in the Museum of American Folk Art T - Self-Taught Elizabeth V. Warren in the Museum of American Folk Art T he Amish quilt collection of the Museum of American Folk Art is important not only because it com-prises a significant percentage of the total collection (approximately

Download in the Museum of American Folk Art T - Self-Taught     Elizabeth V. Warren in the Museum of American Folk Art T he Amish quilt collection of the Museum of American Folk Art is important not only because it com-prises a significant percentage of the total collection (approximately

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<ul><li><p>By Elizabeth V. Warren</p><p>in theMuseumof AmericanFolk Art</p><p>The Amish quilt collection of the</p><p>Museum of American Folk Art is</p><p>important not only because it com-</p><p>prises a significant percentage of the</p><p>total collection (approximately one-</p><p>quarter of more than 400 quilts), but also because it</p><p>includes examples from most of the major Amish</p><p>quiltmaking centers: Lancaster and Mifflin Counties</p><p>in Pennsylvania; Ohio; and Indiana. This varied</p><p>assemblage provides an opportunity to compare and</p><p>contrast the quilting traditions of the different areas</p><p>and, in the process, consider the ways of life in these</p><p>communities that led to the creation of a distinctive</p><p>style of American quilt. As guest curator, I have</p><p>chosen twenty of these for the exhibition "Beyond the</p><p>Square: Color and Design in Amish Quilts," on view</p><p>at the Museum through November 7.</p><p>DIAMOND IN THE SQUARE QUILT</p><p>Quiltmaker unidentified</p><p>Lancaster County, Pennsylvania</p><p>1910-1925</p><p>Wool</p><p>78 78"</p><p>Gift of Freyda Rothstein,</p><p>1998.8.2</p><p>FOUR PATCH IN TRIANGLES QUILT 110.</p><p>Barbara Zook Peachey</p><p>11848-19301</p><p>Yellow Topper Amish, Byler Group</p><p>Mifflin County, Pennsylvania</p><p>1910-1920</p><p>Cotton</p><p>851/2 x 783/4"</p><p>Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William B.</p><p>Wigton, 1984.25.12</p><p>1111 SUMMER 1999 FOLK ART</p></li><li><p>16."11111 IVIII111</p><p>' ,1116:7::161,1t:Iltbi,.6:11h:11:6:64-16,</p><p>1 1 1 1 1 II</p><p>1111111111</p><p>1 1 1 'I 1 "VII 1 1</p><p>111111 111</p><p>1Iii.1</p><p>Ih.1116&amp; </p><p>II., 1.41.1)6.11.116,</p><p>111 1111N1</p><p>111 11(1 1111</p><p>i'416'116 "Illklilik11 Nlikklibe'lLIL\ 1 \ N</p><p>The exhibition "Beyond the Square: Color and Design In Amish Quilts" is sponsored byPHILIP MORRISCOMPANIES INC.</p><p>SUMMER 1999 FOLK ART 110</p></li><li><p>The history, sociology, andreligion of the Amish have all beenfully discussed in many books. It is,however, beneficial to bear some ofthis background in mind when look-ing at the quilts in the Museum'scollection and considering why theyare distinct from other forms of Amer-ican quilts.</p><p>The Amish in America todayare the descendants of the SwissBrethren, part of the strong Anabaptistmovement that followed the Reforma-tion in the sixteenth century. TheAmish rejected what they saw as thedecadence of the Roman Catholic andProtestant Churches of their day.Along with other Anabaptist sects, theAmish repudiated the iconography of</p><p>these religions, including elaboratedress and ornate churches, and insteadchose the simplicity of the early Chris-tians as their model.</p><p>The Amish were followers ofJacob Amman (c. 1644c. 1730), aSwiss Mennonite bishop who was soconservative that he severed his tieswith the Mennonite Church in the</p><p>1690s partly because he believed itwas not strict enough in its practiceof Meidung, or shunning those whodeviate from the Ordnung, or rulesof conduct of the Church. Amman'sfollowers formed the group, latercalled Amish after him, thatmigrated to the Palatinate re-gion along the Rhine and to theNetherlands.