Crazy Legacies

After the close of World War II, many handicraft pastimes made a comeback, particularly in Britain and Europe. In Britain, textile rationing continued for several years after the war had ended; thus, patchwork styles that made efficient use of scraps, such as Crazy quilts, were popular. Across the North Sea in the Netherlands, women made thousands of post-liberation Crazy patchwork skirts as a way to regain morale after the devastating effects of Nazi occupation. 

In the 1960s and 70s, when polyester knits were rapidly gaining in popularity, some American quiltmakers combined the Crazy quilt format with this new material. The resulting aesthetic aligned with the fashion scene of the day, which relied heavily on bold patterns, bright colors, and distinct textures. Often made as utilitarian pieces, these polyester Crazy quilts now enjoy popularity as aesthetic expressions in their own right. Their varied patterns, bright colors, and unique knitted textures have even inspired some of today’s quilt artists, such as Victoria Findlay Wolfe, to re-visit the Crazy quilt format.

Today, Crazy quilts and crazy-style quilts are still being made, all over the world. While some quilts follow the quintessential format of irregularly shaped silks covered by a plethora of embroidered stitches and appliqued images, others simply evoke the Crazy ethos, presenting similarly haphazard, random, or fractured appearances. While the Crazy quilt has evolved and spread to new locales, the traditional, high-style version has not been relegated to the pages of history. Many of today's quiltmakers have worked to inspire newcomers to embrace Crazy quilts. 

Contemporary makers in other parts of the world have also created work with resemblances to Crazy quilts. In Japan, a country with its own history of crazy-style patchwork, Eiko Okano utilizes irregular piecing, overstitching, and three-dimensional embellishments to create her own crazy collages. In India, quiltmaker, collector, and author Geeta Khandelwal re-envisions the Crazy quilt as a topographic view of an organically-formed village, with roads and streams criss-crossing the scene at Crazy quilt angles.