My Cousin Deb’s Crazy Quilt

My cousin sent a note  to me the other day asking what I could tell her about her quilt.  Well I know little about wool crazy quilts except that I like them but offered to her that I’d write about it on the blog and see if one of you might be able to give Deb some advice.

Deb writes, “So if you had this quilt top would you finish it or leave it. Mom got it at a garage sale back in the 50’s or 60’s for 2.00. She didn’t have the extra 2.00 to get the finished one. She gave it to me years ago and it is such a waste to keep it in the cedar chest and not enjoy it. All those designs are embroidered.”

Wow.  Isn’t it amazing?!

The workmanship is wonderful and I agree with my cousin Deb.  It is a shame for it to be locked away in a cedar chest.  But should she finish it and if so, how?


Obviously machine quilting isn’t the option.  Does it get tied?  Does it get hand quilted and tied where does she put the ties?


I know little to nothing about wool quilts so I really wasn’t any help to her.  I am hoping one of you might be a help.

It’s such a wonderful beauty and the workmanship is admirable.  If she does something with it.  She wants to do it right.

So come on blog readers…advice please.


17 thoughts on “My Cousin Deb’s Crazy Quilt”

  1. I know nothing about wool quilts either but if I were your cousin I would tie it with wool yarn. Tie in the corners where the blocks join and halfway along each side of each block in the ditch. This is what I do with my string quilts and they look great. I think a very busy quilt needs the minimum afterwards and tying is ideal. Quilting would be over the top in my opinion.

  2. My Great Aunt had made one and it was similar. She had tied it with wool yarn as suggested, but she placed a good quality flannel on the back. It was sandwiched like a pillowcase and no binding. Along the way someone washed it and for some reason it never looked good again. Airing it out and vacuuming it should have been done. Some of the wool scraps shrunk. I would maybe put a wool batt in it or just the backing. They were meant to be more of a throw many times for cold evening in drafty houses. Hope this helps.

  3. If I remember correctly, crazy quilts were show-off pieces. “Look what I can do!” They weren’t necessarily meant to keep anyone warm, but to highlight the skill of the maker and possibly to show that the family was prosperous enough that she could devote the time to make something this intricate. (Of course, that may simply be quilters’ folklore rather than genuine history, so take it for what it’s worth.) In any event, the quilt is gorgeous and should be displayed. I’m glad it is in the hands of someone who cares about it. Cousin Deb might want to contact a local textile museum for more info. Also, there might be writing in the embroidery to tell something about the maker.

  4. If I were her, I’d just throw it on a spare bed and display it as is. It’s gorgeous. Make a couple satin pillow cases that would look good with it, if it is a little short for the bed. I would def leave it as is and display it that way. It’s too nice to pack away for sure.

  5. Before she does anything to the quilt have it appraised. It might not be a good thing to do anything to it as what you put on it today makes it a 2015 year quilt. Looking at the workmanship it might surprise her how much it truly is. This goes for any antique quilt – unless one I not too worried about it. But you never know her moms $2 investment might be worth something considerable! Just saw Antique Roadshow had a crazy quilt on and it was worth quite a pretty penny!!!

  6. Tie to the back side. Most crazy quilts of the era were constructed on a fabric foundation. If that is the case, tie it from the back side, going through the foundation only so that it doesn’t show on he front, avoiding the ditch which would be the weakest point. No batting, just a plain back, possibly something a little sturdier than flannel to support the work on the front. I have my grandfather’s wool crazy and the back is a corded plaid.

  7. You might want to check out this site. Lots of info including links to descriptions of embroidery used and perhaps timelines for those being utilized.
    Please don’t quilt it. Tying it might be an option but I’d have it appraised first.
    This link might help you find someone in your area who can give you a rundown on age/value for a nominal fee.

  8. I agree with the comments made by Libby in TN. My grandmother just tied hers that way, ends to the back of the quilt and used a woolen blanket as the backing. No batting is required. These are usually too thick to quilt in the usual manner.

  9. Crazy quilts aren’t normally quilted. You can tie them (on the back if you don’t want the ties to show on the front), or attach some buttons to secure the layers together.

  10. We were shown an antique crazy quilt at a recent guild meeting. It was layered with a heavy cotton but no batting, and the cotton was wrapped to the front like binding. It was a shiny goldenrod color almost like drapery fabric. Then it was tied with wool yarn from the back. This type of quilt was never intended to be washed. They’re made with fabrics such as velvet or silk and displayed at the foot of a bed or on the grand piano in the parlor. Your cousin is lucky to be in possession of such a treasure!

  11. What a beautiful crazy quiltThe thing that shrinks wool fabric is the change from cold to hot. So any washing should be done on delicate in cold water and then the quilt should be laid out or hung to dry in the shade. Or the garage, which is where I hang my two white wool blankets after I wash them once a year.

  12. I agree..appraise it first before anything is done to this truly amazing crazy quilt.
    I would never wash a wool or antique quilt. Airing it outside is the best. Fabreeze it mildly and it will be fresh again.
    I’m sure you already thought to ask Bonnie Hunter too. If nothing else I know she’d love to see a pic of this beautiful quilt.

  13. I also have one of these fantastic quilts. It was made by my husband’s great-grandmother when she was pregnant with his grandmother. In addition to animal and floral embroidery she embroidered her initials, her husband’s initials and the year 1888.

    It is a treasure. I wouldn’t do anything to the one you pictured. Interestly I toured one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder museums years ago. A nearly identical quilt was on display. Apparently, the pattern and embroidery ideas had appeared in a ladies’ magazine.

  14. About 25 yrs ago, my MIL gave me a family heirloom that had been sitting in her cedar chest for most of the 20th century. A shame. It was a beautiful, hand embellished, crazy top. She was then in her mid80’s and I wanted it out where she could see it, but I did not want to damage it’s heirloom integrity. (Made in 1898.) It was made of wools, silks, etc. I found a large piece of light weight woven poly that blended nicely. I did not trim the edges of the top, but laid the new fabric over the front, right sides together. Sewing from the back side, I followed the general lines of the untrimmed edges, sewing with the largest stitch my machine offered (to make it easier to remove the backing later on, if desired) leaving a turning opening. I carefully turned it right side out and hand basted the opening. To hold the 2 layers together, I put in a few random ties, using soft cotton embroidery thread and tying in the back. To the backing, I added a temporary hanging sleeve. I only allowed it to hang for a few weeks at a time. A special treat that MIL seemed to enjoy. Later on, it was displayed hanging over a piece of furniture or a bannister where there would be less weight pull. To my chagrin, the lovely piece is once again in cedar chest, mine this time, because I no longer have a safe place for display.
    The above was one way to handle an antique top. I’m not an expert by any means. I’m sure there are other ways to enjoy and safeguard an antique top.

  15. I agree with the ones who said tie it – my grandmother made these, we had one and all seven kids in the family wanted it during the winter. She was from Tennessee but ended up in Texas. We all loved this quilt.

  16. Libby is right. Tie from the back, going only through the foundation fabric. Nothing shows on the front. If there’s no foundation, there could be a tiny stitch showing on the front. But the knots and the ends should be on the back.

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