</p><p>Harshly persecuted in Europefor their beliefs, the Amish began tomigrate to America at the invitation ofWilliam Penn. The first group proba-bly arrived with other "PennsylvaniaGermans" in 1727 or 1737. During thecolonial period they settled on the richfarmland of Berks, Chester, and Lan-caster Counties in Pennsylvania,</p><p>where they could continue the way oflife they had led in Europe, whichthey essentially lead today. TheAmish attempt to keep themselvesseparate from the outside world, andthey generally reject those modernconveniences such as electricity, cars,telephones, and televisions that theyfeel would bring them into contactwith that world. Their style of dress, a</p><p>CENTER STAR WITH CORNER</p><p>STARS QUILT</p><p>Unidentified member of the</p><p>Glick family</p><p>Probably Arthur, Illinois1890-1900</p><p>Wool with cotton backing</p><p>763/4 821/2"</p><p>Gift of Phyllis Haders, 1985.3.1</p><p>20 SUMMER 1999 FOLK ART</p></li><li><p>DOUBLE NINE PATCH QUILT</p><p>Mrs. Dan Troyer</p><p>Holmes County, Ohio</p><p>1915-1925</p><p>Cotton</p><p>753/4 431/4"</p><p>Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William B.</p><p>Wigton, 1984.25.19</p><p>fashion closer to eighteenth-centuryEurope than twentieth-century Amer-ica, is also meant to distinguish themas a group apart.</p><p>The Amish, like other Ger-manic groups, did not bring a traditionof quiltmaking to America with them.Blankets, featherbeds, and woven cov-erlets were the more typical styles of</p><p>bedding. At some point in the nine-teenth century, the Amish learned tomake quilts from their "English"neighbors, which is what they call all</p><p>people outside their sect. There are</p><p>very few documents (mostly estateinventories) that mention quilts amongthe Amish between the 1830s and the1870s, but such quilts had to havebeen exceedingly rare, and only two</p><p>known examples exist that can bedated before 1870. The quiltmalcingtradition seems to have taken holdamong the Amish in the 1870s and1880s, and the majority of Amishquilts extant today were madebetween the 1880s and the 1960s)</p><p>As befits the conservative life-style of the Amish and their religious</p><p>prohibition against naturalisticimages, the earliest Amishquilts were made of largepieces of a single-colored fab-ric (either cotton or wool),much like the whole-clothwool quilts made in the lateeighteenth and early nine-teenth centuries by "English"quiltmakers. By the end of thenineteenth century, these werefollowed by quilts with morecolors and more design ele-ments, although large, geo-metric pieces of solid-coloredfabric were still the norm. Theclassic Lancaster CountydesignsCenter Square, Dia-mond in the Square, andBarsare examples of pat-terns that originated in thenineteenth century and contin-ued to be made through thetwentieth century, partly dueto the conservatism of allaspects of Amish life.</p><p>LANCASTER COUNTY QUILTS</p><p>The Diamond in theSquare pattern, uniqueto Lancaster County,</p><p>is probably an Amish adapta-tion of the center medallionstyle of quilt that was popularamong "English" quiltmakersin the first half of the nine-teenth century. The Amishwoman's selection of this out-moded style of quilt was nothappenstance. According toAmish quilt historian EveWheatcroft Granick, the</p><p>choice of the old-fashioned medallionstyle "seems to have been a deliberateattempt to make their quilts in accor-dance with Amish standards of non-conformity to 'English' fashion."2</p><p>The Diamond in the SquareQuilt in this exhibition is composed ofmany typical Lancaster County fea-tures: The fabrics are fine-qualitysolid-colored wools, since patterned</p><p>material, although sometimes foundon the back, was considered too"worldly" for quilt tops; the dimen-sions are square; and the center motifis surrounded by a narrow inner bor-der and a particularly wide outerborder, which is finished with propor-tionately large corner blocks.</p><p>This quilt, like a great manyother Amish examples, is also charac-terized by stitching of exquisite qual-ity. Although most Amish quilts werepieced together with a foot-poweredtreadle sewing machine (acceptablebecause it does not use electricity),they were typically quilted by hand.This bedcover includes favorite Lan-caster County motifs such as a wreath-star center and a grapevine in the innerborder. Quite possibly the realisticquilting motifs, such as the grapevineand the stars, were the maker's way ofcircumventing her society's prohibi-tion against naturalistic designs.Fruits, flowers, baskets, and othernongeometric forms were oftenappliqud onto the quilts of her "gayDutch" (non-Amish PennsylvaniaGermans) and "English" (any otherAmericans) neighbors. While theAmish generally rejected appliqusbecause they served no practical pur-pose, they may have felt it was accept-able to stitch many of the samedesigns into their quilts, satisfyingthemselves with the knowledge thattheir tiny, precise stitches were neces-sary to hold the backing, filling, andtop together.