Amish quilts are something I have always been drawn to, perhaps because they are bold yet so simple and humble. While the Amish people do not have traditional electricity it appears that many do use alternate forms of power such as air compression, which is sometimes used for powering a sewing machine. But, for the most part it seems that making a quilt is all done by hand without electricity and I find that a beautiful thing.
The Amish people are a religious community who live in, primarily, in the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio. According to Wendy Hilty of the Amish Outlet Store, “Amish quilts came into existence around the 1870s. Before that, the Amish were still using German featherbeds as their bedcovers. Early Amish quilts were made from pieces of fabric left over from garments made for members of the family.” They would have made their own clothing from wool, cotton, hemp, or flax which they spun and wove. These fabrics were, in regards to clothing and thus scraps, also hand dyed with natural plant dyes and were, more often than not, dark colors. It also appears as though their first quilts were primarily whole cloth quilts, perhaps a different take on feather bed covers, which were hand quilting. Below is a great picture of an Amish whole cloth quilt which would obviously have used handwoven fabric that was not dyed.
Interestingly enough the old Amish quilts are not always what we assume they would be. Below is a quilt made in 1875. It is a log cabin design, which was a popular pattern with the Amish. It may well have been darker when it was first made but you can see it is not necessarily what modern society necessarily considers Amish in relationship to really bright colors against black.
Eventually there came to be the Amish style quilting most people quickly recognize with solid bright colored piecing on a dark background. The Amish do not normally use prints as they prefer simple humble colors. And, while did not see any reference to true Amish quilts today and their fabrics, I would like to assume they still dye their fabrics with plant dyes which I love as that has been part of my recent endeavors as I spin and weave linen and learn more about plant dyeing!
Today there are many many variations of Amish quilts, having obviously inspired a love of simplicity. So lets look at a few! First up is the Ohio Star which has a long tradition in Amish quilts.
Another common pattern for the Amish is the Sunshine and Shadow pattern.
Next is inspired by a miniature Ohio star pattern.
This next one is the Star of Bethlehem done on a white background with vibrant colors.
Here is one of two quilts done primarily in blues with a black background.
Here is the second.
Lastly we have a vibrant modern take called A Little Bit Amish by Charlotte Angotti.
As you can see there are so many different approaches to the well known Amish quilts. There are specific patterns that are common, patterns that people take and make their own. In truth there is nothing to compare to solid fabrics taking center stage and making a statement as they do in Amish quilts!