The Crazy Quilt

A tale of two quilts.

All my ambitious plans for world domination, I mean extreme, productive sewing, this weekend were brought to a screeching halt last (Friday) night when my mother-in-law called to let us know that she and her husband would be arriving in town sometime Saturday. I have to Clean House.*

The Crazy Quilt

So instead of making a second coat for a niece (yes, I was planning to interrupt the Springy Coat since it appears we’ll be dashing home over Easter so I may actually have an opportunity to deliver said coats), I’ll be cleaning madly. I wonder if I could convince my MIL to help with the coat sewing… hmm…. Anyway, to spare you a play-by-play of scrubbing toilets, I thought I’d share (quickly) a bit about a quilt.

I didn’t make this quilt. I don’t quilt (even less than I houseclean). Although this quilt almost makes me wish I did. My grandmother (who quilts) didn’t make this quilt either, although she did give it to me a few years back when she was moving from her house on the farm to a senior’s complex in “town” (town in this case not having more than a few hundred people, but at least she’s not alone in the middle of nowhere if something happens). I love my grandmother to bits, but this is not the sort of quilt she would ever make. I’m actually a bit surprised that she allowed this sort of quilt to even stay in her house—my guess is if it ever was used, it was tucked under a much tidier coverlet. My grandmother’s house was always immaculate, tidy, and scrupulously modern (scrupulously updated, too). Her quilts are rather similar; she made the one on the right in the topmost photo for me when I was two or three.

No, this quilt is the product of an entirely different mentality.

Piecing closeup

The pieces aren’t square. They certainly aren’t even. They appear to have been pieced together into some large, haphazard rectangles, from a variety of sources that have little in common except being made of a variety of light-weight cottons. If there’s an overall rhyme or reason, I haven’t detected it.

This is a hand-made quilt. I don’t mean made on a machine in a home. I mean, I don’t think a sewing machine ever touched this quilt. Every single stitch, from piecing through embroidery, binding, and quilting (or is it quilting and then binding?), it’s all hand-stitched. A couture quilt, if you will.

Hand-stitched binding

Once the blocks were made up (quilters will have to forgive me for my imprecise use of their terminology… did I mention I’m not a quilter?), the quilter embroidered a feather-stitch ( think) along the seams between patches.

Inside the quilt---frayed edge binding

There’s no batting within the quilt; instead, a couple of layers of loose-woven cotton are sandwiched between quilt top and backing. I suppose this was intended to be a light summer quilt. Or maybe it was just what the quilter had on hand. You can see them because the backing has frayed at the edges and there are a few places where the quilt’s interior is exposed.

Quilt back, with seam and pattern-matching

The quilt back is made out of this lovely print, pieced together with a seam to make it wide enough for the whole quilt. There even appears to have been an attempt at pattern-matching along the seam, although it’s not overly exact.

There were a lot of hours, love, and crazy creativity poured into this quilt.

I love this quilt, but it lives a hard and wandering life in our house, drifting between the upstairs hall closet and the basement depending on where it’s being called into service. It’s not likely to be called into service as a bedspread (my huband’s tastes being rather akin to my grandmother’s in this regard). It needs a wash badly, but I fear the fate of the fraying edges from callous laundering, and I have nowhere to hang it to dry—at least for a few more months. (It’s snowing again, by the way, although today’s accumulation isn’t expected to be more than a few cm)

I’m tempted to bind over the fraying edges. This treatment wouldn’t work on my grandmother’s neat, patterned quilts, but I think it would go very well with the spirit of this quilt. The only question is whether I have the patience for that much hand-stitching.

*My mother-in-law is the sweetest lady on the face of the planet, and would never say boo about my miserable housekeeping. She might, however, very sweetly and politely and without making any kind of a fuss, set about tidying things up herself, and then I would die of embarrassment.



Filed under Sewing

19 responses to “The Crazy Quilt

  1. Sewista Fashionista

    I love the crazy quilt! We had those kind of quilts when I was a child and I loved staring at them deciphering the different shapes and colors.

  2. That quilt is adorable. I have always wanted to try my hand at a crazy quilt – crazy quilts have that crazy wedge block going on and the cool stitching. They were generally made form scraps from dressmaking, so the blocks are velvet and silk – doesn’t that sound lovely? If I could borrow hermoine’s time turner thingie, I’d totally crazy quilt up some pieces to make some sort of skirt out of – one that’d be meant for layering over yards of tulle, and worn with a waistcoat. And a tophat. And a monocle…. Lucy’d get a top hat too. One that she could pull a bunny out of. Basset hound heaven.

    Alas, hermoine’s totally stingy with her time turner, so I will stick with the projects on I’m working on. In the meantime, I totally get the having a hard time finding a home for the quilt issue. I have two quilts left over from my quilt making days that have been living on our sofas in the living room, but I yearn for simple knitted blankies to match our white sofas (Knitted with fisherman’s wool and lots of cables, natch. Another project that would require a time turner. Or a serious outlay of cash at Pottery Barn…) As much as I like making some things, I don’t really like OWNING those things (quilts, knitted hats, embroidered things.) That’s probably why sewing has such staying power for me – usable end products!

