By: Beverly Gordon
This article looks at crazy quilts as an expression of the fairyland sensibility that pervaded the late nineteenth century. Fairyland, overlaid in the popular mind with the sensuousness of the Orient, was an aesthetically charged, imaginary place – the kind immortalized in the period’s Wizard of Oz books. It was a beautiful, romantic dream, a counterpoint to the rule-bound, rationalistic industrial age. By the last decades of the century, fairyland was also increasingly associated with femininity and sweetness.
Crazy quilts captured the fairyland ideal. They were visually dazzling, with bright colors and bewitching effects made possible by the exciting fabrics the textile industry was producing. Filled with fairy-identified iconography such as dragonflies, spider webs, and woodland flora, they were like mythic gardens. Women succumbed to crazy quilt mania and found themselves unable to resist the sensuous materials and iconography. The quilts suggested endless possibilities and provided great aesthetic satisfaction.