Quilts have been the topic this week at Amish Wisdom.
It’s said that every antique quilt has a story and every quilt tells a story. When it comes to antique Amish quilts, those stories are far and few between. Pioneer families were consumed with establishing their farms, and what they had they used hard. Little has survived. Historians have not found many Amish quilts in estate inventories.
But there’s another reason for a scarcity of antique Amish quilts.
It might surprise you to learn that it wasn’t until the 1870s that the tradition of Amish quiltmaking truly began. Prior to that time, they remained devoted to Germanic bedding styles: blankets, featherbeds, haps and coverlets. While the Amish must have been aware of quilting traditions of their Scotch-Irish, Welsh, and Quaker neighbors, including their Mennonite cousins, it wasn’t until the latter part of the 19th century that they embraced it.
The few found examples of Amish quilts in the earlier part of the 19th century were simple, one-color designs. Tones were muted—browns, tans, olive greens, pumpkin, indigo blue, rust colors—nothing bright, nothing from synthetic dyes. Nothing fancy.
Quilted piecemaking emerged among the Amish during one generation, from 1870 to 1885. Slowly, cautiously, but once it was accepted, it became solidly, vibrantly, permanently established as a tradition. That’s the Amish way.