Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Crazy for Quilts

I'm crazy for crazy quilts. The crazy-quilting fad began in the United States in the 1880s. My great-grandmother, Annie Louise Jackson McGlothlin, made the crazy quilt in the photo below around 1890, when she was about 19, at her home on Garden Creek in Buchanan County, Virginia. The time she must have devoted to this beautiful creation is phenomenal. It was made of wool and cotton flannel and measured about 72" x 61". Her quilt is now hanging in the Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum in Abingdon, Virginia, as part of the permanent collection of the William King Regional Arts Center (WKRAC).

In her book Great Road Style, my friend and long-time director of WKRAC Betsy White describes the quilt as an "organized crazy pattern." I love that description and am sure my great-granny and I would have had a lot in common had we had the good fortune to meet!

Crazy quilts can be found in antique stores if you're lucky; really nice ones fetch over $200. That's not so bad when you consider the many projects you can make with just one quilt, if you're willing to cut it up, that is! The first two projects below were made with one crazy quilt, and the other two with another one (with some left over).

For our corporate museum I had two square pillows covered with part of a crazy quilt. The color pops when placed on the dark green velvet sofa.

Also in the museum, I used a small section of crazy quilt to trim the hem of a red velvet valance. The quilt isn't actually sewn on there; it's just pinned and has stayed put for over 4 years! The valance itself was part of a theatre curtain in a former life (more on that in another post).

From the second crazy quilt, I made this purse (along with another, mentioned in a separate post) and attached leopard ribbon handles and a vintage orange rhinestone circle brooch.

These are my dining room chair cushions. They are a colorful lot! I purchased the chairs and cushions at Crate & Barrel and then had the cushions covered with the crazy quilt.

Each part of the quilt truly tells a story. These are just some of the fascinating squares from the quilt that my family sits on daily! First we have someone's initials, perhaps a new bride. Then an American flag, a peacock-like fan of colors and finally an artist's palette. I imagine the women telling stories as they made this, much like my great-grandmother would have done.

To secure the cushion to the seat, I had two narrow pieces of lime green fabric attached to the back of each cushion so they can be tied around the chair legs. The great thing about the crazy quilt is that it will match any color!

I applied one of the quilt scraps to a lampshade, as shown in another post.

I even have a modern take on a crazy quilt in our guest room, this one purchased a few years ago at Pottery Barn.

Maybe I have gone a little over the top, er, crazy, for these quilts but enjoying their history and versatility is worth a little insanity on my part.


1 comment:

JNelson said...


I love all of your ideas! You have such a knack for looking at something that most people would ignore, and turn the item or items into something wonderful! I am very impressed with your talent and creative mind.

Keep up the wonderful job you do on the blog.