</p><p>The Lancaster County DoubleNine Patch Quilt in the exhibition isan example of a pattern that was prob-ably developed after the classic CenterSquare, Diamond in the Square, andBars designs, most likely in the laternineteenth or early twentieth century.Double Nine Patch is a block-workpattern, popular in the outside worldby the middle of the nineteenth cen-tury but not seen among the Amishuntil much later.</p><p>It is in the beautiful, bold woolexamples of Lancaster County that oneis made particularly aware of the strik-ing colors chosen by the Amish women</p><p>for their quilts. While much of the color</p><p>choice for a quilt was determined bythe fabrics and dyes available at anyparticular time, community values andinformal rules regarding the appropri-ateness of a specific color choice also</p><p>SUMMER 1999 FOLK ART 21</p></li><li><p>influenced the maker's selections. It issometimes confusing, therefore, tocompare the bright colors of the quiltsagainst the "plain" face that the Amishpresent to the outside world. However,since the Amish Ordnung does notspecifically refer to quilts, the womenwere not prevented from combining thedeep jewel tones and vivid pastels theyfavored with more expectedandsomberearth shades and otherdark colors. And while thebrightly colored fabrics wereoften purchased specially forquiltmaking, some Amishstill use pinks, blues, greens,and other bright colors fortheir clothing, particularly forchildren, although the vividhues are frequently hid-den beneath a black cape orjacket.</p><p>MIFFLIN COUNTY QUILTS</p><p>Mifflin County,Pennsylvaniaspecifically the</p><p>Kishacoquillas Valley("Kish Valley" or "Big Val-ley," as it is commonlycalled)has been home tothe Amish since the 1790s,when several familiesmoved there from Lancasterand Chester Counties. Cur-rently, five separate anddistinct Amish groups, allstemming from an originalchurch that existed untilthe 1850s, occupy the BigValley, and each maintainsits own distinguishing rules,including those that encom-pass clothing colors andstyles, buggy styles, housingstyles and decoration, andquiltmalcing.3</p><p>The Museum's col-lection includes quilts madeby members of three ofthese Amish groups. In gen-eral, the simplest examplestend to be those made by theNebraska Amish, the mostconservative group, not onlyin the Big Valley but inall of North America. Four-and nine-patch variationswere the only kinds of pat-terns permitted among theNebraska Amish, and the</p><p>color choices allowed the quiltmakerswere also extremely limited.</p><p>Two of the bedcovers includedin the exhibition, Four in Block-WorkQuilt and Four Patch in TrianglesQuilt, were made by members of theByler Group, also called the "YellowTopper" Amish because of the colorof their buggy tops. The Byler churchis slightly less conservative than theNebraska Amish, as is evidenced by</p><p>the use of some bright colors in theirquilts. However, as is clear from thepatterns chosen by the makers of theseand other quilts from Mifflin Countyin the Museum's collection, four- andnine-patch patterns would appear to bethe most popular designs among allthe groups in the Big Valley.</p><p>Unlike Lancaster County,where wool was the fabric of choicefor quilts, Mifflin County Amish quilts</p><p>HUMMINGBIRDS QUILT</p><p>Quiltmaker unidentified</p><p>Shipshewana, Indiana</p><p>1920-1930</p><p>Cotton</p><p>873/4 x 681/4"</p><p>Gift of David Pottinger,</p><p>1980.37.69</p><p>22 SUMMER 1999 FOLK ART</p></li><li><p>DOUBLE NINE PATCH QUILT</p><p>Quiltmaker unidentified</p><p>Lancaster County, Pennsylvania</p><p>1930-1940</p><p>Wool and wool-rayon blend</p><p>79% x 753/4"</p><p>Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William B.