I have had a love for the Amish people and art since I was a little girl growing up in Alabama. In fact, there is a small Amish community just north of my town that has fascinated me my whole life.

However, it is not this sentimental feeling for our close neighbors that drives my feeling about Diamonds and Bars: The Art of the Amish People. This is simply one of the most beautiful and inspirational books I’ve ever laid eyes on. Like great works of art, beautiful objects are often impossible to capture in photography – at least for me, so forgive the photos here – they do not do the book justice.  However, Rainer Viertlboeck’s photographs of the actual works of art – the quilts – are astounding.

In our lectures and workshops, I normally tell a story I once heard about Amish Quilters:

“The Amish are known for making the most beautiful quilts in the world, but as the quilters are piecing together their quilt blocks they will turn one block the wrong way, or add a color that does not belong as they believe that nothing should reach the perfection of God.”

As I drink my coffee this morning and astound at the hand-work and detail for color in these pieces, I have the overwhelming sense that this work is about as close to Godliness as you can get and “Stairway to Heaven” seems appropriate for the beautiful quilt pattern below.


Seventy-four quilts are showcased in exquisite detail, their intricate patterns and bold colors on beautiful display. The large-format book gives in-depth descriptions and fascinating history lessons about these functional masterpieces. Quilters, crafters, historians, and anyone with an eye for color and detail will delight in this book.

I don’t really remember how I first came across this edition but I remember thinking when I saw the price that it was very expensive – ask your library to order it, purchase it with a group of friends and rotate months, somehow get your hands on a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

From page 18:


Amish quilts are usually compared with 20th century art such as modernism, minimalism, and color field painting, as if those movements came first. In fact, it is the Amish female quilt maker who created such powerful forms on a flat plane, beginning in the late 19th and extending into the mid-20th century. These quilts are often likened to the oeuvre of artists like Josef Albers, Frank Stella, Bridget Riley, Ellsworth Kelly, Victor Vasarely, Sean Scully, and Richard Anuszkiewicz with whom the art world is more familiar…”

Diamonds and Bars: The Art of the Amish People, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2007.



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Click to read 5 comments
  1. Michelle Shopped

    What is bizarre about coming upon this post is I was just thinking of y’all this morning (June, I still have to reply to you — I apologize for my tardiness!)…and thinking of Denyse Schmidt, the quilter and her studio in Bridgeport, CT
    …another gritty place and thinking…hmmm…now there’s another possibility for Alabama…

    Will be in touch this week…

    1. Laura M

      I live in the heart of Amish country here in central PA. I deeply appreciate the beauty and creativity of Amish women, but please – let’s not romanticize them. Amish women are creating beauty within the narrow confines of a deeply patriarchal culture. I find that balance of pain and beauty tremendously inspiring. There’s so much to admire about the Amish – dedication to religious practice, simple living in tune with the land, and truly interdependent on family and community. But it all comes with a price.

  2. Jonn

    Beautiful post Natalie – thank you – love the Amish quilts and the quilts of Gee’s Bend just a tiny bit more – the inspiration is appreciated; a smile in my day

    1. velma

      what laura writes is true. here in new york’s north country amish women are quilting with the cheapest of plain, solid, dark fabrics of cotton/poly, which need less ironing (when you iron all family textiles with real irons heated on the cook stove it’s huge thing) and making many ridiculously garish quilts for income. the amish society is harsh for women, and quilting is not a romanticized thing. i can’t imagine an amish woman believing her work could begin to rival the hand of god. i think your story, which is echoed in white people’s stories about navajo weavers, is someone’s fabrication. on the other hand, my children were always invited to play under the quilt frame in my amish friend’s house, while i was invited to stitch with the gathered visiting women, who, incidentally, spoke together in german translating for me.