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Museum of International Folk Art

Diamond in SquarePlain Geometry Amish Quilts
In the Neutrogena Wing
March 3, through
September 2, 2013

The exhibition explores the aesthetics of Amish quilts by considering what the quilting tradition grew out of and how they changed in a changing world. Approximately 35 quilts from the museum and local collectors' collections illustrate religious proscriptions, westward migration, and interaction with 'English' neighbors. (Photo, right: Diamond in square, Lancaster Co. PA, c. 1925, gift of Stuart and Cindy Hodosh)

The Amish practice a conservative form of Protestantism. A set of rules that vary with each community govern all aspects of behavior including what colors are permissible to wear and what toys children are allowed. Community life is based on simplicity, and obedience, Amish quilts reflect this value of simplicity. Often made from the same bolts of dark solid color fabric used for family clothing we don’t see print fabric or decorative imagery. Nonetheless there was remarkably intricate needlework —complex swirls, curves, and grids most notably on the early quilts.

Quilts in the exhibit illustrate the changes in everyday life that occurred when families moved west and established communities in Ohio, Indiana, and other Midwestern states. A somber color palette gave way to brighter colors and more complex pieced patterns. The use of cotton or wool fabrics, border width, and color choice were regionally specific as well and color preferences differed according to settlement and time period.

Some quilt designs on view will be Diamond in Square and Bars. These large-piece patterns are related to an even earlier form called whole cloth quilts that were not pieced but made from one-color cloth. These quilts are the most recognizably Amish with their strong contrasting colors and fine quilting. The Pennsylvania Amish continued creating these patterns long after their brethren left for lands further west.

Also on view will be crib and doll quilts. These were made by an expectant mother or grandmother to welcome a new baby into the world. Crib quilts were more frequently made in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois than in Lancaster County.

It is noteworthy that Amish quilts, appreciated and collected today as an art form, were originally intended as utilitarian objects made by isolated groups of women to accord with strict religious precepts.

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Public Programs

Sunday March 3, 2013

1 p.m. "The Amish in America: Old Orders in the New World" Talk by Steve Nolt, Ph.D.
2 - 4 p.m. Reception hosted by the Museum of New Mexico Women's Board. By Museum admission, New Mexico residents FREE on SUNDAYS.


Join textile Conservator Rebecca Tinkham Hewett for her talk "Your Textiles Treasures: Basic Care and Feeding." Presented in conjunction with the exhibition PLAIN GEOMETRY AMISH QUILTS. By Museum admission, New Mexico resident seniors (60 & up) FREE on Wednesdays.

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