Geisha detail, Marianne Gibson Quilt
This detail of a geisha reflects the orientalist influences that were often seen in early crazy patchwork quilts.
The Marianne Gibson Quilt is one of the finest surviving examples of a crazy patchwork quilt in the world.
Crazy patchwork was extremely popular between 1876 and the 1920s, and defined a major shift from traditional quilting, which involved precise geometrical patterns. Rather than employing regular patterns and batting or filling, it uses irregular pieces of often exotic fabric (such as velvet, silk, tulle or satin) in asymmetrical ways, involving embellishments such as ribbons, button and embroidery. Fancy stitches such as feather, herringbone, fly and chain are also seen.
It became a fad in America in the late 19th Century, probably influenced by the sensation caused by the Japanese pavilion at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where asymmetrical designs with ceramics and other art were exhibited. It remained popular until about 1920.
The Marianne Gibson Quilt, completed 1891, was made in Wangaratta by Marianne Gibson (1837- 1911) an experienced needlewoman. It is composed of 9 blocks, and features silks and velvets, with embellishments such as lacework and embroidery.
The main blocks are outlined with gold embroidered feather-stitch and many individual patches are embroidered with motifs that include Australiana such as flowers and birds, popular orientalist kitsch such as the geisha, domestic objects such the rakes that filled her father’s shop, and Marianne’s initials. The backing is beige silk, and a variety of threads is used, including chenille.
The quilt remained in the Marianne Gibson’s family until it was presented to Miss Alma Gard, who later donated it to the Wangaratta Historical Society.