Quilts in Amish Culture

Within Amish families and communities, quilts and quiltmaking have been part of two divergent yet persistent aspects of Amish culture: Gelassenheit and adaptation. Gelassenheit is a German term emphasizing the submission of an individual’s will to that of both God and the community, resulting among the Amish in practices of self-denial, thrift, conformity, and obedience to family and church. Quilts have reflected Gelassenheit in part through the community-regulated use of patterns. Some families and church districts repeatedly use the same quilt styles, conforming to one another. Gelassenheit also reveals itself through the practice of giving quilts from one generation to another and to those in need, and by symbolically binding individuals and communities together. 

In addition to its emphasis on aspects of Gelassenheit, the Amish faith by nature has been adaptive, responding to both changes internal to the religion, as well as those within society at large. Just as the Amish have altered farming practices in response to modern sanitation requirements, or added electrical lights to horse-drawn buggies, so have they adapted their quiltmaking practices, using synthetic fabrics, new patterns, and new technologies.