Last week I mentioned that one of my hobbies is crazy quilting, but I didn’t explain what that entails. So today, a short history lesson.
Crazy quilting is commonly thought to have begun as a ‘craze’ in the late Victorian period after an exhibition at the World’s Fair in Philadelphia displayed traditional
English textile needlework and the often asymmetrical styling of Japanese art. The two were ‘married and the crazy quilt era began.
Crazy Quilting, or CQ, starts with patching materials onto a base fabric, usually muslin. The seams where the patches are joined are then covered by decorative stitches of embroidery. Traditionally the feather stitch was used to cover seams and motifs were then embroidered with satin stitch, stem stitch, etc. inside the patches. Modern takes on crazy quilting include every embellishment you can think of; lace, rick rack, beads, charms, yarn, strips of silk fabric, ribbon … anything goes.
Victorian women of leisure embraced this hobby, with patterns an
d articles appearing in lady’s journals. It is thought that the craft became popular because the lad
y’s enjoyed showing off their skills and wealth. They would use old dresses for the patches so the more silks and brocades, the higher the social status. It also showed off their embroidery skills as, for centuries, women were judged on their needlework accomplishments.
One unique aspect of crazy quilting is the tradition of including a spider’s web and spider. This motif is found in some of the earliest examples of the craft and is thought to have been included to bring good luck. My theory is it represents Arachne of the Greek Pantheon; she was the weaver of fate, turned into a spider by the jealous Athena.
Crazy quilting differs from traditional quilts in that the piece is not meant to be
used as a cover, there is no batting between the top and bottom layer so it won’t keep you warm. Most crazy quilts were made for wall hangings or throws; decorative pieces to display the lady of the house’s skills.
The community of CQ today is vast and many textile artists make it their medium. I embraced the hobby to develop and showcase my needlework; I learned to embroider from my grandmother, so this is a way to hold on to her memory.
Have you heard of crazy quilting? Are you a CQer?