Quilt Documentation ProjectThe Keep Homestead Museum Quilt Collection

In 2006, the Keep Homestead Museum participated in the Massachusetts Quilt Documentation Project. Our collection of over 30 quilts and two samples were catalogued. The exact identity of each quilt-maker is not known, but all are assumed to be members of the Keep family. Our current exhibit capacity does not allow them to be fully displayed, except as noted in the captions.

Crazy quilt

Crazy quilt in Charles and Pearl’s bedroom on left, a sampling of individual squares of this quilt on right.

Layered on the bed in Charles and Pearl’s bedroom are a couple of quilts from the Keep Homestead Museum collection. The most striking is the topmost quilt, called a “crazy quilt.” This term is often used to refer to the random patchwork technique seen on this quilt. It does not actually refer to a specific kind of quilting but rather a kind of patchwork that lacks repeating motifs with seams and patches that are heavily embellished. A crazy quilt rarely has the internal layer of batting that is part of what defines quilting as a textile technique.

Because the careful geometric design of a quilt block is much less important in crazy quilts, quilters are able to use much smaller and more irregularly shaped pieces of fabric. The quilts are far more likely to use exotic pieces of fabric, such as velvet, satin, tulle, or silk and embellishments such as buttons, lace, ribbons, beads, or embroidery. In the late 1800s, naturally lightweight silk fabrics were often “weighted” with metallic salts to give them more body. These corrosive metals have damaged fabrics over the years, evidence of which is apparent in the Keep Homestead Museum crazy quilt.

Crazy quilts range from carefree and relatively easy, to extremely labor-intensive. A Harper’s Bazaar article from 1884 estimated that a full-size crazy quilt could take 1,500 hours to complete. Crazy quilting as a textile art is extremely creative and free-flowing by nature, and crazy quilters will often learn as much about specific embellishments as they will about crazy quilting itself. The quilt in Charles and Pearl’s bedroom explores a number of embroidery techniques, seen in the close ups of a few of the individual squares, and is framed by a deep pink ruffle.

Click on the thumbnails below to see the wide variety of quilting techniques represented in the collection. Included is a summary of the notes regarding the quilts pictured that was on the CD provided by the Quilt Documentation staff, according to the identification numbers they assigned.