By the mid-nineteenth century the Crazy aesthetic was already visible in branches of the decorative arts: in ceramics (the "cracked ice" design); in furniture (carved fretwork); and in Japanese enamelware, which was being imported in ever-increasing quantities.
Crazy patchwork has a similar distinct appearance with three main characteristics, making it easily identifiable, even though there were different manifestations:
1) The surface is composed of irregularly shaped patches that appeared to follow no pre-set pattern, forming a colorful, asymmetric surface. Usually stitched onto a foundation fabric, the materials used ranged from luxurious fabrics from the high end of the textile market to cottons or wools. The method of making—tacking the patches onto a foundation fabric with each new patch slightly overlaying the previous one—stabilized the fabrics. This enabled the maker to use a variety of "difficult to handle" fabrics of varying weights that would not normally be suitable for patchwork, nor be used together.
2) The overlapping patches, sometimes with raw edges or sometimes turned under, were then tacked down onto the foundation fabric and the patch edges then covered with a wide array of embroidery stitches.
3) To a palette of luxurious fabric patches, further textural and visual interest was often added through a wide range of embroidered motifs, and embellishment in many forms, such as appliqués, paintings, beads, and spangles. The rich, opulent surface together with the many references to nature through the embroidered motifs and appliqués, especially evident in British work, are reminiscent of Pre-Raphaelite paintings of the era.
Though embroidery and decoration were often added to those quilts made out of cotton and wool, as well, these quilts had a slightly different and sometimes less ornate look.
Much of the work made in the Crazy style, especially the over-elaborate examples, was not made for practical use but for display and to be admired. Whatever the fabrics and degree of embellishment, however, the underlying aesthetic remained the same.