    • Usable end product is TOTALLY what keeps me sewing garments. Best hobby EVER. Though I’ve seen some pretty cool knits… somehow I have it in my head that knitting doesn’t ever produce finished objects, though, just piles of yarn and needles that sit around forever. This might relate to my upbringing… šŸ˜‰

      Also, I love that outfit you describe. I want to see it. Almost as much as I want to see your sexy pilgrim costume. šŸ˜€

  3. The crazy quilt is wonderful! If you ever decide to learn about that…look me up! I’d love to get you started in that direction!

    • Wow, those are some amazing “crazy” quilts! I love your pin cushions, too. Some day when I have more time than sense… šŸ˜‰ (as opposed to right now when I have neither, I suppose…)

  4. I made one once, all hand pieced, and quilted — it was supposed to be for college, but I didn’t quite get the quilting finished, so I basted it and used it. During free moments all four years I would pull out my hoop and work on it while watching movies. In grad school I got it almost all the way done, but then moved, got a larger bed, and consequently a larger quilt…. so out of sight, out of mind, and its still not finished. But I do love it…

  5. I HATE cleaning for the inlaws! I also agree about the whole I think quilts are pretty, and I have made plenty of them, but only to give away.

  6. Did you ever ask your grandmother who made that quilt? Was it her, or her mother, older-sister, or mother in law? (The historian in me coming out.) Any ideas on age? Do the fabric patterns look 1920’s, 1930’s 1940’s? Or newer or older? While perhaps not a museum piece, this quilt has a story to tell, about creativity during the home-stead era, the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the war-time restricted 1940’s? Pieced by kerosene-lamp light during long winter evenings? (Rural electrification wasn’t complete until the end of the 1950’s.) Fabric remnants from sewing clothing? (Sewn for and worn by whom?) I love the stories that these pieces can tell!

    • This was Dad’s mom, of course—it was not her, and she didn’t know who had made it or even where she had acquired it (I did ask šŸ˜‰ ). I could ask one of my Aunties, I suppose…

      Although a lot of the pieces could be any age, I feel like the more geometric prints (the two fabrics with the tan and black backgrounds with the white geometric lines, for a better view you can click on the picture of the whole quilt to see the larger photo) are fairly “contemporary” looking (meaning like 80s, although perhaps they could be 70s or even 60s… I doubt older than that though), although you might have a better sense of that than I. It is a neat quilt, though, isn’t it? šŸ™‚

  7. I clean for my in-laws, but usually when I’m at their houses. I do it in secret. Once I took advantage of a collective afternoon nap-time to clear the homes of an entire society of spiders from the rafters. Usually it’s the bathroom I target…

    Quilt binding isn’t hard, and you wouldn’t mess it up. You can put it on by machine, but it’s probably neater to whipstitch it on by hand. Usually I sew it on by machine, then when I fold it over stitch by hand…

    • I must admit I occasionally do this at my crafty sister-in-law’s. Although I’m never sure if I’m a *little* tidier than her, or if I’m just more inured to my own mess.

      I would definitely stitch the second pass by hand—looking at the entire quilt, though, I think I would have to do the entire thing by hand, to be in the “spirit” of the quilt. /sigh. Maybe if I need a mindless project next winter…

  8. My great-grandmother was a quilter, and she had made one that came to me. I loved it to atoms, really, as nothing much survives of it anywhere. But it was a crazy quilt, as opposed to her other more patterned ones that my other cousins and siblings were given. And that was one of my favorite parts about it. Thanks for sharing something that brings up such bittersweet feelings! (Only bittersweet because I don’t have the quilt anymore.)

  9. There’s a much more somber version of this crazy quilt in my family…. or there was… now that I think about it, I think it was finally hacked up and put into frames as memorial art. It was what I would term a Depression Quilt. Made from scraps of whatever was available, back in the day when not much was available and you didn’t waste anything. My grandmother has finally moved away from ironing previously used gift wrap and saving the wax lining from cereal boxes. Anyway, I love those crazy quilts!

    • Haha—if my grandma has stopped ironing gift wrap, it’s only in the last couple of years. I think I am most fascinated by this kind of quilting. šŸ™‚

      …erm, that would be the OTHER grandmother. They’re kinda polar opposites in a way…

  10. Cathy

    I completely understand cleaning for the inlaws so that you don’t die of embarassment. Mine live in Manitoba and I’m in Ontario, so it’s only once a year and I’m getting less…. crazy about it. It’s definitely me, not them that is the cause of my pre-visit cleaning insanity.

    That is a beautiful quilt, thanks for sharing.

  11. I love this quilt. The Textile Museum in Toronto had an exhibit on quilts, and the crazy quilts they had from the late 1800’s were amazing: silk, velvet, embroidery forever and ever…. I’m like you – love the idea of a crazy quilt, but actually completing one is probably not gonna happen before I’m 99 yrs old.

    I’m with you on the housecleaning: only do it when I have company that will notice if it’s not done! šŸ˜‰

  12. Pingback: My Grandma’s Stash | Tanit-Isis Sews

  13. Pingback: To infinity and beyond! | Tanit-Isis Sews

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