Amish quilts are known the world over because of the fine craftsmanship, attention to detail, and unique patterning that goes into each and every quilt. In a world where quantity has surpassed quality, the Amish quilt stands out as a unique combination of art, functionality, tradition, and handmade pride. Rather than shooting out as many quilts as possible, the Amish individually make each of their quilts by hand, making them highly sought after and collectible by quilters and non-quilters alike. The steps that go into making an Amish quilt are truly fascinating and awe inspiring, especially in a time where handmade goods are an exception.
It's important to remember that Amish quilting is a tradition that has been handed down over the decades from Amish mothers to daughters. Amish women learn their skills at a very early age, but they can take a lifetime to perfect. The fact that the Amish quilt exists at all is amazing since the basis of their entire belief system is centered upon the idea that the plain and simple way of life is the only way a person can truly focus on god. The Amish pride themselves on leading a non-flamboyant lifestyle, which includes wearing plain, solid colors and focusing on work rather than art. When the Amish began quilting, they had to adapt the popular quilting styles of the time to fit their own way of simple living. This is how the basics of Amish quilting developed into their own unique style.
The first thing that needs to be done before any type of quilt is made is to determine which kind of design is going to be used. Choosing the right colors, fabrics, patterns, shapes, styles, and sizes of quilt and quilting materials is crucial. This is perhaps the most important aspect of creating an Amish quilt because it can take anywhere from 400 to 800 hours of time to put together just one Amish quilt. If the design is not pleasing to the eye from the start, that's a whole lot of wasted time, and the Amish hate to waste time. So, laying out the design takes a keen eye and an artist's sensibility if the quilt is going to turn out right.
Once the design is created, each piece of fabric needs to be cut into perfectly matching pieces if the quilt is going to be even and symmetrical once it's finished. Once the fabrics are cut correctly they must be pieced together with pinpoint accuracy. If the quilt is not aligned properly, even in just one small part, the entire quilt will look off balanced and may pucker. Because Amish quilts are so dependent upon geometric designs, each individual piece of fabric must be stitched together just right in order for it to fit together properly. This is perhaps the most challenging part of the design for the Amish quilter because they must rely on their own eye and sewing skills for measurement and accuracy.
Once the top piece is stitched together into its geometric design, the actual quilting stitch is designed. Amish quilts are really put together in two phases. The first is piecing the fabrics together and the second is stitching the quilting pattern on top of the fabric design. Amish quilts are stretched out onto large quilting frames that pull the top piece, center batting, and bottom sheet out taut in preparation for the quilting. The top piece of fabric is marked with a stencil that has been designed by the Amish quilter. These quilting designs can come in a variety of styles, from straight lines to flowers to more geometric patterning. The stencil is placed on the fabric and a pencil is used to mark out the quilt design that will be stitched onto the fabric. Again, attention to detail and extreme accuracy are required when marking the quilt design onto the fabric to ensure even spacing over the entire quilt.
The stitching of the quilting pattern is then worked by hand using a needle and thread. The skills of the Amish quilter will really show once the quilting has been completed. Small, even, uniform stitches are essential in making a quality Amish quilt. The most prized Amish quilts will have six to eight stitches per inch or even ten to twelve per inch. The level of skill the Amish quilter possesses will be determined in the quality of her quilting stitch work. This detail and accuracy is what makes an Amish quilt so prized and collectible. Once the Amish quilt has been fully quilted, there can be as many as 60,000 stitches throughout the quilting design.
Because each quilt is made by hand and can take from one month to an entire year to complete, Amish quilts can sell for $1000 or more, depending on the quality of workmanship. So, as you can see, a lot of hard work and loving care goes into every inch of the Amish quilt making process. Owning an Amish quilt is like owning a piece of fine art that will increase in value over time. No matter what style, size, or color of Amish quilt you buy, you will always be reminded of the hard work and determination it took a single Amish woman to make every time you admire it. From its original design, to its piecing together, to its quilted stitches, each Amish quilt is unique from start to finish.