American Crazy Quilts

From June 3, 2015 — November 29, 2015

Seven elaborate quilts from the late 1880s are unique labors of love as well as masterfully created artworks. Pieced together with silks, velvets, and brocades; ornamented with paint, ribbons, and beads; and embroidered with threads of varied colors, crazy quilts have a delightfully arbitrary quality that belies the skillful planning that went into making them.

Perhaps inspired by Japanese ceramics with asymmetrical patterns of crazed or cracked glaze, crazy quilts provided women with a perfect opportunity to rebel against the tamer cotton quilts of earlier generations and flaunt their artistic abilities with painting on fabric, outline embroidery, and the arrangement of asymmetrical pieces and embellishments.

At the height of the Victorian era, the “crazy” look was seen as the epitome of sophistication. These quilts were the rage for a decade or so, but the tide of fashion turned against them and they were condemned for the very excesses that had once brought them praise.

Supported By

This exhibition is generously sponsored by Jane W. Daniels.

A detail of an American Crazy Quilt

Maker: Minnie K. Minderlein. Crazy Quilt with Initial "M". c. 1885. Origin: Baltimore, Maryland, United States. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Minnie K. Minderlein. BMA 1956.157