National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Crazy Quilt Crazy Quilt
Rendered by Charlotte Winter (artist), c. 1938
watercolor, graphite, and gouache on paper
overall: 55.2 x 59.3 cm (21 3/4 x 23 3/8 in.) Original IAD Object: 60" wide; 72" long
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Textiles from the Index of American Design
Object 14 of 17

Patchwork quilts put together in random fashion are called "crazy quilts." The crazy quilt is the oldest form of American patchwork and evolved from the necessity for using every scrap of material. By the late eighteenth century, pieced quilts in geometric patterns had replaced crazy quilts; quilts displaying irregular patterns became popular again after the middle of the nineteenth century, when they were used as ornamental throws on couches in fashionable parlors. The crazy quilts of the late nineteenth century, unlike earlier quilts, generally included scraps of silk, satin, or velvet in addition to the customary cotton patches. The luxurious quality of the fabrics was emphasized by the manner in which the oddly shaped patches were pieced together. Unlike their earlier counterparts, the seams were sewn in elaborate embroidery stitches. This crazy quilt combines a variety of ornate and colorful fabrics joined by embroidery in contrasting hues. Additional ornamentation is provided by designs embroidered on the individual patches. Supplementary needlework of this kind became fashionable shortly before 1850 and soon became a common method of heightening the ornamental quality of quilts.

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