Monday, February 8, 2010

A Must Have

Amazing quilt...I love the use of color here and how the colors almost obscure the block structure. This is one of the quilts in the most recent addition to my quilt book collection, Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown.
Lattice (crib quilt) ca. 1930 Haven, Kansas
I received Amish Abstractions from the publisher, Pomegranate Communications, in exchange for a review from a modern quilter’s perspective. Why would a modern quilter be interested in a book about Amish quilts? Could it be the quilts simplicity, dynamic use of color, superb craftsmanship, clean lines, and inventive uses of traditional blocks and patterns? I think so.
This book is a must have for any quilter looking to understand an important part of the history of quilting as well as those looking for inspiration for modern quilts. Amish Abstractions presents more than 75 quilts made in Amish communities in Pennsylvania and in the Midwest from the 1880’s to the 1940’s. While the quilts are spectacular on their own, the book, through essays written by noted quilt experts, also explores how Amish quilt making emerged and evolved within a deeply religious and highly structured community.
Double Wedding Ring ca. 1930 Ohio or Indiana
Though Amish quilts have a characteristic look, I was surprised to see the diversity and creativity that flourished within the confines of a community that values conformity over individualism. Joe Cunningham observed that quilt making could bring out “surprising eccentricity” and “a bold improvisational streak.” Those aren’t phrases that I would typically associate with Amish quilts, yet looking at the quilts in the book and reading about the community in which they were created allowed me to see the quilts with a fresh eye and better appreciate the artistry behind them.
Bars ca. 1910 Rebecca Zook, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
I especially enjoyed the third essay by Joe Cunningham, 'All in the Details: The Making of Amish Quilts'. Mr. Cunningham looks at the quilts in a unique way, comparing similar quilts in an attempt to reveal the “quirks and talents of their individual makers.” I felt in a small way that I was looking into the minds of these quilters, understanding their design choices and empathizing with their struggles.

I understand that the some of the quilts in the Brown’s collection are currently on exhibit in San Francisco until June. I would love to see these quilts in person and the book would be a perfect accompaniment to the exhibit. If you’re not close to the SF area, get the book anyway. You’ll learn, but more importantly, you’ll be inspired.

28 comments:

One Flew Over said...

A fantastic review and I agree...these quilts are so inspiring!

Alissa said...

I was randomly at this museum a week before the show opened. It hurt me to know how I close I was to seeing the show - but missing it! When you mentioned the book today I wasn't completely certain it was this same show - but yup. I might have to make a drive up to SF before it leaves...

Amy (badskirt) said...

I was fortunate to actually be in SF during this show and had the pleasure of seeing so many wonderful amish quilts in person there. Absolutely fantastic. It made me rethink my need/use of so many prints and got me thinking more about solids.

Lucky duck, I was.

Stephanie said...

A+ on your book review. A wonderful book any any quilter's collection. What fantastic about the simplicity of Amish quilts is how you can give them different looks just based on color/fabric choices. Who would have thought the Amish would be considered modernists with their simple designs and solid colors.

MelanieO said...

I have to say, Amish quilts are among my favorite quilt designs. You're right, they are suprisingly modern. I also love their use of solids and black. Thanks for the review, I've been wanting to add an Amish quilt book to my collection. This looks like a good one :)

Jackie said...

That book is on my short list of books to acquire. I have a special connection to Amish quilts and always love to read about them and their history. I find them amazing. You hit the nail on the head, simple. But their beauty is just unmatched.

Rene' said...

Jacquie, thanks for a glimpse inside the book. I enjoyed reading your review. I am impatiently waiting for my book to arrive. I have looked at the quilts online and they are gorgeous. What a great opportunity for some to be able to see them in San Francisco. I'm afraid that's a little too far from me. How cool that the modern quilting movement is bringing attention to these Amish Quilts!

Jewel said...

We are doing a quilt along based on this book... here: http://lazygallibamish2010.blogspot.com/ come by and see what we are up to :)

leigh said...

When I was a teen I checked out an Amish quilt book from the library and fell in love. I love the bars photo you posted. I still want to make a diamond in the square (a picture I cut out of a calendar years ago.) Thanks for posting this :)

nicolette said...

