Sometime in the 1910s, my great-grandmother Jane Hill deGruyter and her daughters, Eunice and Iona, made a pair of crazy quilt tops. Mine is mostly light woolens and dark dress fabrics; the other is fancier fabrics, satins and brocades. The pieces may have been scraps from the household’s clothes, but Aunt Eunice made her living as a seamstress, so they may have included leftovers from her work. All of the seams are embroidered over in crewel wool in a variety of stitches. Some pieces have embroidered pictures, including an apple tree with little red apples.
Crazy quilts were popular from the 1880s up until about the First World War, so this one was late in the period. The style was influenced by the Japanese arts and crafts displayed at the Centennial Exposition of 1876. The irregular pieces didn’t lend themselves to quilting or tufting like geometrical patchwork or comforters, and generally had no batting.
In the 1960s, my mother finished the tops with black velveteen borders and backings. When my parents died, my brother and I each ended up with a quilt, and I with another great-grandmother‘s bed. I put the quilt on the bed, until eventually I realized that I had two cats and a baby, and perhaps sleeping under the quilt was not as important as preserving it. We hung it on the living room wall.
Now the quilt is hanging on my fourth living room wall. I had missed it. We took it down and brought it with us when we came to camp out here in the new old house last year. It completely covered one wall of our old living room, and two of the others were floor-to-ceiling books. We felt it gave the living room a warm and cozy feel, but our real estate agent felt people would be looking for large and airy. I wouldn’t have left it alone with strangers, in any case. The new living room is large and airy, the books are living in the library, and the quilt brightens the neutral room, and my heart.