Thursday, November 7, 2019

Still Crazy...

When pondering the title of this post, a number of familiar songs came to mind, and I (Teri) have a bit of Paul Simon, Heart, Van Morrison, Queen, and Patsy Cline bouncing in my head as I write. (I guess that dates me, doesn't it?!) Kara's Crazy Mittens post last week reminded me how much fun we have playing with stitch combinations when doing a crazy quilt-style project. A couple of months ago, Kara and I found a group of three "Victorian crazy quilts" in an online auction and thought we would bid on the lot. To our delight, we won the quilts! What better way to be inspired to play with embroidery stitches than to study the stitching on old crazy quilts? 

Even quilts benefit from some vitamin D!
Alas, when the quilts arrived at my house, I was deterred from admiring the stitching by the strong aroma of mustiness that permeated the room. I quickly packed them back in the plastic bag until we could figure out a solution to the smell. As the quilts were predominantly silks and velvets, washing them was out of the question. I purchased some bags of activated charcoal and put them in the plastic bag with the quilts for a few weeks and awaited a clear. sunny day for airing them. They need a bit more of both, but I am happy to declare that they are MUCH improved, and I was able to lay them on the bed to study them! Yay!!

The first of the quilts is a modified chevron pattern (I think), and has a wide variety of fabric samples. There is a mixture of prints and solids, with many silks, but also some brocades, velvets, a ribbon, and a painted piece. It is hand-pieced, but the backing and binding are machine sewn.

In the first picture, notice the ribbon from the Pontiac High School Alumni Association Reception. I found Pontiac High Schools located in a number of states in the U.S. but couldn't find anything relating to this piece. The flowers in the second photo are elaborately painted onto a piece of silk or satin, the only painted piece in the quilt. It is not uncommon to find event ribbons and painted motifs in Victorian era crazy quilts, so it was fun to find them in this quilt.

There is an eclectic collection of different fabrics here. The fuzzy black and white checked fabric was a surprise, stitched among the silks and velvet pieces. I have been unable to ascertain whether they were sample bits of fabrics, or perhaps pieces from ties or dresses. Or possibly, both.

The stitching combinations in this quilt are not overly elaborate, but they do add some interest to the patchwork of this quilt. This is not a typical crazy quilt, but it does combine some "crazy" characteristics to this pieced design.

A stitch combination with four colors 

The back: if you look carefully, you can see stitching in parallel curves,
almost like a clamshell design. It appears that the back is stitched to a piece
of thin batting or flannel, and then those are tacked to the front with small stitches.

The  combination stitches are all done with pearl cotton thread, but sewing thread is used to tack the quilt top to the other two layers of fabric, and those stitches are camouflaged amongst the decorative embroidery. Note the tacking stitches circled in yellow.

This second quilt is not crazy at all. It is a fun combination of a tumbling block and star design, full of secondary designs.

The star designs are showcased with a plush red center, surrounded by black velvet diamonds.

Each star is made with three tumbling blocks.

This star includes some fun fussy-cutting.

Some shattered silk reveals a cotton batting.

Evidence of fine hand-piecing

Braided cording is used to bind the quilt,

The plush star centers are repeated on the back to hide the tying of the three quilt layers.

To be continued...
The smallest of the three quilts is the winner when it comes to elaborate stitching. So much so that it deserves its own post, so you can enjoy the exquisite combinations and be as inspired as I am. So stay tuned!

We have not gotten these quilts appraised and are not experts in dating fabrics, but I feel pretty certain that these are not "Victorian crazy quilts" as described in the auction. My best guess is that they were made sometime in the mid-1900s, with either fabric scraps or samples. Unfortunately, we know none of the stories of these quilts, so we will just have to make up own. What I do know is that a lot of work was put into them, and I can certainly appreciate that!

P.S.—Do you have a crazy song stuck in your head?  šŸŽµšŸ˜„šŸŽµ

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