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Quilting Terms: What is an Amish Quilt?

Updated on April 2, 2014

People in the Amish and Mennonite communities are known as "The Plain People." They are descended from the Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists, the radical protestant reformers who fled Europe in the mid-eighteenth century to avoid religious persecution. They moved mostly to Pennsylvania, but have moved West and to Canada from there. There are large Amish communities in the rolling hills of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and Holmes county, Ohio. They grow grain and corn, as well as peach and apple orchards. The area is interspersed with dairy farms and old limestone houses.

They reject modern technology, such as motorized transport, telephones and electricity. Instead, they rely on living a simple, unadorned way of life that has remained virtually unchanged since they came to the United States. All other lifestyles are rejected and all outsiders are labeled as "The English." In Ohio, even the Mennonites are called English or Englisher by the Amish.

A Trip Around the World is a popular Amish / Mennonite quilt pattern.
A Trip Around the World is a popular Amish / Mennonite quilt pattern. | Source

They abide by a code of traditions and customs that are drawn from the Bible which influences all aspects of their daily life. They live simply and dress plainly. Since they do not use motorized vehicles, they use a horse and buggy, or a bicycle without peddles known as the Amish scooter.

Different church districts have varying degrees of conservatism. Some Amish will accept vehicle transportation from others, use public telephones, and community refrigerator houses. Many of the activities they perform for survival require assistance,, and they often do things as a community, such as barn raising, harvesting and corn husking, and quilting. These cooperative activities are aimed at mutual aid and provide an important social occasion to reinforce the sense of community and its importance to each member.

For additional information about the Amish and Mennonite communities, please see Amish and Plain People of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Amish Quilts

Amish Quilts are quilts that are made by people in the Amish and Mennonite communities. They tend to be pieced by hand and beautifully hand quilted. A treadle machine can also be used.

The values and culture is passed on orally from one generation to another, so little is known of the origin of the designs of their quilts.

Through their interaction with neighboring communities, they picked up quilt making by the 1860s as an established activity. They developed their own unique style which was tempered by the limitation imposed by their religious beliefs. The quilts are noted for their graphic simplicity, with simple geometric designs often with intense colors. These strong colors are accented with pure, bright pinks, red sand greens, which make the simple designs sparkle. They provide a visual impact that is similar to contemporary abstract art.

Typical designs are the Center Diamond, Bars, and Sunshine and Shadow. The pieced block often depicts familiar everyday objects such as baskets, bow-tie, log cabin, and bear's paw. The family traditions dictate the selection of the quilt design to be made.

Original Amish and Mennonite quilts used a wool batting which required close quilting stitches to hold it in place and prevent shifting of the filling. The stitches were functional, but also decorative. The Amish use small, even stitches to add surface texture to the quilt top, and stitch motifs into the quilts that include flower basket,s stars and tulips, and border designs such as cables and running feather designs, and geometric straight line grids.

Please note that when buying Amish quilts, recently, some of the work has been sent to other countries, so the quilt may not be truly Amish.

The strong designs, striking colors, and intricate workmanship place Amish quilts into their own category, and make them very valued among collectors and quilt lovers. Many quilters enjoy replicating these bold but plain Amish quilts for themselves and their loved ones.

Comments: "Quilting Terms: What is an Amish Quilt? "

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    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Donna. I'm not sure how prevalent it is, but it is something to watch out for.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 6 years ago from USA

      Mmm...interesting hub. I had no idea the Amish were outsourcing some of their work overseas. Voted up.