Being from the heart of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I am always amazed at the fascination with the Amish community. I find myself driving behind horse and buggies each and every day, wishing that they would find other roads on which to travel which would not affect my daily commutes to and from work. I shake my head when I see the tourists swarming to the attractions that focus on displaying the Amish lifestyle and culture. Some co-workers persuaded me to attend a charity auction a few years ago. I had no idea what to expect; I figured it would just be a way to show support and an evening out of the house. After a few uninteresting items went up for bid and were sold, a large Amish quilt was brought up to the podium. Around me, several people gasped and seemingly came to life. The auctioneer was sure to point out its intricate details and even named the local family who had been responsible for its creation. I wasn’t impressed. What did impress me was the amount of bidders that were relentless in staking their claim in owning this quilt. It sold for $450. I practically had to pick my jaw up off of the floor.
Much to my amazement, Amish quilts are highly sought after. While some may be plain, others demonstrate some brilliant designs and patterns that only the Amish can create. I had no idea how many hours upon hours it takes the Amish to make a quilt. I had no idea, depending on what season it happens to be, how many women end up coming together to help finish an Amish quilt. And so, the very next weekend, I found myself at one of those tourist attractions that I had always zoomed right past. The various aspects to the Amish culture that I was suddenly absorbing was amazing to me. As if it was meant to be, a tour guide went into a whole speech about the meaning and significance of the Amish quilt. When a girl is born into an Amish family, it is assumed that once she begins to walk and talk, she will begin the art of quilting. Since the Amish do not acknowledge earthly luxuries that most of us take for granted, such as electricity, the need for the Amish quilt began long before they were ever commercialized and
sold for high prices at auctions. A lack of electricity left the Amish households cold in the fall and winter months. Quilts were made simply for the necessity of keeping warm at night. The women would work on them individually and then come together in ‘quilting bees’ as a means for them to socialize and form friendships. At these quilting bees, they would help one another finish their Amish quilts. Young Amish girls would start to make quilts for their future households. Eventually, the Amish figured out that the rest of the world was incredibly interested in their creations. Suddenly, it became a way for them to not only stay warm and socialize, but to make money and support their families. The amount of hours that these women put into making these quilts is simply incredible.
After learning about how the quilts are made and the amount of time and care that goes into making each individual quilt, it no longer surprised me that they sell for such a hefty price. It also no longer surprises me that people find these quilts to be such a wonderful find. Though I have a new respect for the culture, I will forever get annoyed at the mere thought of driving behind their buggies. That’s just a given.