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Authentic Amish quilting patterns are among the most sough-after quilting styles today. Elegant and graceful, these eye-catching designs are widely recognized as a unique art form. Now with this useful guide, prepared by two noted quilt designers and teachers, needleworkers at all levels of expertise can re-create many popular Amish motifs passed down from generation to generation.
Over 50 full-size, ready-to-use templates provide attractive designs for feathers, flowers, pinwheels, tulips, cables, pumpkin seeds, a star, and much more. Easy-to-follow instructions and numerous diagrams allow beginning as well as advanced quilters to undertake a variety of projects, while an informative introduction points out the differences between Lancaster County and Midwestern Amish styles.
Useful for creating repeating borders, centers, corners, and overall patterns for full-size bedcovers, these classic designs can also be used individually to embellish pillows, cushions, and countless other domestic items.
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AMISH QUILTING PATTERNS
56 Full-Size Ready-to-Use Designs and Complete Instructions
By GWEN MARSTON, JOE CUNNINGHAM
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1987 Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham
All rights reserved.
When quilting was invented thousands of years ago, it filled a simple need—warmth. Two or three layers of fabric sewn together were warmer and sturdier than one. Quilting retained this original function but, with the rise of the American patchwork quilt, it came to have a decorative function as well.
On some quilts, the quilting is nearly invisible, its subtle outlines and crosshatchings playing a secondary role to the patchwork, while on all-white quilts the quilting carries the entire design. On still other quilts, the quilting works in partnership with the piecing, with each given equal attention.
A good example of this last approach to quilting is the work found on pre-1940 Old Order Amish quilts. Large, simple geometric designs are covered with handsome, elaborate, organic shapes in quilting. At a distance these quilts resemble hard-edged abstract paintings. Up close, the quilting seems to lead a life of its own, separate from the color design. The development of this highly individual quilting aesthetic probably would not have been possible outside the cloistered Amish community where it would have clashed with mainstream quilting. Indeed, as Amish farmers moved to the Midwest and new communities, Amish quilts came more and more to resemble quilts from the "outside." In fact, Amish quilts today are no different in appearance than quilts made anywhere. No particular event marked a change in Amish quilts, but if their history is seen as a progression from purely Amish design to purely mainstream design, then 1940 marks the point where mainstream elements begin to outweigh traditional ones.
Lancaster County Amish Quilts
In the earliest Amish settlements in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, quilting was at its height between 1850 and 1925. The classic pieced patterns from this period are simplified medallion types—that is, each quilt is made of one large design, rather than a number of small, repeated designs (Diagram 1). The patterns were few, usually variations of the Center Diamond, Sunshine and Shadow or Bars. These were more formats than patterns, allowing wide leeway in personal interpretation of color, proportion and scale. Quilting was similar, with a few patterns, widely interpreted.
The outer borders of these quilts were usually twelve to fourteen inches wide, allowing for large-scale quilting motifs such as baskets (Plates 2 and 3), fiddlehead ferns (Plates 4,5 and 6) and feathers.
Lancaster County Amish quilts often featured graceful, elaborate feather designs. Only rarely did a quilter choose to fill in the background with diagonal lines or cross-hatching; more often, small, self-contained motifs such as hearts, tulips, pumpkin seeds or stars were used.
No two of these feather designs are exactly alike, but there are common variations on the theme represented by the patterns shown in Diagram 2. The corner resolution and one half of each design is shown. Such designs can easily be drafted to fit any size border as follows: Cut a piece of paper the size of one half of the border and divide the paper into units of equal length. Sketch in the spine of the feather and refine this line; then draw in the feathers. Transfer the design to the quilt top (see "How to Use the Patterns," page 7). With a little practice, it is possible to draft the spine on paper, transfer it to the quilt and draw the feathers freehand directly on the fabric.
Individual plumes (Plate 1) were another interesting border design. Standing on their ends, they were sometimes arranged to face the midpoint of the border, sometimes to march in one direction around the quilt.