</p><p>Wigton, 1984.25.5</p><p>are commonly found in a variety offabrics, and often the fabrics weremixed in a single quilt. The Four inBlock-Work Quilt (illustrated on page6) was probably made between 1925and 1935 by Annie M. PeacheySwarey, who used a number of differ-ent fabrics in her quilt, includingpieces of the newly availablecotton/rayon. The American ViscoseCorporation opened a factory inLewiston, Pennsylvania, in 1921, mak-ing rayon -readily available to theAmish through a local outlet shop.Amish quilts from Mifflin County,therefore, will often show a charac-teristic use of this fabric much</p><p>earlier than those made in othercommunities.4</p><p>The oldest Mifflin Countyquilts in the Museum's collection weremade by members of a third Amish</p><p>church in the Big Valley, thePeachey or "Black Topper" Amish.This group has been described asslightly more liberal than the othertwo groups discussed here,5 and bothof these quilts are examples of pat-terns that were common in the out-side world, although their peakpopularity among the "English"probably occurred at least a genera-tion before they were adopted by theAmish. Wool and cotton Log Cabinquilts such as the Barn Raisingexample in this exhibition becamepopular among most quiltmakers inthe outside world in the 1860s. Bythe end of the nineteenth century,when this quilt was made by Lydia</p><p>A. Kanagy Peachey, Log Cabinswere more likely to be show quiltsmade of luxurious and impracticalfabrics such as silk.</p><p>The Log Cabin Quilt inthis exhibition was made of bothwool and cotton in rich, saturatedcolors that were particularly pop-ular among the Peachey quilt-makers. Of special interest is thefact that there has been someminor use of patterned fabricschecks and inconspicuousprintson this quilt. As men-tioned above, patterned fabricsare generally considered tooworldly for use by the Amish.Occasionally, however, ratherthan wasting material, the makerwill use a small check or printthat has been acquired in a bundleof fabrics in a subdued way, suchas for the tiny chimney of a LogCabin block.</p><p>The second Peachey Amishquilt in the exhibition, the CrazyPatch Quilt, is also an Amishadaptation of a pattern common inthe outside world at an earliertime. According to family history,the quilt was made by Leah ZookHartzler for her sister, Lydia, onthe occasion of Lydia's marriageto Daniel J. Yoder in 1903. In theoutside world, Crazy Quiltsreached their peak of popularity inthe 1880s. This remarkable exam-ple can be considered both anAmish woman's interpretation of adesign that was already waningamong quiltmakers outside hercommunity and a quilt that istotally in keeping with the rela-</p><p>tively narrow aesthetic parameters setby that community.</p><p>While obviously influenced bythe fanciful silk and velvet CrazyQuilts popular in the last quarter of thenineteenth century, the Amish makerof this quilt has imposed order andregularity on what is by definition adisordered and asymmetrical design.The "crazy" patches are neatly set offby pumpkin-colored squares at thecorners, and on close examination itcan be seen that even the irregularpatches themselves are ordered by atraditional Mifflin County four-patchpattern.</p><p>MIDWESTERN QUILTS</p><p>By far the largest number ofAmish quilts in the Museum'scollection were made in the</p><p>Midwest, particularly Indiana and</p><p>SUMMER 1999 FOLK ART 23</p></li><li><p>Ohio. This reflects both the large set-tlements of Amish in these two statesand the popularity of quiltmaking inthese communities, as well as thefact that the Museum was the benefi-ciary of a generous gift of Indianaquilts in 1980.6</p><p>What may be the oldest mid-western quilt in the Museum's collec-tion, however, was probably made inone of the comparatively smaller com-munities. Although there is nogenealogical information to proveexactly where the Center Star withCorner Stars Quilt was made, itresembles a group of quilts made inthe Arthur, Illinois, community in thelate nineteenth century.7 Thi...</p></li></ul>

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