Thanks for the review Jacquie. I sure want to know more about Amish quilts. They look surprisingly modern to me!

Laitifah said...

So glad you posted this. I loved quilts when I was a kid and the closest thing that aligned with my own aesthetic was the clean lines of Amish Quilts. So simple, clean, and yes - modern. I saw this collection online but, would love to see it in person. Alissa - do I hear road trip? :-)

Rebekah said...

beautiful quilts! I'll have to check that out of the library soon.

I love how the Amish combine black with solid colors...definitely need to try that out in some of my quilts

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

There is something so charming about a solid fabrics quilt.

calicodaisy said...

The Amish style of quilts has always been my first love in quilt designs. I love the contrast of a simple dark and light pattern but even more so have always loved the soothing combination of the muted darks together, like navy and black. How nice to be asked to review a book! Great job.

That Girl said...

That looks like a fabulous book! Off to add it to my list...

Jennifer :)

Nancy said...

I ordered my book this weekend and now I really can't wait to get it. I hope to get up to the Bay Area sometime before June to see the show. Thanks for your excellent review.

Vicki said...

it looks like a wonderful book.
thinking about it, I think that in my mind I have always considered Amish quilts somewhat "modern."

I have another book on Amish quilts that I pulled out to look through the other day, I'll have to really go look at it now. :)

Esch House Quilts said...

Thanks for the great review! I have loved Amish quilts since I saw one - the great rich color and geometrics are so dramatic.

MightyMom said...

I love Amish quilts!!

simplicity and yet beautiful.

by the by. I'm making a pair of shorts....got some selvages if you still need em. let me know.

Myra said...

Love the Amish quilts, beauty in their simplicity. The more "whole-cloth" or larger blocks allow the beautiful intricate stitching to shine through.

Darcie said...

Ah yes...I've always marveled at Amish Quilts and the Gee's Bend Quilts. Women ahead of their time, I believe.

I LOVE Amish Bar Quilts. They are always my favorite of Amish Designs. Simple lines...fabulous quilting.

Thanks for this food for thought, Jacquie. ;-)

Theresa said...

This is now on my birthday wish list. I bought the Amish Quilts calendar also from the Faith and Stephen Brown Collection at half price this year so I have 12 months of eye candy in my kitchen!

simplysewn said...

Thanks for the review. I've lived in Lancaster, PA (Amish country) for my entire life. In fact, my family (Oberholtzer)has been here since the 1600's. We are Mennonite and we quilt. I have always disliked Amish quilts. I feel almost ashamed to admit it! I appreciate them, yes, but I don't like them. I think some of it is the plain fabric, some of it is the color combination. Oh my. I do know the life these women lived full of hard work and can't help but think that quilting was one way for them to be creative. Even if it was being subversively creative. I've heard of women who had quilts that were pieced front and back. One side was more "conventional" than the other. They would turn the quilt depending on who was coming over for dinner! LOL! Thanks for keeping us informed and passing on the art form to a new generation!

Kelly said...

I was very lucky to be in the Bay Area and made a special trip up to the city to see this exhibition. I bought this book so I could take home pictures of the quilts on display! Some were very striking and not what you may think of when thinking of Amish quilts. I made a version of a Roman stripe based on one of the crib quilts in the book. http://www.flickr.com/photos/littlewarrior/4273935185/

Claudia said...

Great review. I've seen the show twice now and bought the book. These quilts are interesting and inspiring from a design and color perspective but also the workmanship is so wonderful. I found it fascinating to read that only the Midwest Amish quilters used black borders in their quilts.

greycatquilts said...

Thank you for this review! I love Amish quilts and their deceptive simplicity. I also love the way they make me think again about solids. This book has to go on my wishlist!

Tine said...

I'll have to put that book on my wish list! Just from the few photos you've shared here, it seems to be a great source of inspiration.
Thanks for sharing

live a colorful life said...

I have a few books on Amish quilting and they do look surprisingly "modern" with graphic design and solid colors. Great review. I'll add this to my book list.