Amish Quilts

Amish Quilts

Amish quilts

Fifty years ago, no one bothered pairing the adjective Amish with the noun quilt. Few people outside Amish settlements knew there was anything distinct about the types of patchwork bedcovers Amish families kept folded in cedar chests or displayed on their guest beds. Yet in the intervening years, Amish quilts have shifted in status from obscurity to sought-after artworks.

Amish women have been making quilts since the late 1800s, but only in the 1970s, when art enthusiasts began comparing Amish quilts to abstract modernist paintings, did Amish quilts become “cult objects.” Collectors, curators, and designers loved the solid-colored fabrics and bold, graphic designs of classic Amish quilts, which helped transform these textiles into affordable works of art. Amish entrepreneurs responded to the quilts’ newfound popularity, making quilts to sell directly to outsiders. “Amish,” in turn, functioned as a brand name, appealing to those who wanted a handmade, authentic quilt.

The craft has never fossilized, but has been a living, evolving, and diverse tradition, adapted by creative quiltmakers, capitalized upon by businesswomen eager to earn a livelihood, and embraced within both Amish communities and the broader artistic and consumer worlds

About the Amish

About the Amish
About the Amish

The Amish religion originated in Europe in the 1500s and its members began immigrating to North America in the mid-1700s. Identifiable by their plain dress and use of horse and buggies, the protestant Christian group’s faith emphasizes humility, adult baptism, mutual aid, non-violence, and yielding to the will of God and to others. Today, over 300,000 Amish live in settlements in 31 states across the U.S.

 

Some Amish women began making quilts in the mid to late 1800s, developing a classic style characterized by the use of solid colors and geometric patterns, but often diverging from this template in unexpected ways. After outsiders “discovered” Amish quilts in the late 1960s, the Amish responded by developing businesses selling quilts. Amish quiltmakers now carry on a living tradition, evolving and adapting their craft.

Featured Media

Featured Media
Featured Media

Meet the Guest Curator

Meet the Guest Curator
Meet the Guest Curator

Janneken Smucker, a 5th generation Mennonite quiltmaker, is author of Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

As Assistant Professor of History at West Chester University, she specializes in digital history and American material culture. She has served as a board member for the national non-profit Quilt Alliance, since 2005 and is its current president.

A 2003 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s MA program in Textile History and Quilt Studies, she has continued to partner with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, serving as an Associate Fellow

Sponsors

Sponsors
Sponsors

Nebraska Arts Council and Nebraska Cultural Endowment 
Friends of International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Moda United Notions
Aurifil 
Hughes Brothers
Humanities Nebraska

Event Date
Friday, October 7, 2016 to Saturday, February 4, 2017