Monday, July 30, 2012

My Amish Experience

I don't know much about the Amish.  I know the stereotypical stuff, like they drive buggies, not cars.  I also know they dress very plain and modest, and don't use electricity.  Our family is now living in central Wisconsin.  There is a lot of farm land, and a large Amish population as well as Mennonite.  I have been doing some reading about them, and it is quite interesting.  I also had my own Amish experience (beyond the farmer's market).
Recently, I was given some quilt blocks from my great Aunt Jean.  My great-grandmother hand stitched them.  To tell you the truth, I was not that excited about them initially.  They are a very old-school pattern-the Dresden plate, and also had very plain material.  With my mother-in-law in town last week, we decided to get them out and see what we could do.
First, a material hunt.  We went 3 places, and Wal-Mart won out with the best suited material for these antique treasures.  We sashed away, and the quilt started to come together better then I could have imagined.  I like our color choices, and the quilt is pretty.
Next, we had to decide how to quilt it.  A friend in Little Rock has a long-arm, and I love to quilt on it-put anything on it, and it looks great.  One drawback though is that is does all-over quilting.  I want to do more specific quilting.  One thing around the plates, another for the sashing and accent squares. This can be done on the long-arm, but I'm not sure I've got the skill set!
I knew there was a little Amish store (the screened in front porch of a farm house) about 20 minutes from me.  I knew they had quilts.  We decided to go.  I wish I had pictures.  But, the Amish do not want their pictures taken (this could encourage vanity) and I don't want to offend them, so phone and camera were not with me.  My in-laws were with me and soon Dan was out in the barn looking at a loom to make rugs.  Kathryn and I were admiring the beautiful quilts-all quilted by hand.  They cost between 500-850 dollars.  This sounds like a lot, but on-line similar quilts can be in the thousands.  The actual quilting was gorgeous, the patterns and stitching so beautiful.  I had brought my quilt top along, and as I got more comfortable with Sarah (woman of the house) decided to show it to her.  Of course, it was very basic compared to their appliqued beauties.  We discussed how to quilt it and patterns to use.  Because I'm not a hand quilter, I don't have stencils, etc.
Then the fun began.  She got her mom, and they pulled out a box they called "trash and treasure".  In it we found the neatest patterns made from various papers-most often though old corn flakes boxes.  They would twist and turn the patterns demonstrating how to pencil them on just right.  After some more discussion-I hired the mom to mark the quilt. She is charging me only $15.00!!  I couldn't believe it.  It should be done in a week or so.  They will mail me a postcard, since they don't have a phone to call.  She will use pencil on the white and soap of the darker boarder. I still have to decide how I will tackle the quilting.  Dare I do a by-hand project (it is almost king-size) or do I attempt to do it by machine?
Such a neat quaint-go-back-in-time experience.  I really enjoyed myself.  We only had Vinny with us and he is such a runner-he kept going into the house and I would have to chase him out.  I would have been more embarrassed but Sarah has four young kids and seemed to understand. Things I noticed: The house was not super clean-in fact it was dirty.  She apologized for not having her morning chores done (she had already milked cows by hand). There were simple pallets on the floor where kids had slept-baby toys strung all over-egg shells on the counter, etc.  She had running water, but a very shallow sink.  Wooden floors and furniture was sparce.  A beautiful big stove though-as this is where they cook and how they keep warm during our long winters. The kids don't know English yet-the oldest some, but not great.  They speak German-or perhaps Pennsylvania Dutch-not clear on the differences.
Sarah asked me to do her a favor and make her some business cards, or go to a place here in town and have them made.  She doesn't have a car or any way to do them.  "She'll pay me of course."  I am excited to do this, and maybe build a bit of a friendship with her.
I continue to study about their culture and religion (trying not to stick my foot in my mouth) and came across, on Wikipedia a court case in central Wisconsin about the Yoder family and going to school past 8th grade.  Interesting, that Sarah's last name is Yoder-and now I'm wondering if this case was about her or a family member.  The one-room school house is located across the street and had some rustic playground equipment, and again-quite plain.
Kathryn's foot at the top! 
Well, I'm excited to get my quilt back and see the markings.  I could pay them to quilt it for 2-300 dollars.  I'd like to try it on my own first and see how it goes.  The above picture doesn't show the outer border that added quite a bit.  I had a tenth  Dresden plate square that we cut in fourths for the corners.  It really does look nice.  At the "Country Quilt Store" Kathryn bought a log-cabin pillow cover, Dan bought a rug and some home-made jam, and we all had an experience to remember.


Giggles said...

You're right, I like the story. My quilt frame is Amish style and I love it.

A quilt that big I wouldn't attempt to machine quilt on a regular machine. You'd need a long-arm for that. I've been hand quilting a king-sized quilt for several years. It's taking that long because I'm not consistent at working on it. There's something satisfying about doing it by hand though.

When you think of how long those quilts can take to make, the prices they're charging are very reasonable. And that's why I wouldn't make quilts for a living. The supplies and time add up. It's also why I never buy all the stuff for a quilt at the same time. I don't want to know how much my hobby costs. :)

Mimi Nowland said...

It sounds like a great experience. I hope your quilting project goes well!