cover image Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon

Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon

Janneken Smucker. Johns Hopkins Univ., $34.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4214-1053-1

Just as people who buy the New Yorker for its cartoons feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth without reading beyond the punch lines, readers may take this up for the pictures alone: they are sumptuous. Photos of the bedcovers are complemented by pictures of modern art works that share aesthetics with the popular Amish quilts, known for their boldness, simplicity, and precision. Smucker (co-author, Amish Abstractions), a fifth-generation Mennonite quilter, is also a bold and precise historian. She tells stories not only of quilt history but also of social history, debunking myths (Amish women have not, for example, been quilting forever) and almost naming names (pickers stole quilts while their makers were at church). Smucker organizes her well-fabricated work into three nearly chronological parts: histories, the Amish style within American style; the popularity in the later-20th century of the Amish quilt as art; and Amish and “English” quilt businesses that spread abroad. She writes appealingly and clearly, always defining quilt jargon and explaining cultural mores as she tells “of the seemingly humble Amish quilts and the people who have loved them.” 101 color photos. (Nov.)