Thursday, May 18, 2017

Crazy Quilts at the Virginia Quilt Museum

Last week, Kara and I (Teri) decided that we needed to go on one last road trip before her departure to Germany. It will surely not be our last, but we will doubtfully get much travel in before she leaves the country. Our destination was Harrisonburg, Virginia. I had told her how much I enjoyed my visit to the Virginia Quilt Museum (VQM) in the fall, and we wanted to see Debby Cooney's exhibit on appliqué (more to come on that next week), so that seemed like a good place to start. We planned to check out a few fabric shops, antique shops, and wineries, as well.

Our first stop was the museum, which is housed in the historic Warren-Sipe House on South Main Street. The house is a superb environment to display these old quilts: the floor, fireplaces, and even the radiators possess inspiration for quilt and embroidery designs!


An amazing collection of antique sewing machines was displayed on the upper level, and in the stairway heading to the lower level, a framed variety of vintage quilting templates could be viewed. Even the bathroom walls were bedecked with old needle craft magazine covers. (Interestingly, both Kara and I took a photo of the framed periodical covers on the bathroom walls . . . maybe we think TOO much alike!)


One of the exhibits displayed on the upper level was Treasures From the Vault: Wool for Winter, which included a few crazy quilts. In the fall, I saw Treasures From the Vault: Crazy Quilts. Since we have written about and taught some crazy quilting classes, I thought it might be fun to do a photo album for you, sharing some of the lovely crazy quilts among the VQM's collection—some from each of my visits. Hope you enjoy this truly exquisite work!

Rail Fence Crazy Quilt, 1934, from Harrisonburg, VA;
made by Myrta Richey Kennedy for Alvin Kennedy

Between each rail fence block, Myrta did the cretan stitch over the seam.
She uses a variety of materials to creatively stitch the seams between the "rails."

Above, woven tape is ruched. Below left, it is folded and stitched down in a zig zag fashion.


Here, she used rick rack to create a unique seam stitch. 

Kerlin Miller Wool Crazy Quilt, c. 1890, from Bridgewater, Shenandoah Valley, VA;
made by Emma Rebecca Kerlin (1863-1940) 


Several different sets of initials are embroidered on blocks, though it is stated to have been made by
Emma Rebecca Kerlin (Miller?). Perhaps she had assistance from family members, or maybe she included
initials of family members as a tribute. Both wool and pearl cotton threads are used for embellishment. 

Page Crazy Quilt, c. 1900, from Staunton, VA;
made by Rosa Virginia Glenn Page and several women in her family


Chenille thread is used on the flowers, above left, and many knots in the goldenrod, above right, achieve a dimensional look. Below, stitchers embroidered their initials to mark their participation. 



I would guess that daisies must have been one of Rosa's favorite blooms, as they are found in a number of blocks.

Dellinger Folk Art Crazy Quilt, made by Molly E. Dellinger Grabill
"Commenced Dec. 1, 1886
Finished March 30, 1887"

Molly's initials—and a self-portrait, perhaps?

Loving the storybook elements in this quilt!

Withers Crazy Quilt Top,  c. 1880, from Augusta County, VA; maker unknown

Fabrics include silk and velvet, and the embroidery is elaborate.

Crazy Quilt, dated 1891, from Rockingham County, VA; made by Theresa Beery Shank 

Ribbon daisies

Osberger Family Quilt, c. 1880; quiltmaker unknown; quilt inherited by Una Osberger Ammerman

Lots of silks were used in this beautifully created quilt.

Many detailed motifs are stitched and embellished with metallic, silk, and cotton threads.

Several panels were hanging in a window during my October visit, making it difficult to photograph them, but below are a few close-up images of some of the blocks. Once again, there is some spectacular embroidery in these examples. Several seasons are stitched, with flowers, leaves, birds, and butterflies. Oh, and colored rings.

This stunning chair with its crazy quilted seat cushion was on the main floor—
hopefully being admired, rather than hosting sitters!

After our museum visit, we had lunch and stopped by the jewelry store to see if they had any different quilts hanging. (To read about my trip there in October, read Vintage Virginia Stitches.) We loved this pieced block with hand appliquéd handles and machine top-stitched stems. The greens had faded to tan and brown.


The day was still young enough to go through two antique malls, one of which housed a fabric store—what a perfect combination! We had just enough time to stop by a couple of wineries before the tasting rooms closed. 

A sweet display of toy sewing machines...

...and some vintage threads (that weren't very strong anymore.)

Beautiful gardens at the White Oak Lavender Farm 

The Purple Wolf Tasting Room

After checking into our hotel and getting some dinner, we got into our comfy clothes and opened a bottle of wine that we'd bought. Our friend, Barb, called us, and we enjoyed a virtual (video) visit with her, chatting and laughing for over an hour. After a good night's sleep, we were ready to head back to Maryland, stopping at a few fabric stores and antique shops along the way. Who knows when our next road trip will be? Perhaps next year to Williamsburg for the Academy of Appliqué, or maybe even in Germany! Either way, we hope to enjoy many more road trips in our future.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing two of the visiting exhibits from the Virginia Quilt Museum. If you haven't the opportunity to visit the museum, this will be your chance to see some amazing appliqué and quilts with some tales to tell!

Some of Our Posts About Crazy Quilting
Crazy for Crazy Quilts
Making Little Red Crazy
American Crazy Quilt Exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art
Back to the BMA: More Crazy Quilts
Crazy Quilting—Start to Finish
Crazy Quilting—Start to Finish; Session One: Constructing the Blocks
Crazy Quilts, Session 2: Marking and Stitching Motifs
Crazy Quilts, Session 3: Ribbon Fun
Crazy Quilts, Session 4 and 5: Progress
The Crazy Quilt Wrap-Up


  1. Phew, I'm exhausted! What a delightful show of crazies. I particularly like Molly Dellinger's folk art quilt. Sensational! I am happy to see the date of 1934 on the wool rail fence. People are always telling me that these types of quilts weren't made much after the turn of the century. Well, they were in Maine and I am happy to see that they were in Virginia too. I need to take a class for you two as I don't know much about embroidery stitches. Thank you for sharing these gems!

    1. Thanks, Wendy! They were indeed gems; it is such fun to examine and study the stitches they used. You picked my favorite as well! There were even some advertisements sprinkled throughout the quilt, but of course, the story blocks were the ones that caught me.

  2. Wow, thank you for sharing so many photos of these beauties. Nice to see the stitches up close, lovely work. Love the grasshopper! My son lives not too far from the museum and I hope to go there when I visit him someday.

  3. OMG! This is all such an awesome work. These quilts look stunning and beautiful. It is a great place to enjoy and see all the amazing artworks and quilt displays. Thanks for sharing update!