• Sharon Shirk

Lancaster Quilts: A Legacy Passed from One Generation to Another

Lancaster County is famous for its Amish and Mennonite quilts. In mid March theAmerican Quilters Society will fill Lancaster with avid quilters who meet here over a shared interest. But when I was growing up I didn’t know the significance of these quilts, they were just something we all did together.

When I was growing up, my mother would have quiltings at her house in the winter time. She would put a quilt in frame and then invite her sisters and their daughters to come help get it quilted. It was a tradition that was in our community long before I was around and it offered a reason to be together and was the way that great things like quilts got made. The ladies would gather around and quilt and tell stories and talk about community happenings. There was much more going on around that quilt than just the work of building a blanket that would be beautiful for the beds in our house.

It was always a fun time, being with aunts helped me understand myself and in connection with the pieces of the quilt maybe something of what it takes to piece life together from what life brings. Some quilts were made from old clothing, using the best of the worn out garments to cut up and piece back together for a comforter.

We have several pieces here at our house that I love very much (all of the photos in this post are my quilts). Some are very old, some are new! My favorite very OLD one is made up of those old fashioned stitches (ours has the turkey tracks stitch) found in a crazy quilt. A crazy quilt is made up of patches, of which none are alike in size or shape and this one in particular is special cause it was created by my Grandmother on my Mom’s side…I think it’s the only thing that I have that was hers. She was born in 1887 and died the year before I was born, so I feel like it’s a bit of a miracle that I have anything that was hers.

Anyway, back to the special quiIt…it was made up of leftover fabric used for sewing dresses, most of the colors were darker and solid from back then. It is hand-stitched together in squares and then sewn up with these interesting, creative, old-fashioned stitches. This one is sized for a regular-size bed. I never used it, except for decorating a room.

Right now, it hangs in my family room, along with a piece from Carl’s mother. She gave us a pillow top done with the same old-fashioned stitches, only hers is done as a sampler with all those different sitches done in one pillow case. So I framed it to keep the legacy of different stitches, in case anyone would ever want to continue the art. It is a beautiful piece, now under glass for safe keeping.

Keywords for Quilters:

  • Quiltings – a gathering of people coming together for the purpose of doing the creative thing called quilting

  • Putting a Quilt in Frame – normally 3 layers of material pinned together and framed to prepare for quilting

  • top layer - the stitched together pieces

  • middle layer – the quilt batting or padding

  • bottom layer - often cotton or flannel in one or two large pieces of fabric

  • Quilt Frame – ia an adjustable frame to keep the quilt taunt while hand-stitching the quilt

  • Comforter – in the same FAMILY as quilts, yet different, in that a comforter is hand-made from cut fabric pieces too, however is held together by a knotting of yarn that adds to the finished look and softness of the comforter.

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