Amish quilts – an element of American folk art – reflect Amish history and culture. The textiles and the art itself of creating quilts offer a glimpse into a fascinating culture that reaches back into 17th century Switzerland.
The Amish, also known as the Pennsylvania Dutch are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships, closely related to but distinct from Mennonite churches, with whom they share Swiss Anabaptist origins. Anapbaptist is a Greek term that means ‘one who baptizes over again”.
The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and a reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed him became known as Amish.
In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania to avoid religious persecution. They brought with them their folk arts. These arts were functional as they did not traditionally accept ‘art for art’s sake’.
About the Quilts:
- Amish quilts endured as a form of folk art because they served a functional purpose.
- British Quakers brought the quilt concept to American shores. While these quilts quickly became popular with Mennonites and Pennsylvania Germans, the Amish community as a whole continued to resist them for a long time.
- Amish-inspired designs began to dominate the aesthetic appeal of the quilts. Between the years 1850 and 1870, Pennsylvania Amish began creating quilts that combined colored cloth pieces into a wide array of patterns. Over time, the patterns became increasingly complex and elaborate.
- In Amish quilts the more straightforward the design, the more likely it is an early design.
- Amish quilts became extremely popular during the late 1960s, and on into the 1970s. This was partially inspired by the fact that the quilts strongly resembled the Pop Art style that was being embraced in artistic communities around that time.
- Amish quilts to this day still embody simple designs (compared to quilts inspired by or drawn from other cultures) and flawless craftsmanship.
Although the Amish continue to prefer a private life, one free from outside influences, many Amish choose to sell their own examples of Amish folk art at local markets or outdoor festivals.
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