Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crazy About Quilts


For the past couple of years I’ve had my crazy quilt (a tribute to the needlecraft of the women in my family), hanging in my living room. Growing up I was fascinated by a crazy quilt my mother had. It had belonged to her mother, and was composed of several sections; perhaps one was made by each woman in the family and these were assembled into a bed sized quilt. Such a quilt would have been made as a wedding gift or trousseau piece and intended for display in a parlor. If made for my grandmother, that would date it to the turn of the century, though I don’t know for sure how she came to have it. Womenfolk.com offers an interesting article on how this style of quilting caught on in this country during the Victorian era.
Though I knew I would someday end up with my grandmother’s quilt, but it was already too fragile to display, so I thought to reproduce it. Not long before my mother died I visited her and took pictures of her quilt and began planning my project.  I bought bundles of fabric on E-bay, cut up old clothing and purchased more new fabric too.
My quilt, pictured here sharing the room with our Christmas tree, is composed of sixteen squares. Each sixteen inch square is a traditional crazy patchwork with embroidered seams. 
In the center of each square is a black silk velvet patch with an embroidered vignette. Several of these are replicas of embroidered motifs on my grandmother’s quilt. The others are just images that appealed to me. 
In the center of the quilt I embroidered a thistle and a harp. These are the national symbols of Scotland and Ireland respectively, the two predominant nationalities in my somewhat mongrel ancestry.
The finished quilt is 82 x 82 inches, and made of silk satins, dupoini, and velvets. The backing is plain cotton. Each of the crazy quilt squares is worked onto medium weight muslin. Given the weight of the fabric and stitching, and the fact that the piece was intended more for show than use, I skipped batting. Still this is the heaviest quilt I’ve ever made.
With all the handwork (every stitch and decoration in the quilt was done by hand), it took me more than two years to finish. Sadly my mother never did see it, but I think she would have approved. In addition to everything else she taught me, she gave me my first lessons in embroidery back in the late 60s. Back then I employed this knowledge to embellish blue jeans and army surplus jackets. I think she might find this quilt a more fitting use of my “womanly skills”.

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