Amish Quilts


Amish Quilts In Lancaster, PA

The tradition of Amish quilting is a time honored one that had a practical nature and also helped to bring the community together. Amish quilts are a symbol of frugality, as community members were creating something that would be useful and help to keep them warm all winter long. This is very important in the Amish lifestyle as, of course, electricity is not a part of their lives and staying warm at night in the often harsh Pennsylvania winter is no easy task. It took some time for quilting to catch on in the Amish community, and the history is as rich and interesting as the quilts themselves.

Quilts As Folk Art

It is also important to understand that in general, art is not a part of the Amish lifestyle as it is for the modern one. Because of this, the beautiful quilts that served a utilitarian function also double as a way to bring beauty into their lives. The art of Amish quilting began in the late 1800s and originally came from the British Quakers. It was not, at first, embraced by the Amish community. Before they began quilting, Amish families used plain coverings for their beds devoid of any decorative nature.

Once quilting began to catch on, so did distinctive patterns that were solely Amish. These patterns were simple but beautiful at the same time. In particular, the Amish communities of Pennsylvania began developing a recognizable style of stitching together colored pieces of fabric. This replaced the original one color design they had begun with. At first, the patterns were simply different colored blocks but eventually designs now recognizable today such as baskets, grapevines and flowers began to emerge in Amish quilting. In fact, it is possible to date an Amish quilt by analysing the design: the more simple, the older the quilt. As the decorative nature of the quilts became more accepted in Amish culture, the designs moved from small additions to the borders of the quilts to larger focal points in the quilts’ centers.

Quilting As Social Activity

Just as the decorative nature of Amish quilting evolved, so did the social nature of coming together to work on quilts. During the long winter months, women traditionally worked on their quilts alone in their homes. As summer emerged, however, something called a quilting bee began to take shape. Amish women would gather together to talk, bond and work on their quilts. This proved a time to share not only things about their lives, but also ideas about quilting itself. This, in part, allowed for the artful nature of quilting in the Amish community to grow.

From Dowry To Commercial Sale

At first, quilts were generally set aside as part of a young girl’s dowry to be offered with her at the time of her marriage. They were time consuming to make and a gesture of sending something special with the girl into her new life away from the family, however close the couple might be in actual proximity. In time, however, the Amish community recognized that there was a desire from the outside world to have an Amish crafted quilt for their very own, and the quilts began being offered for sale to people outside of the community. As the demand for them grew, Amish women disturbingly found that their quilts were being stolen from their clothes lines!

A compromise was struck to help support the community and also to spread the beauty of Amish quilting to the world at large. Since the 1970s, they have been generally available for sale in Amish markets where they are highly valued by all who acquire them.


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