Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Necktie Quilt by Allie Crumble

Wisconsin Historical Museum Object – Feature Story

Necktie Quilt by Allie Crumble | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeNecktie quilt by Allie Crumble

Necktie quilt by Allie Crumble, 1982

Source: Wisconsin Historical Museum object #1996.118.16

EnlargeDetail of quilt

Detail of quilt, 1982

Detail of quilt showing pieced border with appliquéd “neckties.” The material for the ties came from actual neckties worn by the congregation members whose names Crumble embroidered in each associated square. Source: Wisconsin Historical Museum object #1996.118.16

EnlargeAllie Crumble working on a quilt

Allie Crumble working on a quilt, 1987

Allie Crumble working on a quilt. Source: From Hardanger to Harleys

Variation of a friendship quilt using neckties made by Allie Crumble, 1982.
(Museum object #1996.118.16)

Drawing from established quilt traditions, Allie Crumble offered a portrait of her African-American church community. This pieced quilt consists of thirty-six large squares with each square's "tie" cut to shape from an actual necktie. She then stitched down to the surface of the base fabric, a technique known as appliqué. Through this technique Crumble reinterpreted a quilting style that originated in the mid-nineteenth century, traditionally known as "friendship" or "album." For these styles, a quilter's family and friends contributed materials, handiwork or both in the making of the quilt.

In this "Necktie Quilt" each square includes fabric from the neckties worn by male members from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Baptist Church. The name of each necktie's owner is embroidered next to it on the quilt, beginning with the clergymen and deacons - denoted by their titles, either "REV" (Reverend) or "DEACON" - at the top, with the "Brothers" ("BRO") of the congregation below. A label, attached to the back side, reads "HAND MADE BY Mother Crumble" and depicts a measuring tape, thread, and a tomato-shaped pin cushion.

Crumble was born and raised in Newton County, Mississippi and it was there that she first learned how to sew, piece, and quilt from her mother, Minnie Lofton. Crumble recalled a particular event when she was around eleven years old. Her pride and joy in learning how to quilt is very evident:

"I remember Mama was in the kitchen one day and she was cooking and she had up a quilt, and I said, 'I believe I could quilt just like her'. And I went to quilting, I had some long stitches. But Mama come in there, she said, 'Did you do that?' I said, 'Yes, ma'am.' She said, 'Child, I'm going to get you a thimble and some thread and you can help Mama.' I was so happy. I was so happy to help her. I couldn't hardly, you know, get up in the morning time, go to school, come back and get on that quilt. I said, 'Mama said I could quilt!'"

In 1944, when Crumble was about thirty-three years old, she and her husband moved to Milwaukee where they raised ten children. As a member of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, Crumble taught quilting to congregation seniors. For years, she produced approximately one quilt each month, working six hours per day six days a week. In addition to stitching quilts for family and friends, she occasionally sold some of her work to members of the local community.

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[Sources: "Wisconsin Folk Art: A Sesquicentennial Celebration" (Cedarburg, Wisconsin: Cedarburg Cultural Center, 1997); From Hardanger to Harleys: A Survey of Wisconsin Folk Art (Sheboygan: John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 1987).]

ALH/JEK

Posted on February 02, 2006