Nineteenth-century social change affected all classes of people, both in the United Kingdom and the United States. Industrialization, immigration, and urbanization were just some of the developments that drove change. Income inequality, while still considerable, was becoming less severe as a middle class appeared and rapidly expanded. Many upper- and middle-class families earned enough that leisure activities became increasingly achievable and desirable. The general (though by no means all-encompassing, especially for women of the working class) Victorian model of "separate spheres," in which women and men operated in different sectors of society, meant that women often pursued leisure activities within the home. Needlework was considered particularly suitable for a Victorian woman's pastime. Additionally, the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements had raised handwork's status, with artists and designers such as William Morris promoting handmade textiles and decorative arts. In this environment, making a Crazy quilt was an activity with which to express one's social, economic, and artistic aspirations.
Technological changes also had an impact upon the development of the Crazy quilt. Thanks to growing imports from both China and Japan, silk had become the preferred fiber for clothing and many domestic furnishings. This meant that silk fabrics were widely available and could be put to use in needlework activities. Once the Crazy quilt style emerged, periodicals and supply catalogs exploited the fashion to its fullest, especially in the United States, where pre-embroidered patches, bulk silk scraps, embroidery patterns, and other supplies were easily and inexpensively obtained.