The applique Amish Quilt is a versatile artistic medium that can be a dramatic one-of-a-kind work of art. Usually choosing a background of ivory or white, the quilter can place her patterns where she chooses, and embellish the central design with a corresponding inner and outer border, or choose a contrasting design for the edge of the quilt that would draw the viewers eye to the central image in a dramatic way. If the Amish quilter is sure about the veracity of her central theme, she may choose to have just the central design stand alone, only swathed in trails of quilting shadows, the quilting pattern complimenting the image, and in it's simplicity of form, being more spectacular in it's vividness.
Because the applique Amish quilt is a great forum for displaying fine quilting stitches, many of the Amish Quilters love the freedom that they can have in design by using the wide open spaces of the background fabric to twirl tiny stitches in a pallet of white on white shadows. The Amish quilter loves the subtlty of her work, and the integrity of a design finely executed by creating shadows on a canvas of ivory or white.
The Applique Amish quilt invites adaptation, and gives a working canvas to the artistic quilter and encourages her to take an existing design which has become a traditional favorite, and embellish this pattern by her own uniqueness and creative choices. This is part of what makes the applique such a great medium of art to work with. Very few patterns are unique: it is the blending of patterns, the placement of design within that pattern, the choice of border and color, and finally the tiny stitches of the quilting pattern, and the choice of this pattern, that makes the applique so versatile.
With their strong connection to the earth and the natural calendars seasons, it is natural that the Plain People, who find their life and livelihood within the soil, to show the beauty of that earth in their applique quilts. Flowers, sometimes potted, perchance just blooms, dot the landscape of the quilt, and weave through the bordered edges of design. You will find trailing ivy on diamond shaped trellises of quilting shadows, and bouquets of roses wreathed in the scalloped petal outline of tiny stitches. The colors can be bold, and when they are set on the backdrop of an ivory or white background, the beauty of applique will transform a room.
When visitng Germany, Austria or Switzerland, the overflowing flowerboxes at the windows of houses and businesses alike show a people who love the beauty that the earth provides, and who are constantly working to have these vibrant splashes of color decorate their dwellings and lives. The Amish and Mennonite, descendant from the Swiss and German, have that sense of color and connectedness with the earth, and the need for color and beauty is woven throughout their lives and is in the items that they touch in an everyday world. Although the inside of their homes appears spartan and lacking in frills and what-nots, their simplicity of life and dwelling make an almost plain ivory background on which their natural arts and beautification of the ordinary are then displayed in a dramatic and vibrant way.
Many of the applique Amish quilt patterns that are favored today by the Amish and Mennonite quilters, are ones that have strong roots in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, and depict in their design the Germanic heritage they share. The Tulips, either in a planter or swaying on the breeze are a popular motif, as are the Dove, or Distelfink which is a traditional symbol of the early Pennsylvania Dutch farmers for happiness and good luck. Another popular bird found in applique quilts, is the peacock with his natural display of feathered finery. When he is combined with the feathered leaf quilting pattern, this makes for a beautiful and intricate design that becomes a stunning centerpiece for a room. Even though you would not readily associate the Plain People with romance and love, the heart is a recurring theme in the applique quilts, and wreaths of roses in the shape of a heart is a wonderful backdrop that is used to display the intricate quilting stitches that make the Amish Quilt an heirloom to be treasured.
Applique quilting styles range from the art of the Pennsylvania Dutch, with its love of nature and strong color, to the Baltimore Album quilts which are a more feminine quilt, using the softer pastel fabrics to create centerpiece baskets overflowing with flowers and foliage. These quilts usually have a sampling of various baskets filled with small, pastel flowers on a background of white. The patterns are similar to the stencil paintings, or theorem, that the mid-nineteenth century lady of distinction would have painted on her dining and living room walls in the eastcoast cities of America. These theorems could also be stenciled on a canvas of velvet, and displayed in the upperclass drawing rooms. It would be a natural design leap to transition these designs from the stencil and walls, to the fabric pallet a woman would sew and which could then be displayed on a bed.
Appreciated for generations, and prized as treasures, we invite you to enjoy the art of the applique, and become fascinated and intrigued by the intricate display of workmanship. Catch the wonder of how practical art can transform your life and bring you closer to your creative self, and closer to the art that makes up our daily lives in the very world that surrounds us.
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