Although American and British Crazy quilts are perhaps the best-known variation on the “crazy” look, people all over the world have made similarly improvisational and irregular patchwork. In the far-flung British Empire, the Crazy style flourished as an import that sometimes took on local characteristics.
In other parts of the world, it often was frugality rather than an opulent aesthetic that inspired the use of oddly-shaped or layered pieces of fabric. Reusing the less worn sections of old clothing or saving the tiniest scraps from dressmaking and tailoring is a way of stretching resources to their fullest. Quiltmakers have utilized these small bits to make scrappy quilts, which bring life to old fabric. They also have used them to create “string” quilts, which are similar to Crazy quilts in that they are composed of nonuniform pieces of cloth attached to a foundation fabric in an eye-catching, dynamic way. Frugality is also achieved by patching and re-patching clothing until it becomes a wholly new, multi-surfaced fabric--as seen in Japanese farmers’ textiles. But patchwork clothing also has possessed religious or spiritual meaning, as well, often signifying the humble nature of a deeply religious life or serving as a way to repel evil spirits and ghosts.
People around the world have faced the economic need of extending the life of cloth, but they have also transformed their avid resource management into distinct, culturally significant forms of material culture and globally relevant artwork. A “crazy” aesthetic is what ties all of these traditions together.