The narrower inner borders of Lancaster County quilts were usually quilted with a pumpkin-seed variation (Plate 7, lower left and Plate 13). Although not as common as the pumpkin seed, grape and grape-leaf designs were sometimes used (Plates 8 and 9); these designs were also used on the long panels of Bars quilts. Very occasionally, a cable was used (Plate 18, right), although these designs are much more commonly found on Midwestern Amish quilts.
In some quilts—Sunshine and Shadow and Bars for instance—the entire center panel was quilted with cross-hatching. However, the Center Diamonds, Sawtooth Center Diamonds and Center Squares have designs in the center panel that rank with the finest done anywhere in the history of quiltmaking. Generally, these designs consist of feathers, stars (Plate 11) and bouquets (Plate 14). Smaller motifs were often used to fill in the open spaces left around these larger motifs.
Most Lancaster County Amish quilts fall into a single category, defined by these general guidelines:
Square, medallion format
Wide outside border, quilted with large designs, usually feathers, baskets or fiddlehead ferns
Narrow inner border, usually quilted with a pumpkin-seed design
A center field filled either with cross-hatching or feathers, stars and floral sprays
Black thread used for quilting
One- to two-inch-wide bindings cut on the straight, usually applied by machine
Midwestern Amish Quilts
As farmland grew scarce in eastern Pennsylvania, new Amish communities sprang up in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas. It must have been during and soon after the move to these new farm towns that many Amish quiltmakers saw their first non-Amish quilts. These new quilts must have seemed exotic and full of ideas to explore, for Midwestern Amish quilts soon resembled the quilts of the "English" or non-Amish as much as they did the quilts of their Old Order ancestors. The most striking change was the newly adapted block style of construction. Some Pennsylvania Amish quilts had been made of blocks, but they were rare. Around 1900 these new Midwestern quilts began to use blocks almost exclusively (Diagram 3).
Other changes happened quickly—the square format was abandoned for the rectangular; black and a wider range of colors were used more often; outer borders became narrower. While the piecing grew more complex and varied, the quilting became simpler.
As the outer borders became narrower, the quilting designs used on them changed. Cables (Plates 15, 16, 17, 19, 30 and 31) and diagonal lines (Diagram 4) were the most common motifs, but tulips (Plates 20, 21 and 29), fans (Plate 23) and clamshells (Plate 40) were frequently used. Feathers became much less common; when they were used, they were much simpler than those used on Lancaster County quilts (Plate 22).
Nearly all of the inner borders of Midwestern Amish quilts have quilting designs composed of two elements—a pointed oval known variously as the "orange peel" or "pumpkin seed" and the tulip (Plates 18, 19, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 29). Plate 41 shows an example of one of the few inner borders not composed of one or both of these elements.
The blocks of the Midwestern quilts were almost always set together diagonally with plain blocks between them. The pieced blocks were usually quilted with single, double or even triple diagonal lines across the surface of the block. Cross-hatching was the next most common method of quilting these blocks, and outline quilting was also used.
There are almost as many quilting designs for the plain blocks as there are quilts, but most are personal interpretations of the tulip (Plates 34, 35 and 42), the lyre (Plates 36, 37 and 41) or the feather wreath (Plates 30, 31, 32 and 33). Diagonal lines were also used to fill these plain blocks (Diagram 5).
These, then are the major characteristics of Midwestern Amish quilts:
Rectangular, block style format, often with black or a broader range of colors
Narrower outside border, often quilted with cables, diagonals or fans
Inner border, usually quilted with an "orange peel" variation
Straight lines quilted through pieced blocks
Wide use of tulips, few feathers
Black thread used for quilting
Excerpted from AMISH QUILTING PATTERNS by GWEN MARSTON, JOE CUNNINGHAM. Copyright © 1987 Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of Contents
General Instructions for Quilting,
Metric Conversion Chart,