To fully appreciate Amish quilts, it is necessary to understand something of the culture in which they were created. In the face of harsh persecution in Europe for their religious beliefs, the Amish began to migrate to America in the early eighteenth century at the invitation of William Penn. During the Colonial period, they settled on the rich farmland of Berks, Chester, and Lancaster Counties in Pennsylvania, where they could continue the way of life they had led in Europe and which they essentially lead today. The Amish attempt to keep themselves separate from the outside world, and they generally reject those modern conveniences, such as electricity, cars, telephones, and television, that would bring them into contact with that world.
This Bars Quilt, like a great many other Amish examples, is characterized by stitching of exquisite quality. Although most Amish quilts were pieced together with a foot-powered treadle sewing machine (acceptable because it does not use electricity), they were typically quilted by hand, often at a community quilting bee. This quilt includes favorite Lancaster County motifs, such as Quaker feathers in the large outer border, pumpkin seeds in the inner border, and tulips in the corners. Quite possibly, realistic quilting motifs such as fruits and flowers were the maker’s way of circumventing her society’s prohibition against naturalistic designs. Fruits, flowers, baskets, and other nongeometric forms were often appliquéd onto the quilts of her “gay Dutch” and “English” neighbors. While the Amish generally rejected appliqués because they served no practical purpose, they may have felt it was acceptable to stitch many of the same designs into their quilts, satisfying themselves with the knowledge that their tiny, precise stitches were necessary to hold the backing, filling, and top together.
Elizabeth V. Warren, "Bars Quilt," in Stacy C. Hollander, American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 369.