Artifact of the Month – February 2016

feb-photo-1The Museum’s Crazy Quilt was donated by volunteer Ann Gorton.

This crazy quilt, whose provenance is not completely known, is thought to date back to the 1870s and may have been created by a member of the Ann’s family or, as Ann admits, it may have been purchased.

Regardless how it came into Ann’s hands, the quilt typifies many of the qualities of a “contained crazy quilt”, meaning the pieces were blocked and then stitched together. The small and irregular shapes that make up its “crazy” pattern are of fine materials: a rich lapis-blue velvet, russet silk corduroy, plaids and stripes and other imaginative patterns that were popular in the Victorian era with the invention of mechanized weaving machines. Some of the more fragile silks have shattered. We have displayed this quilt so you can see that one square was replaced—-and done with a sewing machine in contrast to the refined herringbone hand-stitched by the original quilter.

The quilt’s backing is of apricot taffeta. It shows no staining and little or no wear. Our crazy quilt was almost certainly a showpiece, a proud monument to a quilter’s skill.

When you view the quilt at the museum, note how it is displayed. It is only removed from its archival box and acid-free tissue for a brief time. As you can see, more than a few squares of silk are shattered and falling apart. It is not draped so that the fabric and stitches are stressed, but carefully folded and each fold is filled with more acidfree tissue. When this month’s display is over, it will be returned to its tissue swaddling and cradled again in it’s box for safety and longevity. We are happy we can share it with you.

If you are fortunate to possess heirloom quilts, the Museum would be happy to advise you on its conservation

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