Crazy Fan Quilt

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Description

Pieced from silk and velvet scraps, twenty-five Crazy patchwork and Fan blocks (11 in square) make up this sofa throw.

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Pieced from silk and velvet scraps, twenty-five Crazy patchwork and Fan blocks (11 in square) make up this sofa throw. As well as having heavy embroidery along the seams, several pieces of fabric have been embellished with embroidery and painted flowers. Backed with purple silk. Stunning ice-cream cone border of black velvet and white silk (5 in wide).

This quilt was made by Mary Elizabeth Plowman, whose father was Judge Thomas Plowman of Baltimore, Maryland. After the Civil War, he was posted to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. During his trips back to Baltimore, he bought silks and other dress fabrics for his wife and daughters. This throw has been pieced from the scraps left over from these dressmaking activities, with the remnants thus representing particular members of the family.

The size of this quilt suggests that it was never intended as a bedcover but was made to accessorize a piece of furniture. Many so-called Crazy quilts were sewn for use in parlours as slumber robes, lap throws, piano or table covers. In keeping with the Victorian love of knick-knacks and decorative clutter, these quilts were a riot of rich fabrics, ribbons, embroidery and other embellishments. They provided a canvas for women to show off their skills as needlewomen. Indeed, the American women’s periodical 'Godey’s Lady’s Book' encouraged quilters to use as great a variety of stitches as possible.

Rather than displaying simply the recommended feather stitch, an assortment of ornamental stitches adorns the seams of this example. Various pictures have been embroidered over the quilt top, including a splendid peacock and exquisitely detailed flowers. The dynamic contrast in the border of regimented black and white conical shapes (with seams overlaid with purple feather stitching) creates the perfect frame for this quilt top by enhancing its richness even further.

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Dated

From 1875 to 1899

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