History of the Amish Quilt (part 1)
The origin of the Amish quilt has a long and interesting history that can gives us a better understanding of the Amish people themselves. The Amish, as most people know, shun modern society in order to live a simpler life focused on God and family. As the fast-paced world carries on around them, the Amish choose to live quietly and peacefully off the land with little to no help from the outside world. What this means is no electricity, no phones inside the house, no automobiles, and as little contact with the world that goes on around them as possible. Anything to do with the outside world is shunned by the Amish, including art.
Art, for the sake of art, is looked down upon by the Amish people because it serves no real purpose. However, the art of Amish quilting was able to develop within the Amish community because the quilt itself served a purpose, so adding decorative elements to it was considered acceptable. The art of Amish quilting, however, didnt become a tradition in Amish homes until the late 1800s. Originally brought to America by British Quakers, the idea of quilting did not catch on quickly within the Amish communities. At the time, the Amish used simple coverings for their beds, much like their neighboring Mennonites and Pennsylvania Germans. While quilting caught on with these other groups, the Amish originally rejected the idea of quilting for art and didnt take on the practice until it was no longer considered fashionable by the local Mennonites and Germans.
Once the Amish did beginning quilting, they slowly began to make it their own with Amish inspired patterns that were unique and simple, yet beautiful. Between 1850 and 1870, the Amish of Pennsylvania began developing their signature quilt designs from simple one color whole cloth quilts to piecing together colored pieces of cloth into a variety of patterns. The earliest Amish designs were basic squares and rectangles, which slowly evolved into more colorful and bold patterns, such as Amish style baskets, flowers, and grapevines. These patterns began to develop slowly over time, first showing up in just the corners and the borders and eventually working their way to the centers and focal points of the Amish quilts. You can easily tell how old an Amish quilt is simply by how prominent the designs are within it. Generally speaking, the fewer the embellishments, the older the Amish quilt.
Many of the Amish quilters of the time worked on their quilts alone during the cold winter months, but then got together with the other Amish quilters of the town to form Quilting Bees in the spring and summer months. These quilting gatherings gave the Amish women the opportunity to catch up on all the town news while finishing the assembly of their specially designed Amish quilts. Initially Amish quilts were crafted for dowry purposes or to be presented to important people as gifts. Eventually the Amish began selling their Amish quilts for profit.
History of the Amish Quilt (part 2)