The word "quilt" is derived from the Latin word culcita, which means a stuffed sack, mattress, or cushion. A quilt is a bedspread or blanket made of two layers that is filled with a material, such as cotton, wool, feathers, or down, and is stitched together, usually in a decorative design.
There are many different uses for Amish quilts. While early quilts were used primarily as protection from hash winters and cold nights, quilt making soon became an art form, so much so that some quilts are intended for wall coverings or display, not as bed coverings at all. Some collect quilts as a means of connecting with the past, seeing in these old quilts traces of their ancestors.
What are the Amish?
In 1693, a very conservative Swiss farmer and bishop named Jacob Amman broke away from the Mennonite church. His followers came to be known as "Amish". Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is perhaps the most well-known Amish community. The Amish arrived and settled there in the early 1700's. Today, one can find Amish sects in 22 states in the USA as well as in areas of Canada.
The Amish lifestyle is quite strict. Religiously, they believe that in order to attain eternal life, they must be separated from others who do not share their beliefs. For the Amish, community is an integral part of life. The Amish shun modern technology; thus, they churn their own butter, abstain from using public electricity lines, and rely on animals-driven equipment to plow their fields.
What Makes a Quilt an Amish Quilt?
Amish quilts were "discovered" roughly thirty years ago. Since then, they have received much praise. Their simplicity of lifestyle is reflected in all areas of Amish life; this simplicity is the common theme one finds in an Amish quilt. Amish quilt making craftsmanship is impeccable. Most commonly, quilting is done in groups during the women and girls' social time. It is here where the old teach the young the art of sewing and quilt making, and where the young learn to perfect their skills.
Amish Quilting Style
As mentioned, Amish quilts have a simple style. They are traditionally characterized by solid colors. Amish quilts are known for their striking designs and colors as well as their intricate quilting. The Amish prefer the use of centralized designs for their quilts. The patterns found in Amish quilts are traditional, including Nine Patch, Sawtooth Diamond in the Square, Double Wedding Rings, Irish Chain, Star of Bethlehem, Baskets, Tumbling Blocks and many other variations.
Another amazing aspect of Amish quilts is their stitching. Amish quilts are most often stitched together with tiny designs rather than plain stitching. These designs can include feathers, leaves, wreathes, birds, etc. Thus, even in the stitches that hold the layers of quilt together, the Amish manage to incorporate beauty and style.
Amish Quilting Materials
Originally, the Amish used remnants of clothing as one of their sources of fabric for their quilt making. These fabrics were most often dark brown, green and blue. It was only later that brighter colors such as orange and yellow were included in quilting. Today's Amish quilts are made with bold colors and varying fabrics.
It used to be that Amish quilts were made exclusively from wool, cotton and silk. Today's Amish quilts can be found to include rayon and polyester fabrics. Different Amish communities throughout the US utilize different fabrics, most likely due to the demand for warmer quilts in the east as opposed to the west. East Coast Amish quilts are most often found to be made from wool while cotton is the fabric of choice as one moves westward.
While Amish quilts are heralded as works of art by the non-Amish world, the Amish would hardly consider themselves artists. The Amish use their quilts for practical purposes such as for wedding gifts or other important life events. Their simplicity and dedicated work ethic, coupled by their style and use of color make the product of Amish quilt making a true thing of beauty.
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| March 26, 2017
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