Amazing Amish Quilts: Why Are They So Extraordinary?

Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Quilting | Comments


The Amish are a community of traditional Christian people that is a subgroup under the Mennonite church. Amish people are known for their simplicity; they choose to live a simple life that is without distraction. As such, they clothe themselves simply while steering clear of modern technology. As a part of their religion, they avoid “worldly” things. The Amish originally migrated to Pennsylvania from Switzerland in the 18th century and then spread out to many other states.

amish quilts

Photo via Ann Garell Davis

Amish women are known for their incredible quilts. They have been sewing them by hand since the 1800s. These works of art reflect their way of life. Traditional Amish quilts are very distinct. They were made with only solid colors, and they only use colors that their religious leaders have allowed. These quilts were made for home use, layered on furniture and beds so that they could be used daily. Oftentimes Amish women would gather together for quilt bees to work together as a group. This would provide a time of socialization during which they would also work together in order to complete quilts quickly.

What makes Amish quilts so extraordinary? In general, the craftsmanship is parallel to none other. The women are diligent in their quilting, and they have mastered the skills. While the level of complexity in the quilt tops varies from simple to advanced, the piecework is always top notch. The hand quilting tends to be highly detailed and is very precise. Many quilters, quilt collectors, and museums consider Amish quilts to be highly prized pieces of art.

As the years went by, some Amish women chose to sell their quilts, as this is a way for the women to contribute to their household income. To show the public that there are available quilts, the women put a simple sign in front of their house declaring “Quilts for sale” or “Quilts sold here.” If there are certain days of the week that they are not selling, such as Sundays (church gathering day) or Thursdays (wedding days), then this is also stated here. Some Amish women provide their hand quilting skills to the public for a fee. Denyse Schmidt, the immensely popular quilter and designer, utilizes the hand quilting skills of Amish women in Minnesota. She offers a line of made-to-order couture quilts that are designed by her and hand quilted by Amish women. For more information on these quilts, please visit her website.

Are you interested in purchasing your own Amish quilt? There are several ways to get your hands on them, such as auctions and estate sale, but I think that the best option is to go straight to the source. Large Amish communities, such as the one in Lancaster, PA, have plenty of goods available to the public. If you are visiting the area, there are many Amish that sell their goods, including quilts, from their homes or through local stores or warehouses. If you do not have the ability to visit one of these locations in person, many of the stores from those areas sell their Amish goods online. Through careful internet searches, you will be able to locate stores that sell Amish quilts.

What do you like about Amish quilts? Do you own one? Please share your experience! Also, if you are fond of traditional quilts, be sure to check out Traditional Blocks Made Easy by Anita Grossman Solomon.

Comments

  1. Quilting is a great way to slow down in a frantic world. Amish quilts reflect this slow and simpler way of life. They embody the Amish belief of “hand to work – heart to god” through their beauty and skill. They are truly remarkable pieces of art.

  2. Jan Clinton says:

    I didn’t see you mention that the Amish traditionally turn one block of their quilts sideways because they might be seen as perfect and only God creates perfectly. I have seen many Amish quilts, but not for the last ten years, but then they were still doing that.

  3. indypam says:

    Odd that you would have an applique quilt in the photo for this article. Applique is not a traditionally Amish technique. In fact in Pennyslvania the quilt brokers are known to hire the Hmong women to applique, since people want to buy some traditional quilt designs like Rose of Sharon.

  4. My ancestors are Amish and I love to do anything that “embraces my heritage”. I have visited the Amish farms in PA several years ago and it was a wonderful very enlightening experience. Now I know why I like the older fashioned looking quilts so much more than the modern ones. I will bet those quilting bees were a barrel of fun for those ladies, even though they seldom smile or laugh! I wish I could get a few ladies together here locally so we could start our own quilting bee.

  5. Janet Hart says:

    I recently tried quilting a large quilt which had been pieced by my Aunt. I didn’t have enough space so a friend of mine told me of a lady in Crab Orchard, Kentucky who might quilt it for me. I went and met her and she agreed to do the quilt. It turned out much better than I ever could imagine. I will hire her again. She was wonderful!

  6. Vickie says:

    I totally disagree with this statement in your article!!!!!!!! ‘What makes Amish quilts so extraordinary? In general, the craftsmanship is parallel to none other.’

    I know many people that make extraordinary quilts, with high quality workmanship, if not a lot better than some Amish quilts.

    1. Stormyeyes says:

      I own an Amish Quilt. My daughter and son-in-law purchased it for me. I am delighted to own it and I am pleased to have it in my home. It take a place of honor here.
      Crafting is something to be proud of when it is done carefully and with good workmanship. I am just learning to quilt and I plan some day to be able to turn our something to please others.

  7. Cathi says:

    It should be mentioned that “Amish” quilts found in the shops in Lancaster county are made for the tourist trade and are not traditionally “Amish” quilts. Most are made with contemporary printed fabrics and not in the plain fabrics used for “Amish quilts made for Amish”. Buyer beware!

  8. Briget says:

    I love log cabin quilts, one of these days I am going to make one…

  9. Joan says:

    Nice little article, but full of misinformation. Amish quilts are almost all machine-pieced. Traditionally, the quilting is hand-done, but not the piecework. Your article does not mention the black backgrounds that are hallmarks of Amish quilts at all, nor that different Amish communities can be identified by the piecework patterns they use or used in the past. Your use of a photo that does not show traditional Amish quilts is disappointing at best and misleading at worst. Add in the complete lack of proofreading for grammar–this article is not up to your usual standards, Craftsy.

  10. Marie says:

    There is a large Amish home quilt industry in Waterloo Cty in Ontario, Canada. Handmade Amish quilts are sold in stores in St. Jacobs. Every May a World Mennonite Relief Auction is held in New Hamburg and some quilts sell for as much as $10,000 – they are gorgeous and museum quality. Every quilt is donated by the maker and all funds raised are used directly in world relief.