American Massachusetts, Quilt, ca. 1887, Pieced, embroidered, and painted silk velvet and satin; 195.6 cm (77 inches) (length), Gift of Mrs. Patricia Barrett 80.280
A Massachusetts unit of the Women’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary to the Civil War veterans’ Grand Army of the Republic, made this quilt as a gift for a sister organization in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. This quilt represents the well-known nineteenth-century tradition of “many hands contributing,” and stylistically it is an example of the late nineteenth-century form known as the crazy quilt. A crazy quilt is defined by its deliberately unstructured pattern, an assortment of fabrics from figured and painted silks, ribbons, and velvets, and, most importantly, exaggerated embroidery stitches in brightly colored silk floss. The popularity of crazy quilts arose at least in part from the wide circulation of magazines offering women instruction on numerous needle arts and from the availability of kits containing all necessary fabric squares and embroidery silk floss.