Quilting is often thought of as communal activity such as a quilting bee where woman gather around a quilt frame to quilt a bed quilt. With Amish quilts today two, three or four people may work together to make a single quilt, but instead of quilting together each takes on a one or more of steps in the quilt making process. The first step in the process is to select the quilt's design and select and purchase the fabrics to be used in the quilt. Second step is to assemble the quilt top. Third step is to do the quilting and the fourth step is add the binding and ready the quilt for sale. It is not unusual for a different person to do each step. But the most common practice is for one person to do steps one, two and four and another person to the quilting. Occasionally a single person will do it all. The reason for the division of labor is that the work involved in each of the steps is quite different. The ability and artistic talent to select fabrics is not common --better for someone with this talent to apply it to the making of many quilts. Piecing a particular quilt top becomes easier and the workmanship better after quilter has made a half dozen tops of that design. So it is best to turn to a woman who is expert with a particular design to make the quilt top with that design. Quilting usually is not specialized to a particular design or style of quilt and is less cerebral -- in fact it may be a great distraction from the problems of the day. Applying the binding and readying the quilt for sale -- which means finding and removing spots, finding then adding missing lines of quilting, requires attention to detail. The coordination of the whole process is usually done by the person selecting the design and fabrics. This person selects Amish and Mennonite friends to work with on each quilt. Each person working on the quilt works on it in their own home. All work is done in America.
More recently, what was once a social gathering has turned into a business enterprise for many “plain” (Amish and Mennonite) women. Cottage industries of quilt-makers are springing up throughout Amish Country in Pennsylvania. Many Amish and Mennonite women have opened up small quilt shops in their homes to subsidize the family’s income. While traveling throughout Lancaster, PA, it’s common to see a handmade sign stating simply: “Quilts Sold Here,” which is often accompanied by “No Sunday Sales.”
Amish quilts, while beautiful and certainly works-of-art, are made with the intention that they will actually be used as bed coverings and baby quilts. With strong seams and colorfast fabrics they are made to be laundered. And so even with daily use and reasonable care they can easily become family heirlooms. Wall hanging size Amish quilts are made in the same way.
Quilts, unlike blankets, are made of at least two layers of fabric with a warmth-inducing filler in between, with decorative stitching to hold the whole quilt sandwich together. Depending on what materials are used, a quilt can either be quite lightweight and breathable (great for warm-weather spots) or extremely warm and cozy. Typically, you can find that information in the product description (usually it’s described as light-, medium- or heavy-weight), but generally cotton is lighter-weight while materials like wool or microfiber will offer more warmth. Here, the best quilts for your needs.