The Crazy Quilt

from The Abbeville Messenger, November 16, 1886

The 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was a momentous event in American society. Attended by over ten million people, one of the most popular exhibits featured Japanese ceramics and abstract art. Women incorporated these motifs in their quilts, sewing pieces of fabric in asymmetrical patterns with intricately embroidered designs. Enthusiasm for these “crazy” quilts continued until the early 1900s.

Early crazy quilts were not intended to be functional, but show pieces used to decorate the home. Often made with expensive fabrics like velvet or silk, women used crazy quilts as a medium to display their needlework. This quilting trend spread rapidly and 19th century magazines like The Ladies Home Journal published embroidery patterns, ideas for crazy quilt motifs, and advertisements for a variety of decorative elements.

Crazy quilts were originally made by those who had substantial leisure time to sew and the resources to buy specialty fabrics. By the early 20th century, quilters of modest means were also making crazy quilts, often from discarded family clothing, silk remnants ordered from magazines, or from scraps purchased at local textile mills.

Newspaper clip from

from The Abbeville Messenger, November 16, 1886

from The Abbeville Press and Banner, February 17, 1886

from Park’s Floral Magazine, Libonia, PA, 1899. One of America’s oldest and largest mail-order seed and plant companies, the Geo. W. Park Seed Company was founded in 1868 by 15-year-old George W. Park in Libonia, Pennsylvania. In 1871, Park Seed initiated a monthly publication called The Floral Gazette. The magazine carried a significant amount of advertising, including ads related to quilting. In 1877, the name changed to Park’s Floral Magazine. By 1918, circulation had grown to 800,000 subscribers. In 1924, the company moved operations to its current location in Greenwood, SC.


from The Press and Banner, Abbeville, SC. September, 1875

from The Pickens Sentinel, February 23, 1922