Why Do The Amish Quilt? (part 1)
Anyone who knows anything about the Amish people at all will often ask why they quilt at all. It's a valid question when you realize that the Amish people pride themselves on remaining plain and consider art to be something that is impractical and useless in nature. This isn't to say that the Amish do not appreciate beauty, however, their core beliefs hold that everything should serve a purpose and only through hard work and piety will they be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Amish choose to separate themselves from the rest of society because they believe that worldly goods and activities, such as cars, electricity, television, movies, and higher education, are distractions from the worshipping of God and therefore considered sinful and pointless. So, it seems to be somewhat of a contradiction that Amish women would choose to make such beautiful Amish quilts based on their beliefs that such worldly goods are a distraction from the worshipping of God. However, Amish quilting is something that fits perfectly into the community's beliefs of tradition, hard work, and self-sufficiency.
Young Amish girls learn simple quilting techniques from a very early age. As toddlers, they are often given needles and strands of thread to practice threading the eye of the needle for their mothers. This may seem a dangerous task to some, but the Amish spend a lot of time teaching their children the many dangers that come from living on a farm through safety games and trial and error activities. So, getting stuck a few times with a needle is thought to be a teaching tool for children to learn how to watch what they're doing and to be careful. As Amish girls get older, they are given more and more responsibilities when it comes to helping their mothers' with their quilting. They may cut scraps of fabric in preparation for the quilt when they are younger and will gradually be taught how to stitch the pieces of fabric together using tiny, uniform stitches. This is a skill that can only be perfected through years of practice. By the time an Amish girl enters her teens, she is making her own Amish quilts in preparation for her future home when she becomes a wife and mother herself. An Amish girl will keep her handmade Amish quilts in a hope chest that her father may have built in preparation for the day she will marry. When she enters adulthood, an Amish girl will make Amish quilts for her own home or as gifts for family members and friends.
Because Amish communities do not use electricity, they do not have central heating in their homes. Most Amish communities are located in the northern states where the winters can become quite cold. In the early days, the Amish made quilts out of necessity in order to keep warm at night. The Amish quilts of old were plain and generally consisted of one color. The designs of the early Amish quilts first consisted of patterns in the stitching on whole cloths. Slowly, as quilting in other communities became more and more popular, the Amish began to piece together different colors of cloth into simple geometric shapes and patterns. This was acceptable to the Amish sensibilities of preventing waste in that they were able to use scraps of fabric that would otherwise have been thrown out in order to make something useful. This was the birth of the Amish quilt. Dark fabrics arranged in simple designs of squares, rectangles, and triangles were the earliest forms of the art of Amish quilting.
Why Do The Amish Quilt (part 2)