December 13, 2021

1897 Wool Crazy Quilt

This family heirloom quilt has some unique embroideries and provides a glimpse into the quiltmaker's personality.  (And no, I did not leave my scissors on the quilt by mistake.  They are embroidered with a variegated wool thread, giving them a wonderful metallic appearance!)

Here's what the quilt owner told me about the quilt:
I believe it was made by my great-grandmother, Johanna Gerbracht (born: 1865).  She was married to Henry Gerbracht (born: 1863).  They lived in Chatsworth, IL.  The best record I have online says that she married Henry in 1888.  That would make the quilt (dated: 1897) around their 10 year anniversary.  Online records show that she had three children, one of whom was born in 1898/1897.  You would know better than I, but that quilt doesn't scream baby quilt to me.  So I'm assuming that she made it for her and her husband. 

There are plenty of photos below, and you can see some other views of the quilt and listen to more descriptive information in a short video.

There were several kinds of damage to the quilt.

Very worn fabric, before patching

After patching (red triangle at top of photo)

Fabric with many tiny holes, before patching

After patching (long shape on right edge of photo)

Worn background with embroidery motif, before conservation

After conservation (towards left side of photo)

A second worn background fabric, before


The owner decided to have me not patch the few places where the fabric was totally missing because those spots weren't really eyesores.  The was also missing or damaged embroidery, both along patch edges and in motifs in the shapes.  I didn't replace any of the embroidery.  All I did was lightly stitch down loose ends that were dangling off the quilt.
Here's the entire quilt:

The glimpse that I caught of Johanna Gerbracht's personality is a penchant for geometry and a flair for geometric design.  Be on the lookout in these photos for the evidence of that.

This is a dated quilt.  Here are photos before and after the patching of the shape beneath the date.

The quilt also bears several initials.  This set is especially ornate.  I mended the tear at the top of the piece.

And, here are lots of embroidery details!  Notice the intriguing edging embroidery throughout.

Acorns and cattails.

Interlocking rings, red flower buds, and a French knot paisley.  My favorite edging design is at the lower left, along the navy shape.

My patches - lower left black, upper right teal shield-shape.  And conservation in the background fabric to the left of the daisies.

Geometry!  Cubes on the left, faceted cones on the right, triangle upper left, plus another French knot paisley and a delicate fan.

Detail of the central birds area. 
Here you can see one of the three French knot hearts around the birds. 
They contain the words Faith, Hope, and Love.  
This was a very happy marriage, I think!

So many exciting edging designs, plus anchors.

Star in pentagon at the top.

There are two of these fancy triangles on the quilt!  Chain stitches and French knots.

The back is a heavy black cotton.  It is attached to the top with pick stitching that catches the seam allowances of the top, without going through to the front of the quilt.

The sides are stitched with a knife-edged finish, front and back edges turned in towards each other.  They are stitched shut with black running stitches. 

If you enjoyed this post, you can see and hear more about this quilt in a short video.


  1. Wow that is an amazing quilt. I especially like the triangles made out of chain stitch and french knots.

    1. I agree! I've not seen anything like those triangles before. That takes some stitching skill to keep the lines parallel!