crazy for crazy work

I had a request for ‘patchwork’ projects. However patchwork usually just meant pieced projects where smaller pieces of fabric are neatly joined to create larger pieces, which could be laundered. What I think was requested is ‘crazy work’ which is a style of needlework that marries textile piecework with embroidery stitching.

It can also be made into larger projects but incorporate non garment material like ribbons, velvets, trims, felt, applique, whatever is flexible and handy. Almost always for unlaundered items, since the pieces have different color fastness and textiles: lambrequins (look it up), table runners, pillow shams, portieres (keep reading), purses, foot stool covers etc..

The 1880s were completely crazy for crazy work (see other post for 1885 Crazy work Fair,) like patchwork and quilting it was no doubt given a boost by the drop in value for scrap fibers. Most projects aren’t crazy work specific since it is a style that can be applied to whatever you want. I have attached a couple of projects that can be done in crazy work.

Everything is from 1885-1889, a portiere is a curtain room divider… very drafty those old houses, especially when you have uninsulated windows and are trying to keep the heat localized, personally I would back it with an insulated curtain fabric, but a small wall hanging would work as well.

The scarf pattern is odd, it doesn’t look like a scarf, it looks like a very common style of purse using rings, usually with one side in velvet. So I included the 1889 book bag which I think is an ideal size and use for crazy work.

The room screen isn’t a fire screen, just something to hide unsightly things from view, like your sewing mess.

1886 American Agriculurist