Saturday, January 23, 2010

Amish Abstractions

I received a copy of the book Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown from the publisher and was asked to blog what I thought about it. I encourage you to visit their website and see where you can obtain a copy. It will envoke many interesting thoughts for you, as it did for me. It is a slice of quilt history, and over eighty pages of wonderful Amish quilts.
Many of my readers know that I love traditional quilts, especially those with historical roots. I favor simple, classic designs, even if I choose to execute them in a more modern fashion. And despite being a longarm quilter, I still love hand quilting, enough to send my last large bed-quilt to an Amish outfit to be quilted. Hand quilting is an art being lost amongst newer and upcoming quilters, which is sad. A few years ago, I made this wall hanging quilt. It was definitely not constructed of fabrics that I envisioned Amish women using, but then that was my perception at the time of what Amish quilting was. And I bet that my perception is much like your's. I figured they'd have used only duller solid fabrics, not wanting to flaunt brighter tones or tempt the viewer's eyes with bold color variations. I also thought that their designs were always simple, with minimal number of pieces, but yet hand quilted in a style they have come to be known for, as shown below. And I really thought that they were only for utilitarian purposes. These perceptions and more are forever changed after reading this book. I learned that some Amish only brought their quilts out to place on the end of their beds on Sunday or when company was expected.
I appologise tremendously for the quality of these pictures. The publisher did send me a few files, but all seem to be corrupt and will not upload to Blogger.
Did you know that the diamond-in-square pattern, which most of us immediately recognize as being Amish is really only a signature pattern from the Pennsylvania Amish? If you travel westward to the mid-western Amish settled in areas of Ohio and Indiana, you see a much more flamboyant style. It is believed that despite living in a sequestered community, they still adapted patterns and designs from the community at large. It's quite surprising for me to see crazy quilting, known for from the Victorian era, in Amish quilting. It is not intricately embellished and embroidered, but it is definitely a Victorian design.
The Amish were believed to have made quilts from whatever fabric scraps they had leftover from making clothing. This all makes sense, but what does not is that many of the Pennsylvania AMish quilts have rather wide borders - wider than may be expected to be made from only scraps. It's pretty obvious that the children and babies were dressed in bolder colors than many of us believed! Though the fabrics are generally solid rather than print, there are definitely common uses of shades of purple, yellow, and pink amongst the Midwestern Amish. They also adapted more flambouant patterns like the Ocean Waves pattern with regularity. This pattern is pieced from MANY small triangles, and is also seen frequently amongst the Midwestern Amish.
So regardless of your quilting inclinations, you will appreciate the story of the Amish quilting You will also love the many pages of gorgeous plates in this book - nearly 80. The Amish were without question fantastic quilters which helped to mold where quilting is today.


calicodaisy said...

I have always been attracted to the two-color Amish quilts. I was just looking at the Amish Puzzle Quilt the Fat Quarter Shop advertised this week. The muted colors are lovely all together.
-- michele

Lee said...

hey Dana you might want to contact Tonya over at she is also reviewing the same book and contemplating a challenge using the Amish for inspiration. they are beautiful quilts.

floribunda... aka Julie said...

the Amish Abstractions exhibit is in San Francisco now and I'm looking forward to going to it -- I'm just waiting until King Tut is gone so the crowds won't be as bad!