Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, December 30, 2000, Image 52

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    816-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, December 30, 2000
Rare Antique Quilts Stitched By ‘White-Topper’ Amish
Express Striking Simplicity In Bold Colors
Mifflin Co. Correspondent
BELLEVILLE (Mifflin Co.)
In 1790, a group of Amish from
southeastern Pennsylvania trav
eled northwestward to settle on
the rich limestone soil of the Ki
shacoquillas Valley in Mifflin
County. They farmed and pros
But along with prosperity
came pressures to change their
lifestyle, issues that challenged
their ways of farming, style of
dress, color, and construction of
their buggies and homes, and
their use of newer and more ad
vanced tools and farm imple
ments. In 1840, Amish Bishop
Yost B. Yoder returned to Penn
sylvania from Nebraska to settle
a dispute among the Amish, pos
sibly about buggy construction.
When efforts to keep the church
united failed, members of the
most conservative sect continued
to maintain their lifestyle by
keeping to themselves and have
become what is now called the
Nebraskans, Old Schoolers, or
white-toppers in reference to the
color of their buggy.
This sect has most successfully
resisted the onslaught of modern
ization over the past 200 years.
They live in only one area of Mif
flin County, till the land with
horses, let their barns unpainted,
and, except for the men’s white
shirts, dress in the darkest shades
of brown, purple, plum, and blue.
Understandably, both current
and antique quilts made by the
Nebraskan Amish feature dark
colors. They adhere to minor
variations of a nine-patch config
uration and show only subtle
signs of originality. All of this
pieces together to form quilts of
striking simplicity.
“As limited as these women
were by their church laws, de
sign, and color, they created
some of the most expressive ar
tistic and modern-looking
quilts,” says antique quilt expert
Connie Hayes of Belleville.
The Nebraskan women varied
the nine-patch design by piecing
the squares horizontally or on
one of the square’s comers. A
chain of squares could run hori
zontally and vertically or diago
Since the women didn’t pur
chase material solely for quilt
making, a Nebraskan Amish
woman relied on the material
scrap box, which contained ma
terial that had been stored for a
lifetime. She kept her best mater
ial for her sons’ wedding quilts
and made everyday quilts from
blue dress material and other
available material. When one
color ran out while making a
quilt, another was substituted,
often creating an asymmetrical
but visually pleasing color
scheme not found in quilts out
side the Nebraskan sect.
As a collector of antique quilts
and neighbor to many Nebras
kan Amish, Connie has, through
All Nebraskan Amish quilts feature some variation of the nine-patch motif, as
shown in this antique Amish quilt owned by antique quilt expert Connie Hayes of Belle
ville, Mifflin County.
Dark purples and blues readily identify the Nebraskan Amish quilt, as does the nine
patch variation. Very few antique Nebraskan Amish quilts are found today.
the years, purchased antique Ne
braskan quilts at farm sales and
from families. She showed a col
lection of 23 antique Nebraskan
quilts in Denver, Colorado, sev-
( As limited as
these women were
by their church
laws, design, and
color, they created
some of the most
expressive artistic
and modern-look
ing quilts. 5
Connie Hayes
Antique Quilt Expert
eral years ago. The collection at
tracted the attention of William
Wigton of New Jersey. Wigton
offered to buy the collection,
which now hangs in the Museum
of American Folk Art in New
York City. The quilt display has
traveled to many U.S. cities and
to countries abroad, sharing a
history of the Nebraskan Amish
through the quilts.
“I bought a Nebraskan Amish
quilt several years ago at a sale,”
Connie said, “but I doubt that
many older Nebraskan quilts are
still in the hands of the Amish.”
Putting Your
Quilt To Bed
For every quilt, a day usually
comes when you want to put it
away. Avoid folding, as the
weight on the fold can break fi
bers and leave a dirty line in your
quilt. If you need to fold it, make
sure to fold it differently each
time you put it away. You can
pad the folds with scrunched up
acid-free paper or well-washed
muslin to create a kinder bend.
When storing your quilt in a
wooden drawer or cupboard,
apply a polyurethane finish over
the wood to keep oils from the
wood from staining your quilts.
Loosely wrap your quilt in muslin
or acid free paper rather than
plastic wrap, so the quilt can
High humidity and tempera
ture extremes, such as those that
occur in an attic or basement, can
wreak havoc on your quilt.
For more information on quilt
conservation, contact the Ameri
can Institute for Conservation,
1717 K St. NW, Suite 200, Wash
ington, D.C. 20006. The AIC is
the national membership organi
zation of conservation profession
als dedicated to preserving the art
and historic artifacts of our cul
tural heritage. You can write or
call AIC for a list of professional
conservators in your area who
will be able to give you an esti
mate and help conserve your