With pumpkins and tawny hues and brown grasses prevalent in the colors at this time of year and in the Northern Hemisphere, falling temperatures, it triggers the idea of harvest: cutting the wheat, gathering the last of the fall vegetables, All Is Safely Gathered In, and that sort of thing. Well, what constitutes a harvest?
It all starts with seeds, a planting of an idea, a sowing of labor with the yield some time off in the future. An idea, like beginning to learn how to make Amish quilts from a book, as I sat in the scorching heat of a Dallas Texas summer many years ago, sweat running down my back reading Roberta Horton’s Amish Adventure.
I had escaped to the back porch for three minutes peace from the marauding hordes of hot tired children in watching some movie on the VCR, steeping my mind in the stillness of these stunning quilts.
Strong graphic design and the muted, yet brilliant, colors enticed me, and I began small, with doll quilts, experimenting in the shapes, the colors. At that time the best we could hope in terms of solid fabrics was a mix of cottons and polyester-cottons. Purists would gasp now, but we had just barely graduated from using cardboard templates with taped edges to cutting out the lids of margarine tubs to use instead.
Roberta Horton’s book, first published in 1983, rocked my tiny isolated world of quilting.
I moved from doll quilt-sized quilts to a larger wall quilt, still unfinished. And then to a larger quilt, laid out in rows in the corner of my bedroom for weeks, while I refined the gradations of color.
I had drawn out Sunshine and Shadow on graph paper, trying to figure out the coloration, mimicking what I saw in fabric. This was early in my quilting career: all of my quilts on this post are numbers 10 and 11 quilts on my 100 Quilts list. I also made a faceless doll to match what I’d heard were common in the Amish country. And then, Amish Quilting was the first quilt class I ever taught, in a small shop in Arlington, Texas, now defunct, and yes, we made a doll quilt, and yes, we used Roberta Horton’s book.
Back to the Sunshine and Shadow, I figured out the borders, sandwiched with flannel (as she noted that Amish quilts were flatter than our fluffy renditions) and I began quilting it by hand, criss-cross, and then cut paper patterns for a twined-vine border design.
The seed planted by Horton and her quilts and her book is now in a second harvest, if that’s possible. Last summer, C & T Publishers put out a call for Amish quilts of all types to be considered for a new rendition of An Amish Adventure. I submitted my photographs and had one quilt accepted. The book has now been released and is titled Amish Quilts–The Adventure Continues, and it as much a celebration of that first book in C & T’s publishing history as it is the style and cultural contribution of the Amish quilt–certainly a forerunner to today’s modern quilts.
Here’s my doll quilt, made so many years ago. I now consider it as an entry in the first round of strong bold graphic designs and solid fabrics. In the book, mine is right next to Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr, of the Modern Quilt Studio and Craft Nectar blog. I certainly did do a happy dance in the kitchen as I opened up the package.
You can get the book from the C & T Publishing website and from Amazon.com. My mother already has her copy, so I know it is shipping. If you haven’t had a chance to make yourself an Amish quilt, perhaps now is the time, before too many more harvests stride past.
I like to think about harvests, as to me it always indicates a leap of faith somewhere. At some point I made a quilt, and now can “raise the song of harvest home.”
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