge either one.

I won this poster, actually several of them, in the silent auction at AQSG's annual conference this month, Oct. 6-8, 2006. It's a nice addition to my scrapbook of quilt ephemera."

For more information about Crazy quilts and how to make your own, read the articles by Judy Anne Breneman on her websites about America’s quilting history:

Crazy Quilting History: A Victorian CrazeCreate a Crazy Quilt of Your own

"Quilt Topping" is a new book by Melody Crust. It is about using embellishment on today's art quilts. She wrote the article, Crazy Quilting Today, for my readers.

A website called Crazy Quilt Central provides several photos showing the great diversity in crazy quilt styles over the years. Be sure to click on “view the next antique crazy quilt” to see them all. This may require you to scroll down a little from the photo.

Did you know there is an online magazine for Crazy Quilters? CQMagOnline by Crazy Quilters a quarterly publication with new issues in late January, April, July and October.

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© 2006 - 2016 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted. 

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