Crazy quilts were named because their pieces are not regular, and are scattered across the top of the quilt like "crazed" (cracked or crackled) pottery glazing. They were very refined, luxury items, not made randomly. Geometric pieces of rich fabrics were sewn together, and highly decorative embroidery was added. Such quilts were often effectively samplers of embroidery stitches and techniques, displaying the development of needle skills of those in the well-to-do late 19th-century home. They were show pieces, not used for warmth, but for late Victorian display. The luxury fabrics used precluded frequent washing. They often took years to complete. Fabrics used included silks, wools, velvet, linen, and cotton. Mixtures of fabric textures, such as a smooth silk next to a textured brocade or velvet, were embraced. Designs were applied to the surface, and other elements such as ribbons, lace, and decorative cording were used exuberantly. Names and dates were often part of the design, and commemorated important events or associations of the maker. Politics were included in some, with printed campaign handkerchiefs and other pre-printed textiles (such as advertising silks) often included to declare the maker's sentiments.
crazy quilt, coverlet made by stitching irregular fabric patches together, either by appliqué or patchwork (piecing). Usually the patches are stitched to a fabric or paper foundation. Fabrics vary from cottons and wools to silks, brocades, and velvets, the latter known as “fancies.” The finished top is often enhanced with embroidery, beading, and other embellishments. Crazies are usually tied instead of quilted to stabilize the layers.
Early quilts made in the crazy style were more show pieces than functional and were often made as smaller unquilted "lap robes" that were used to decorate the parlor. They were fitting showpieces for the lavish interior decoration of the day. These quilts were usually made using velvet, silk and brocade fabric, cut and pieced in random shapes. What a perfect way for women to show off their needlework skills! Using silk thread, women placed lovely decorative stitches on each seam. Intriguing names like feather, herringbone, fly and chain describe just a few of the intricate stitches. The imagination and skill of the seamstress was the only limit.