Quilts grow out of the available fabric. Quiltmakers responded to the arrival of factory-made clothing with new styles made from the factory cutaways. The crazy quilt is one.
This crazy quilt dated 1911 seems to
be made from large velvet pieces, unlikely to be
scraps from family sewing.
Crazy quilts became a fad in the 1880s,
fed by periodicals with instructions and advice.
Advertisers offered packets of silks just for crazy or puzzle quilts.
Here one could buy two pounds of leftover silk for about $1.00.
"Gorgeous Transparent Velvet Assortment"
Also 24 quilt designs.
That may have looked like this.
Crazy quilts in the 1880s and '90s tended to be made of
small, random-shaped pieces of silk built on cotton foundation squares with
a good deal of elaborate embroidery.
Quilt dated 1889 by "Grandma Wise"
Crazy quilt dated 1918
Towards the end of the 19th century and into the 20th, crazy quilts became less elaborate.
Pieces were often larger, embroidery minimal. Here one can guess that the arc-shaped pieces were also cutaways from a garment construction.
We see the arcs again here.
Related to the crazy quilt is the string quilt, which also
developed about 1880.
String quilts are composed of thin "strings" of
fabric, often clothing-factory leftovers.
String quilts are also pieced over foundations,
but many quilters used newspapers rather than cotton.
Family in front of a string quilt.
There's a fine line between a string quilt and a crazy quilt.
The major difference is in the basic shape. String quilts
feature narrow strips; crazy quilts random shapes.
It's the basic classification problem.
Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?
Depends on your rules.
And how do you know if a quilt is made from factory cutaways? There is rarely a family story attached to these scrappy quilts. Above an early 20th-century top was sold with the history that it was scraps from a "ticking factory."It seems more like to have been a factory that wove cottons or cut them into clothing. It's impossible to know without that story, particuarly if the quilter cut the scraps into squares, rectangles or other
common patchwork shapes.
Family scrap bag or factory cutaways?
One minor clue is the triangles with blunt points.
This one looks like the maker used many of the scraps just
as she found them.
You don't see that blunted, long shape used until the turn of the 20th century
When you see it a lot.
The long triangular shapes are really not a concrete clue.
This fan-like block could be pieced of scraps begged, borrowed and cut up from clothing.
But it is provocative to think about how fabrics sold by
the pound shaped the look of the quilts.
Ad for remnants in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1924:
"You will be surprised at the splendid value of these bundles. Every bundle a BARGAIN! Remnant bundles of Coloured Art Linen for cushion covers and fancy needlework.."