Vintage Textiles: “That’s What Mother Did”

This month’s article comes from the last Six Know It Alls Zoom lecture. Specifically, from Julie Siber who was curator of the Esprit Collection of Amish Quilts founded in San Francisco in the early 1970s. She spoke about the Amish community in Lancaster County, PA. The main theme throughout the community was “Conformity and Tradition”. The men dressed alike and the women dressed alike.


The Classic period for these Amish Quilts was from 1880-1950. They made five designs over and over again. They used the same wool challis material to make their clothes as well as their quilts. Their quilts were not elaborately pieced but were elaborately quilted. The five designs were 1. Center square or Open Frame, 2. Center diamond or floating diamond, 3. Bars, 4. Trip Around the World or Sunshine and Shadow or Grandmother’s Dreams and 5. Double nine Patch.


Characteristics of these quilts were heavily quilted, had an extra wide binding (always 2”), made of wool, square and bed size. Also, they NEVER used white, yellow or orange for their colors. If you were to ask a young girl who was quilting why she would be doing it that way, she would reply: "That’s what Mother did.”


They stopped making these designs with this wonderful wool challis because they were no longer able to purchase it because the manufacturer stopped making it. The Esprit collection is now at the Lancaster County Heritage Center.