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Unknown Amish Quilt, 1910


Quilts are bed coverings made by sewing two pieces of material together with a filler in between. Quilts are described according to the techniques used: pieced, appliquéd, quilted, and combinations.

Quilt making was a skill passed down from mother to daughter, and quilts, although practical household items, were decorative as well. Quilt making also provided opportunities for social occasions through the quilting bee—a work party where women came together to help each other in the stitching and final assembly of quilts. Pioneer women had little time for chatting, and neighbors typically lived far away. The quilting bee provided a chance for women to visit with each other while completing a necessary task.

  • Amish Quilt, 1910
  • 78″ x 78″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: textiles, quilts, cotton
  • Subjects: geometry

This quilt is an excellent example of the useful combined with the ornamental. The simplicity of the design is complemented by the complexity of the fine detail of the hand quilting that binds the two fabric layers and the cotton filler together. According to the IMA, this traditional Amish quilt type has become popular with young collectors—simple, severe arrangements of geometric piecework set off by unusual combinations of deep, intense colors and curved rope or feather quilting. This “Central Diamond” or “Diamond in Square” motif is thought to have originated in central medallion quilts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Some Points to Consider

  • Explain to the class how a quilting bee was a social activity that produced a functional work of art. Ask students to compare the two quilts and speculate about why one artist chose to use one large design and the other artist chose repetition of a smaller pattern. (Art 4.6.2)