The Tale of an Amish Quilt: One Quilt's Personal Journey (part 1)
My life began, like so many quilts before me, in pieces. The fabrics that were used to make me came from so many different places it's difficult to remember where it all began. Some dark purple pieces came from leftover fabric that was used to make little Mary a winter dress, a dark blue came from fabric that was used to make the apron mother wears, some bright reds were bought from fabric store in town especially for me, and my black border fabric was leftover from the many pairs of pants that were made for father and the boys. Each piece was lovingly collected by mother and set aside for the express use in my creation. It fills my heart with joy to think of how mother collected my pieces together for months knowing exactly what she wanted to do with them. To put them together to create what I eventually became…an Amish quilt.
Once enough pieces were gathered together to make my large square shape, they were cut into a variety of triangles, rectangles, squares, and long strips for the border. Mother spent days arranging and rearranging the pieces in different shapes and designs before she settled on the one she liked best. Mother would pin these simple, yet bold designs together into larger squares and then began the tedious task of stitching each piece of fabric together with small, uniform, nearly perfect stitches. Most of this work was usually done in the afternoon while the sun was high in the sky, providing mother with enough light to see the small stitches clearly. I remember how busy her mornings were, tending to the children, making the meals, doing the wash, tending the garden, and preparing the afternoon meals. I would watch her as she tirelessly worked without complaint to meet the family's needs and tend to the household chores. As I waited patiently for her to return to the work of putting my pieces together, I was often amazed that she would have the strength and determination left to stitch together my loose pieces. She always did make time for me though and it often seemed as if she enjoyed the process just as much as I enjoyed the attention.
After months of putting my pieces together during the long, cold winter, my top sheet design was finally complete. As the breezy air began to warm outside, signaling the arrival of spring, mother gently folded me up and took me outside for the very first time. I was a bit apprehensive about what was going to happen next, but it turned out that it was just the next stage in my development as an Amish quilt. We arrived at one of the larger gathering halls inside our small Amish community and met with the other Amish quilters from our town. It was the first time that I was able to see other Amish quilts like myself that had spent the winter being created by their Amish mothers. We were stretched out onto large frames that allowed the full beauty of our mothers' quilting handiwork to be seen and admired by others. Each one of us had bright, bold, geometric designs that were both simple, yet beautiful in so many different ways. All of the quilters of the town gathered together during the 'quilting bee' and hand stitched the final designs that would bind together our top sheets, batting, and bottom sheets into finished Amish quilts. The women chatted about their families as they quilted and got caught up on what they had been up to during the winter months. Some women shared their hardships and much of the stitching would stop as the other women offered advice or just lent a listening ear. The sense of community was wonderful and I really understood what it meant to be Amish and it made me proud to be a part of the plain and simple traditions of the Amish community.
The Tale of an Amish Quilt (part 2)