Quilts in Amish Homes

Although Amish-made quilts have played a significant role outside Amish communities, they have continued to have resonance within some Amish families as well. Ever since Amish began making quilts in significant numbers in the late nineteenth century, some families made quilts and quiltmaking a bigger priority in their lives and homes than others. Not every Amish family has used quilts on their beds. This remains true today. With the availability of inexpensive, store-bought bedspreads, some families preferred to purchase a bedspread they could easily care for, rather than labor over a quilt’s construction. As one elderly Amish woman recalled, “It was the time of bedspreads.”[1]  A fifty-dollar comforter or chenille spread often seemed a better option than a handcrafted quilt labored over for many hours. But in part because of outsider interest in Amish quilts, some Amish families have embraced quilts as a key part of their heritage.

An unanticipated outcome of the growth of Amish quilt business has been continued, and in some cases, renewed quiltmaking. As Amish women worked in the growing quilt industry, they kept quilts for home use in addition to selling them. Although some outside observers have considered new Amish quilts produced in a wide array of patterns, colors, and fabrics as a degradation to the Amish quiltmaking tradition, this latest phase of Amish quiltmaking has encouraged Amish women to again make quilts for their own children, exhibit newfound creativity, and keep the practice of quiltmaking alive.

1. Mary Beiler, interview by Rachel Pellman, January 12, 2005, Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum, archived at the Lancaster County Historical Society.