Sunday, February 25, 2018

Beautiful...And Crazy!

     Gorgeous Crazy quilts have just been flowing my way this month. Is it because people start hauling out their precious quilts in the winter season? Or perhaps it's that they have time to decide what to do next. And probably because yours truly wrote a history/how-to book on Crazies, they head my direction, as well. Who knows.

     This beautiful piece came via its current caretaker, Jane Renkes, and her appraiser, Carol Butzke. (Carol is an experienced and respected appraiser from Wisconsin, and a member of the AQS appraisal committee.* More on Carol here.)

Here it is. Try not to drool.

I have permission from Jane to show you these photos and talk about her 'baby.' This Crazy top is c.1895, 69" x 70". It's in remarkable condition, considering the tendency of Victorian era Crazies to show damage from weighted silks.** This piece does have four small areas where replacement pieces were later basted in place -- "likely to cover some water damage," Jane thinks.

The motifs on this piece are incredible. The lilies, thanks to the Language of Flowers, represent purity. (Notice the pink rosebuds? Maternal love. Red roses? True love.) The wide-open fan, besides being a favorite of the Aesthetic Movement (and a favored Japanese design), is also a "flirtation" symbol of welcome. And the butterfly is also a favorite theme of rebirth and resurrection. (Think Easter.)
      From my years of studying Crazies, I am convinced that quiltmakers chose these for specific reasons....usually of love, best wishes and religious and political beliefs, as well as items connected with the people and places in their lives.

Bear in mind, though -- some designs and motifs conveyed negative feelings, instead of positive ones! (See the whole discussion of yellow roses in my books, Quilts of the Golden West or The Stitcher's Language of Flowers, for one example.)

Back to this glorious Crazy top.

Jane plans to back it, doing it in typical fashion for the period, and some minor restoration here and there to preserve the piece. That way, it will be stronger and more durable for hanging and display.

Interesting 'picket fence' border, huh...

Nice Crazy, Jane!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

Yellow roses represented suspicion and betrayal --
 until the American Florists Association changed them to friendship in the 20th century

*AQS is one of my certifications, as well.

**Manufacturers' laws were not stringent during the 19th century. (Or before, for that matter.) Manufacturers realized that silk would absorb up to five times its weight in iron and chemicals -- making 1 yd into 5! These weighted silks swished beautifully, were cheaper...and within just a few years, started shredding and breaking. For quiltmakers who had poured their skills, favorite themes and beliefs into these visual 'scrapbooks,' that reality must have been heartbreaking. Certainly it's why many Crazies stayed in top form -- sometimes finished later on, sometimes not. 
     See my book, Crazy Quilts, for more.
     To have this quilt top in such good condition suggests that the quiltmaker used higher-quality silks, suggesting she/he had a comfortable income. (Or access to them, as a dressmaker.) The more expensive silks were not usually weighted. She also included many ribbons -- one of Victorian era quiltmakers' favorites, because they had two finished edges, so could easily be tacked or basted in place before embroidery was added. (They worked well over higher nap fabrics, like velvets, too.)
     Weighted silks still exist today -- but the law says they must be labeled as such. 

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