Each of Christine Dabbs's quilts is meticulously hand-sewn, hand-embroidered, and hand-embellished. Most of them have been exhibited at quilt shows, and they have earned her many awards. "I don't do machine sewing," says Christine. "I don't even own a sewing machine."
When asked what started her Crazy quilting, she explains, "I have always admired quilts, and in 1986 my mother showed me an antique Crazy Quilt made in the 1800s by one of our family. I was overwhelmed by it. The workmanship was so beautiful that it made me wonder what the woman who made it was like."
Although she had a few art classes in college, Christine has never taken a class on quilting. Her skills were learned from books and from observation of the work of others. She started her first quilt in 1972, and she has been Crazy quilting ever since. Her first quilt was made for her daughter Jennifer, in the hope that it could be handed on to future generations. "I had no idea that that quilt would launch my passion for Crazy quilting," she exclaims.
In 1994 Christine joined the Flying Geese Quilters Guild and shared one of her quilts at show-and-tell. The members loved her work, and she was amazed to find that none of the other 200 members made Crazy quilts. Some of the members didn't even know what a Crazy quilt was. This association with the world of quilting led to exhibiting her work at quilt shows.
One of the issues Christine faced at shows was the exclusion of Crazy quilts from many exhibits because they are not quilted, but are tied. This so frustrated her that she circulated a petition urging that these historic American-style quilts be included in major quilt shows. She gathered more than 600 signatures. Some shows have since changed their rules to allow the quilts to be shown, and others are considering them as a judging category.
Crazy quilting has remained Christine's passion, and whenever possible she spends six to eight hours each day at it, despite her part-time job in a doctor's office. How does she manage to spend this much time quilting? "I have the most wonderful husband, who does all the cooking. He is very supportive of my work, and he calls me when he has dinner ready."
While she was living in Costa Mesa, California, Christine worked in a corner of her bedroom where she was surrounded by boxes of threads, beads, and books. In her new home, she claims a chair in the living room as her work space. She found time to write a book titled Crazy Quilting, How to Make Crazy Quilts (Rutledge Hill Press, 1998). Christine does teach Crazy quilt techniques, but she limits her teaching to the Crazy Quilt Society Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, held each year in July. Also of note, it was Christine who made the Crazy quilt and the Crazy Heart block featured in the movie, How to Make an American Quilt.
When asked what quiltmaking means to her, Christine replied, "I love Crazy quilts and the stories behind them. So much of quilting is honoring women from our past who made the quilts we cherish. For me, quiltmaking is about home, family, and memories."
Photos by Cameo House Photography unless otherwise noted.