The Amish, like other Germanic groups, did not bring a tradition of quiltmaking to America with them; blankets, featherbeds, and woven coverlets were the more typical style of bedding. By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, the Amish had learned to make quilts from their “English” neighbors, which is what they call all people outside their community. The quilting tradition seems to have taken hold among the Amish in the 1870s and 1880s.
Because of their conservative lifestyle and the religious prohibition against naturalistic images, the Amish made their earliest quilts from large pieces of a single-color fabric. By the end of the nineteenth century, they employed more colors and design elements, although quilts with large, geometric pieces of solid-colored fabric, such as this Diamond in the Square Quilt, were still the most popular. Almost all Amish quilt patterns are composed of geometric shapes, and most consist of a central design surrounded by borders.
According to family history, the Diamond in the Square Quilt was made by Rebecca Fisher Stoltzfus in 1903. The Diamond in the Square pattern, unique to Lancaster County, is an Amish adaptation of the center-medallion quilt style that was popular among “English” quiltmakers in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Amish woman’s selection of this outmoded style was not happenstance: the choice of the old-fashioned medallion style seems to accord with conscious attempts to create quilts that followed Amish patterns of nonconformity with “English” fashion. This quilt is has many features that are typical of Lancaster County Amish quilts: the fabrics are fine-quality solid-color wools, since patterned material, although sometimes found on the back, was considered too worldly for quilt tops; the dimensions are square; and the center motif is surrounded by a narrow inner border and a particularly wide outer border finished with proportionately large corner blocks.
Elizabeth V. Warren, "Diamond in the Square 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), 362.