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Aunt Bess’s Crazy Patchwork

March 11, 2012

Recently on one of the courses at our center, one of the ladies brought in a beautiful Crazy Patchwork cover that her Aunt Bess made in the late 1800s. It is still in beautiful condition with very bright unfaded fabric. The owner cherishes the patchwork and it hangs on a wall in her home. Thank you to Joan Cross for allowing me to photograph her treasure.

Crazy Patchwork is a form of irregular patches – triangles, rectangles, squares and five sided shapes that are joined together and sewn to a base backing fabric. Historically, any size, shape and color were used.  The patches were made of silk, silk ribbon, velvet, brocade and any other fabric that people had. Since they made their own clothing or had them made, they often had precious swatches of fabric samples.  It has even been noted that scraps were handed down from one generation to the next.

Aunt Bess's Crazy Patchwork

Some of the patches had individual embroideries worked on them using a variety of simple and complex stitches. More stitching was worked over the fabric joins including all sorts of complex stitches: herringbone, feather, cretan and chevron.  Stitches were placed together in groupings and then renamed –  for example: Shamrock Stitch was composed from a combination of herringbone stitch and lazy daisy stitch. Threads were often silk or cotton stranded or Perle’ cotton, in every color under the sun.

1871 Crazy Patchwork

Crazy Patchwork was at its heyday in the late 1800’s and first part of 1900s both in United Kingdom and in North America. I have seen crazy patchwork in Scotland. England and in North America. The amount of hand stitching on them was overwhelming. It can be fun to trace the silk ribbons that are on a patchwork like this.

Aunt Bess's Crazy Patchwork

Stem Stitch make up the spider web.  The flowers are worked in encroaching straight stitch.  Herringbone Stitch is worked on the top horizontal strip.

The stitch in the middle of the circle is spider web ring

Special ribbons were woven for some of these occasions.

Darned Threads worked over this ribbon.

Cretan Stitch with Lazy Daisy form a white horizontal border

A few ladies’s magazines sold transfer motifs to embroider on these patchworks. Apparently many of the same motifs show up both in the U.K. and in N. America. There are a few books that describe crazy patchwork. I have a small 6”x6” book titled Crazy Quilt Stitches by Dorothy Bond that has lots of little illustrations of many stitches that were worked on patchworks. Just a note to say that most patchworks weren’t quilted.

Do you have any treasures in your attic or basement??  Gail

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 13, 2012 3:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos!

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