Where Did Those Amish Designs Come From? (part 2)
The recognizable designs that have made the Amish quilts so famous started out with simple, geometric patterns, but they have transformed slowly over the decades. The earliest patterns were center square designs, rectangular bar designs, and diamonds inside a square designs. The 'diamond in square' design became one of the most prevalent patterns in Amish quilting, inspired by the triangular shape of their prayer capes. Amish women often wear prayer capes on their shoulders, which look like large triangles, so this became a popular design style for many Amish quilters. This pattern is considered by many to be the ultimate in Amish quilting designs and is perhaps one of the most famous.
Other, more complicated patterns were developed from these diamond and triangular shapes. The sunshine, starburst, or shadow style of quilting places a round shape in the center of the quilt that has a saw-tooth trim to it, much like the shape of a star. Smaller pieces of diamond shaped fabrics are then be placed around the jagged edges, using graduating colors as it radiates out from the middle piece, like a sunburst. This design is one of the most complicated Amish quilting patterns to make and can consist of thousands of different pieces of fabric and dozens of colors.
As the Amish became more and more successful and prosperous as a community, the use of leftover fabrics from clothing became less common. Around the 1970s, the Amish quilt explosion began and the demand for these unique and finely made works of art became overwhelming for the casual quilter. Amish quilters began selling more and more of their quilts and many young Amish women became career quilters. Traditional Amish quilt designs generally consist of large, geometric patterns that use fewer pieces than other quilt designs. A central design is usually used with a wide outer border that is black or dark in color to contrast with the brighter pieces of fabrics that are used in the central design. Diamond, square, rectangle, or triangle designs are the prevailing patterns seen. Deep, saturated colors are used, with black only being used around the border. Solid fabrics without pattern are generally used, except for on the backing piece.
While these traditional designs are still the most sought after and popular of the Amish quilt designs, many Amish quilters create designs that are outside the traditional path in order to appeal to the modern quilt buyer. Lighter colors, patterned fabrics, elaborate quilting designs, and non-geometric shapes are used to attract those not interested in the traditional Amish quilt designs. While these designs and patterns are just as intricately designed and painstakingly pieced together, they are not generally considered traditional in style. However, no matter what the design, the quality and care that is placed in making these Amish quilts is what makes them so well known and desired by collectors from around the world.
Where Did Those Amish Designs Come From? (part 1)