Why do the Amish make quilts?

People and all beings do what they can to survive and to perpetuate.  The earliest New World settlers needed to keep warm – so quilt making on these shores began in the early 1700’s. Any materials, burlap sacks, anything, that could be used was used.

It makes sense that the act of quilt making (an activity with a pay off) gave the quilt maker a purpose, comfort and pleasure.  Once people’s lives became a bit more secure, quilt making (still very basic) gradually morphed into a creative activity.  For the Amish, this was one of the few such activities allowed: It had a purpose, therefore, harmony. No matter how strictly you go about your life, it’s human to at least enjoy and give meaning to the task at hand.  It is not unexpected that the Amish, who live simply in harmony with nature, the land, the seasons and the rising and setting of the sun, would apply themselves to this activity and that this activity would reflect their lifestyle.

Their first quilts were wholecloth quilts, but they could never waste pieces of fabric, so, simple pieced quilts were made . . . It is very clear that the best quilts made by the Amish reflect a spirit and force: from nature, family and faith in their beliefs. While the forms and shapes are simple: the harmony – the voice of two fabrics brought together in a quilt ring clear and shining.

Over a short period of time, quilt making which began as a necessity has become a tradition that is now found in the permanent collections of major museums. Because it is highly appreciated and in demand, part of the Amish economy is based on the sale of their quilts. So the original reason for quilt making, survival, remains intact.

Ted and Karen Milton
Amish Spirit (division of RIA Group, Ltd.)

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