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Amish attract admiration

By Staff | Sep 25, 2008

Colorful quilts created by Amish women were on display during the Northstart Guilt Guild Luncheon on Sept. 20.

Saturday’s spotlight shone brightly on Amish quilt creations, the focal point of the Northstar Quilt Guild’s luncheon.

Featured speaker was Julie Tebay of the Rochester, Minn., area, who is an expert on quilts and Amish quilt makers. She told the large audience at the First Christian Church in Estherville that she has been quilting since the 1970s. “I was making clothing before that.” Her repertoire also includes knitting, crocheting, cross stitch and counter cross stitch.

But, she said, “The end to beat all is quilting because that’s where creativity really is.”

Giving her personal history, she recounted how she likes to sew and how in the past she would use a machine quilter. With a major Amish population in the vicinity of Rochester, she inquired and gladly accepted the services of the Amish women who are known for their hand quilting.

Because of carpal tunnel, Tebay got rid of her machine. With the hired and capable Amish hands, she now offers a hand quilting service.

Tebay took it upon herself to visit the Amish farms and inquire of interest to quilt for her. “Remember they have no phones and no electricity.” So, she has two choices for communication which are:

n Going to the farms.

n Exchanging personal letters.

Over the years, she has kept these letters and shared the loving touches within the written lines with Midwest quilters. Tucked within the words are their love for God, family and the Amish way.

Tebay said it was about 1974 when the first Amish arrived to southeastern Minnesota from Ohio Amish Country. “The Amish currently reside in 28 states and their population is about 227,000.”

The speaker said she only uses quilters who belong to the Old Order Amish. “This order is the least progressive. They have water pumped to their homes but no hot water. They burn wood for heating and cooking. The rims on the wheels are made of iron because any journey from home should never be comfortable.”

Amish children attend a one-room schoolhouse up through eighth grade and are taught by an individual who has an eighth-grade education.

“Their dialect is High German. The children called scholars don’t learn to speak English until they enter school.”

Tebay said to come into town in big groups, they will ride in someone’s Suburban or van. She knows of several who have ridden the bus and train. They’re not opposed to doctors but prefer the more holistic approach to health.

A poignant point is the Amish have no need for nursing homes. When grandparents cannot manage their home alone, they are either moved into a small home near family or move in with children, at times rotating among the siblings.

A very interest note is Amish have no problem paying their taxes. They do so willingly, Tebay said. “But they take nothing in return no Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid.”

One question on everyone’s lips was, “How did Tebay come to acquire so many Amish quilts?”

While it is true, they do keep quilts in the family and pass them down through the generations, there are times the Amish need to make money to pay bills, especially the doctor. Then they will sell their beloved quilts to those they know and trust.

In one of the letters, the Amish woman related how her friend just had another baby and surmised the new little one was just replacing the oldest son who recently gotten married and left home.

“While I’ve never heard any of them tell jokes, they do have a great sense of humor,” Tebay said, smiling.

An interesting tidbit to this reporter was each Amish community has a ‘scribe’ who handles local news (marriages, births, deaths and other interesting news).

“And they are connected to the outside world.” She referenced the 9/11 tragedy and how several Amish women included their thoughts in their letters.

“They take one day at a time and take the Bible literally. They do not dwell on the future or the past; just the present. And they have great faith.”

She shared several favorite expressions like this one, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.”

Of the many quilts on display was the plain quilt created in Holmes County, Ohio. It is an old quilt that is a two-sided reverse pattern in blue and black. Others shared were a bowtie pattern with stars on the back, star pattern, windmill pattern and spinning wheel. Irish Chain seemed to be a popular choice with Amish quilt makers.

One in shades of gray and black was given the name “Bear Paw.” Tebay considered it to be possibly a mourning quilt.

The Amish quilters continue to use treadle sewing machines and big quilt frames.

Tebay told the audience she never divulges what she pays for any of her quilts.

“I will tell you that I pay more than they’re worth and I pay a good price.”

Over the years, she has learned the women talk to one another through written correspondence or get-togethers.

“I always pay promptly.” Another thing I will not do is taking people out to the farms when I go visit.”