Friday, July 13, 2012

The History of Crazy Quilts


      The term "crazy quilting" is often used to refer to the textile art of crazy patchwork and is sometimes used interchangeably with that term. Crazy quilting does not actually refer to a specific kind of quilting (the needlework which binds two or more layers of fabric together), but a specific kind of patchwork lacking repeating motifs. A crazy quilt rarely has the internal layer of batting that is part of what defines quilting as a textile technique.
      Regular patchwork combines the pieces of fabric into a predetermined and regular design, but crazy patchwork uses irregular pieces of fabric without pattern on a foundation fabric or paper. This may create haphazard-looking and asymmetrical designs, or the designer may use some control in placement. Patches can be hand appliquéd onto a base fabric. This method gives the most variety as every patch is unique. There are also block patterns designed for crazy quilt that can be sewn by machine. Sometimes part of a crazy quilt is haphazard while other parts are placed in a planned pattern. A common example of this the placement of patches is a fan pattern. The patches and seams are then usually heavily embellished.
      Crazy quilting created a stir in the 1880's when it became quite a fad in the United States. The Japanese Exhibit in the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition inspired the crazy quilt with its asymmetrical art. Articles encouraging crazy quilting, or condemning it, could be found in women's publications. Women could purchase packages of random fabrics, as well as already embellished pieces, to use in their own crazy quilts. During the first several years of the crazy quilting fad, fine fabrics and heavy embellishment were the norm. As time passed quilters began to make simpler quilts in the crazy quilt style. Thrifty housewives used everyday fabrics like wool or cotton and little or no embellishment to create more serviceable quilts than the original fancy crazy quilts with the added benefit of using up small or odd-shaped scraps left over from making clothing for the family or other household sewing projects.

Examples of ways of combining patches in a crazy quilt: 1887: Crazy Blocks al dente * Learn more about crazy quilt history. Crazy Quilts in America * Crazy Quilting History a Victorian Craze * The History of Crazy Quilts * An example of a crazy quilt from the Smithsonian. Smithsonian: Crazy patchwork slumber throw * Modern crazy quilting * Modern Crazy Quilting and Restoration

     Especially popular during the 1880s were the designs of Kate Greenaway (Catherine Greenaway -17 March 1846 – 6 November 1901). Women often incorporated needlepoint and painted stencils from Greenaways illustrated books into their crazy quilts.
      Greenaway spent much of her childhood at Rolleston, Nottinghamshire. She studied at what is now the Royal College of Art in London, which at that time had a separate section for women, and was headed by Richard Burchett. Her first book, Under the Window (1879), a collection of simple, perfectly idyllic verses about children, was a bestseller.
      Greenaway's paintings were reproduced by chromoxylography, by which the colors were printed from hand-engraved wood blocks by the firm of Edmund Evans. Through the 1880s and 1890s, her only rivals in popularity in children's book illustration were Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott.
      As well as illustrating books Greenaway also produced a number of bookplates.
      "Kate Greenaway" children, all of them little girls and boys too young to be put in trousers, according to the conventions of the time, were dressed in her own versions of late eighteenth century and Regency fashions: smock-frocks and skeleton suits for boys, high-waisted pinafores and dresses with mobcaps and straw bonnets for girls. The influence of children's clothes in portraits by British painter John Hoppner (1758–1810) may have provided her some inspiration. Liberty of London adapted Kate Greenaway's drawings as designs for actual children's clothes. A full generation of mothers in the liberal-minded "artistic" British circles who called themselves "The Souls" and embraced the Arts and Crafts movement dressed their daughters in Kate Greenaway pantaloons and bonnets in the 1880s and 1890s.
      Greenaway was elected to membership of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors in 1889. She lived in an Arts and Crafts style house she commissioned from Richard Norman Shaw in Frognal, London, although she spent summers in Rolleston, near Southwell.
      Greenaway died of breast cancer in 1901 at the age of 55. She is buried in Hampstead Cemetery, London. The Kate Greenaway Medal, established in her honour in 1955, is awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK to an illustrator of children's books.

A little boy and girl by Kate Greenaway for crazy
quilts based upon antique variations.

Add a few little girls by Kate Greenaway
to your next crazy quilt design.

      The English Kensington School of Art Needlwork, founded in 1872 and now based at Hampton Court Palace, greatly influenced influenced American women during the late 1800s as well. Much of the needlepoint design found in crazy quilts at the time came from the publications of that institution. Today this institution is known as The Royal School of Needlework (RSN). It has an archive of over 30,000 images covering every period of British history. There are also over 5,000 textile pieces, including lace, silkwork, whitework, Jacobean embroidery and many other forms of embroidery and needlework. The Royal School of Needlework is a registered charity and has always been under royal patronage.   The current patron is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 
      The RSN was founded by Lady Victoria Welby and the first President was Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, Queen Victoria's third daughter, known to the RSN as Princess Helena. She received help from William Morris and many of his friends in the Arts and Crafts movement. It received its royal prefix in March 1875 when Queen Victoria consented to become its first patron. The word "Art" was dropped from the title in 1922. 
      Its initial space was in a small apartment on Sloane Street, employing 20 women. The school had grown to 150 students, moving in 1903 to Exhibition Road, near to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The purposed-built building was designed by group of architects, including prominent British "Arts and Crafts" architect James Leonard Williams (d.1926), who designed All Saints church in Oxted (1914-28) and St George’s in Sudbury, Middlesex (1926-27). 
      The school moved from Princes Gate in Kensington to Hampton Court Palace in 1987 and now features fine views of the palace gardens. The work of the school has been used in many important events, including a joint effort with Toye in producing the velvet cushions on which the Royal Crowns were carried into Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of King George VI. In 1953, the School created the gold embroidery on the Purple Robe of Estate, part of the coronation robes of Queen Elizabeth II and in 2011, the school created the lace appliqués for the wedding dress of Kate Middleton, now Her Royal Highness, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

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