The Amish way of life prizes thrift and austerity away from modern technological distractions. Amish quilts reflect these values in their construction and style. They were originally made from remnants of fabric used to make clothing, and were solid-colored—never patterned—fabric. Prioritizing darker, more “serious” colors, Amish quilts are also known for their frequent use of the color black, which is the predominant color of Amish men’s clothing.
Since quilts were originally used to keep out drafts and as blankets in the home, their construction allowed women self expression and sanctioned creativity in a culture focused on community, practicality, and frugality. Other than their bold, modernist use of shape and color, Amish quilts are also known for the precise stitches.
Most early Amish quilts were of the “plain” variety, in which the quilt top is a single piece of solid colored fabric. This eventually evolved to include variations on simple, geometric compositions such as Bars, Circle in Square, Star of Bethlehem and Sunshine and Shadow. Many of these forms, which evolved amidst strict cultural and formal restraints, have deep spiritual meanings. For example, Sunshine and Shadow is a very popular design; a sort of psychedelic pattern emerges from concentric diamonds of dark and light squares. This pattern references balance, as between physicality and spirituality, or between the dark and light aspects of life and experience.
These strong compositions, with often unexpected and interesting color choices, were made by women living in a patriarchal culture based on god-fearing and restraint. The power of these women and of their relationship to the divine permeates these objects and radiates from them.