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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

America's Quilts And Coverlets

Scott and I went up to the Wilmot Wisconsin Flea Market on Sunday for a little something to do.  We braved the cold wind and drizzle just to walk around outside and get a bit of fresh air.  It wasn't very big but I did find a $3.00 treasure.

America's Quilts and Coverlets by Carleton L. Safford and Robert Bishop.  Published in 1974 by Weathervane Books a division of Barre Publishing Company, Inc.

The copyright information is as follows:

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publishers, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.

For the purpose of review, I'd like to say this is an excellent historical reference book regarding the history and makers of both quilts and woven coverlets.  It's an old book, but is loaded with photos of every type of quilt imaginable.

And yes, it includes crazy quilting!  I'm going to share a brief portion of the introduction to Crazy Quilting chapter:

The Crazy Quilt

Despite it's name, the crazy quilt is usually not quilted, but is finished instead by "tufting" the top, the stuffing, and the lining at regular intervals.  At the time of it's great popularity in the Victorian period it was used as a "parlor throw" and was primarily meant for show, but it was also useful for a short nap.  These throws were of all sizes and weights, shapes and colors.  Their principal charm comes from the great variety of embroidery used to embellish them.

The fad for the crazy quilt involved much sentiment and no house was complete without one for the parlor.  The pieces that were sewn together helter-skelter as patchwork were garnered from trunks, relatives, neighbors, wedding dresses, graduation hair ribbons, baby clothes, prize-winner's ribbons, men's ties, - in fact, anything for "remembrance sake" was eligible.  Velvet, silk, calico, and wool were used, but no particular pattern was followed.  The patch was usually added in the shape that it came to the quiltmaker.  The real success of the final "quilt" was not judged by its pattern or a pleasing combination of colors, but by the originality of the embroidery that decorated its surface.  Some women with a daring imagination and the ability to draw a little came up with excellent examples of folk art in this medium.  Each crazy quilt is individual, for one could collect a thousand and not have any two that were just alike.

Modern collectors of  crazy quilts can be selective since there are many specimens still available.  However, many connoisseurs of early bedcovers tend to dismiss this type of quilt for not being on a par with other types we have discussed.  To quote one on the subject:  "Materials were assembled that were never born for each other;  it's plan of construction suggested the splintered points left by a stone in its passage through a window; pattern it cannot be called, for pattern is ordered relation."

I find that last quote to be amusing!  And I'm not sure how many crazy quilts are still around as many have deteriorated over the years!  Quite honestly, I've seen very few antique crazy quilts that I would call attractive.  The obnoxious combination of colors included on many of them is visually offensive!  However, as ya'll know, the random piecework and "no rules" approach to the art quilt is what I myself find favorable. 

Just thought you'd enjoy reading that excerpt. 


Anonymous said...

Well, that must have made the trip worthwhile! Where is Wilmot, WI?

Abby / Linda said...

I think the 'beauty' of the old art (cq)quilts lies in the work that has been put into them. It bothers me that sometimes traditional quilters, who put in lots of time on their creations, will put down the crazy quilt much like your quote here! The love and meticulous time that is put into these crazy quilt beauties is awesome and gorgeous, regardless of "pattern".

Gina E. said...

That was a fascinating excerpt from a fascinating old book - thank you Pam for reproducing it here for us to read.
I giggled at your comment about the obnoxious combination of colors on antique crazy quilts! I agree!

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