Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What makes a quilt Amish?

Judith wrote asking what makes this an Amish style quilt. She wanted to know: Is it that the maker is Amish, or the design? Here is my response:

Since I'm not Amish, are my Amish style quilts really Amish? Many Amish quilters make quilts that are indistinguishable from popular mainstream quilts. Are those quilts Amish? I make delicious Italian lasagna, but I'm not Italian. 

This quilt was inspired by one in the book shown below: "Amish Crib Quilts from the Midwest, The Sara Miller Collection"  by Smucker, Crews, and Welters (Good Books, 2003).

We know an Amish style quilt when we see one. They have the classic designs and colors that we recognize as an Amish quilt.  

1.) "Amish quilts" were made in the early 1900's by Amish quilters. 
2.) "Amish style quilts" were made more recently by non-Amish. 

Any thoughts?


Carol said...

This is an interesting topic. I took an all day hand quilting class in Houston this year at the International Quilt Festival from an Amish woman from Germany (tho she was born in the USA.) One thing she told us was that Amish quilts are usually solid colors because they use what fabric they have and that is leftovers from their clothing and they would not wear "loud" prints as she described them or something like bright red. She said they do use prints in quilts if they have gotten some print fabric sometime. Solid fabrics are not just exclusive fabrics, but just generally what they have on hand. She also said the simplicity of their designs is simply because they are the quickest way to get a quilt made, quilted and on a bed. She said there is no hard and fast rules about Amish quilting that people like to think. It is just the most economical and fastest way to get a quilt made. The class was wonderful and the woman was a sweetheart. I would love to take from her again. She teaches all the time in Germany but this was her first time to teach in Houston. Just thought you might be interested in this perspective.

Shirley said...

At our group one year we had a workshop on making an Amish quilt. I opted for small and made a cushion but chose the colours to suit me and not the more sombre traditional colours usually seen on Amish quilts. The teacher said that it couldn't be classed as Amish as the colours were too bright but I disagreed. In a book I have it shows a washing line of shirts and they are all beautiful shades of pink and purples so, if they made the shirts then they have the scraps with which to make a quilt?!!! To me it is the use of plain fabrics with black.

Anonymous said...

Interesting indeed, what is Amish? As we are entering an era where we are asking is it "Modern"? Amish - solid fabric, simple pattern, great quilting.... does not need to have black.

June Calender said...

Your two point definition does it for me. Carol's teacher opts for good sense, and Shirley's comment is an example of good sense. Why quibble? Simplicity of design and color is usually beautiful.

patty a. said...

Since I lived in Amish country I was always interested in them. One of the main things that distinguished early Amish quilts was the color palette. The Lancaster Pa. Amish used a different color palette than the Ohio and Indiana Amish in solid colors. Nowadays when I work at the quilt shop in Charm (the heart of Holmes Country Amish Country) the Amish ladies buy prints to make quilts to sell to the English. They don't seem to make what I think of as traditional Amish quilts in solid colors. Funny how thing evolve!

Barbara said...

Amish quilts are always made from solid fabrics. Prints would be considered "flashy".

Pam said...

I'm not sure where I learned this little tidbit, but I think of it when I see an old Amish quilt with a crazy bright fabric or two in it. (which of course, I love!)

Apparently, years ago salesmen would bring packs of fabric to the Amish women. A pack would have lots of basic solid colors that could be used for everything, but many times the salesman would stick a piece of bright fabric in the bundle, too. The woman might not want the bright fabric but it was just part of the pack so it ended up in her scrap basket...thus migrating into quilts.

Don't know if it's true, but makes sense to me.

Helen said...

I don't know, but I never met an Amish quilt I did not like. In fact, it was an Amish quilt I saw in the NYTimes Sunday supplement that got me started quilting in the first place. Love at first sight!

JustGail said...

I wonder if the reason green isn't traditionally thought of as an "Amish" quilt color is until modern dyes were developed, it didn't stay green - it would eventually go yellowish or blueish. It's an interesting point about the different color palettes of the various regions also. As to bright colors used - don't many of the groups allow brighter colors for children, switching to the more somber colors we usually think of for Amish clothing?