Thursday, September 26, 2013

My, how time flies...

Wow, after arm wrestling Blogger for the past couple of hours I'm feeling fairly worn out. I know it should be easy and probably is to many, but learning how to navigate unfamiliar software is always a challenge for me. Still, I was able to change my template, post a new header photo and convert to google+, although I'm really not sure I see any difference from the old version. But overall I think it looks better.

Anyway, I was startled to see it's been nearly a year since my last blog post, although that's not too odd for me. I always seem to run out of steam after starting a new blog. I was also extremely busy from October 2012 to March 2013 getting ready for a belly dance performance, so that is my main excuse for getting off track. I thought several times about posting costume progress, but you really have to keep that stuff under wraps so the reveal at the show is a surprise (and so nobody rips off your ideas - haha.) Our costumes did turn out fabulously, and I will share mine in a blog soon.

For the moment I am really excited about an antique crazy quilt I found at an estate sale here in town last week. Although the previous owner lives in D.C., she's pretty sure she bought this quilt locally. She had thrown it over her couch in her house here for a long time, then put it away when it started getting worn out. I didn't really look closely at the crazy quilt when I bought it. I just snatched it up when I saw what it was and that the price tag read $25. Yeah, you can't beat that for a little textile history.

When I bought it we were in the middle of a local bluegrass festival, so it got tucked away until I could spread it out on the floor and pour over its details. The quilt is actually in worse shape than I thought. Many of the pieces are worn away and come apart with too much pressure. I had thought about trying to repair it, but it's beyond my time limits. Instead, I think I will stabilize the back and hang it on a wall as-is. Still, it's a beautiful example of an antique crazy quilt. The pattern is a star in the center surrounded by blocks that make a hexagon. I'll bet this was gorgeous when it was newly completed. One nice detail is the pattern has been feather stitched in silk on the back.

That's a nice touch and I don't think I've seen that done before. As you can see, there are many names written on the back. The handwriting is in a lovely cursive, obviously done by someone with excellent penmanship. It's not easy to write on fabric and make it look nice, but she did it. I'm guessing the same person wrote all the names. At first I thought the names were probably those of the people who made the quilt. Then I noticed Mr. and Mrs. and Dr. titles on the names so I'm guessing this is probably a memorial quilt. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like anyone thought to put the date when it was made or where it lived. What a shame.

Still, I love the rustic, weathered, tattered look of this old crazy quilt. It has character. It really is a classic piece with all the black pieces and the hand-stitched motifs. The only thing not classic about it is that it is made in a typical "sane" quilt style in some ways, with pieces the same shape used to build the traditional patterns of blocks. The stars are comprised of many bits and pieces of cloth sewn together and then cut into diamonds. So there is more structure and planning to this crazy quilt than I've seen in others. Usually crazy quilts are made up of all different shapes and sizes of fabric pieces. But that's OK. No one would look at this and think sane anyway. It screams crazy. 
Here are some detailed shots:

One of my favorite parts about these antique crazies is the stitching. The stitching always outlasts everything else. The fabric may wither, fade and fall off but the stitching remains. It's probably no surprise, either, that the silk threads in this still look gorgeous, shiny and strong, while a number of the cotton threads are showing wear. I find this a good lesson in which kind of thread to invest in the future.

The names, though, are what really get me. 

I can't help but think about my friend, Judi McGill, who passed away almost three years ago now. Judi loved real quilts made by real people who used them on beds and proudly displayed them. This one would have been right up her alley. I have had so many projects over these three years I would have loved to share with her. An avid quilter, spinner and fan of all things textile, I know she would have drooled profusely over this antique work of art. I can picture us chatting away, pouring over stitching details, admiring threads, reading names, and sharing a cup of tea as we pondered who these people were. If these really were locals I'm sure Judi would have had the resources to find out the story behind the quilt. Judi's death still pains me, more than I would have thought imaginable. She was a real friend, the kind of person I could talk to about a lot more than just quilts and sewing. I still miss her. Like crazy.


  1. Thankyou for sharing your lovely find of this gorgeous quilt and you wonderful story too, I must have a go at crazy quilting someday, xxx I will try and come back visit again x

  2. Michelle, what a lovely find, and for that price, amazing! The stitches are lovely, it's a shame you can't restore it or find out more of it's history. Sounds like you and your friend were really close, I wish I could find a stitchy friend here in England, I have nobody who is really interested in embroidery in this area. I shall look forward to more of your posts. Kind regards Mandy Currie

  3. Hi Mandy. I just started going to a knitting group that meets on Saturdays and so far I am enjoying it a lot. I crochet and tat, so I take those projects. Maybe you could find something like that? I have a friend in England who stitches. She has Artymess Textile Art on Facebook.