Quilt News, Views and Stories from Shipshewana

Introducing Rebecca Haarar: Rebecca Haarer collects quilts, gives Amish Quilt Trunk Show presentations, owns Rebecca Haarer Arts and Antiques in Shipshewana, and loves living and sharing adventures in the Amish-Mennonite community in which she was born and raised.

“Quilting in the Ditch”

No, as you may wonder, I am not standing in water up to my waist protectively balancing a stack of precious antique quilts on top of my head, though we’ve had enough rain to make this so.  Nor do any of the local church ladies have their quilting frames set up “fresh air style” near a balmy stream as a new and groovy way of chilling out on these unseasonably hot spring days.

Rather, “quilting in the ditch,” is a quilting term that describes the technique of making quilting stitches very close to and sometimes on, the pieced seam, creating a “hidden” quilt stitch effect.  ”Log Cabin” quilts are often quilted this way; the quilting stitches are there, but you don’t see them until you turn the quilt over to the plain back side where the quilting pattern reveals itself.

Some quilters say, why bother to do all that hard work, if the stitches aren’t going to “show off?”  I tend to agree; however, a quilt design may just call for “ditch quilting,” creating a design story that is “more than meets the eye.”

This blog is devoted to quilt stories, news, and bits and pieces that reveal “more than meets the eye,” taken  from my adventures as a life long Shipshewana resident and quilt collector.

Over the next several months I will introduce you to my personal collection of vintage Indiana Amish quilts, local quilt characters and events, and who knows whatever quilting adventure, exploding on the scene in this hugely “alive with quilts” community.

And just for the record, if you really WERE “quilting in the ditch” in Shipshewana, it would be the Sarah Davis Ditch which runs from Cotton Lake to Shipshewana Lake.  Sarah Davis and her husband Hezekiah were Shipshewana town founders (insert date).  Some years ago their granddaughter Sarah Davis (1912-2000) sold me a red and white quilt made by the Ladies Aid Society of the Shipshewana M.E. Church (first built-1889).  (Yes, there are Methodists, and other Church denominations too…among the Amish and Mennonites here!)  This quilt, dated 1907, contains many Shipshewana names embroidered onto spokes of a pieced wheel-type quilt pattern.  Ten cents allowed your name to be stitched onto the quilt, and this rare beauty raised money for a church project.

Why Sarah had the quilt I do not remember; however, one historical account describes her mother as being a seamstress, so perhaps she had a hand in its making.    Now 94 years old and seldom seen, this quilt which is in pristine condition is carefully laid away, only to be brought into the light of day while sharing around the quilt story circle. Though not “quilted in the ditch,” we will unfold it to remember the revelatory “back side” of a day in the history of Shipshewana.

And if Sarah Davis were here to share her story of this quilt in this beautiful month of May, she may do so over a serving of this local favorite salad recipe found in a former Shipshewana resident’s 1927 copy of The Farmer’s Guide Cook Book.

Dandelion Salad

Select tender leaves of dandelions and soak in cold water over night.  Wash carefully and sprinkle with salt.  Let stand until ready to serve.  Fry bacon or ham in pan, remove the meat and add 2 eggs beaten in 1/2 cupful vinegar, a little sugar and if desired brown a little flour in the pan before adding the vinegar and eggs.  This will make a thicker dressing.  Pour dandelions into the hot dressing, wilt slightly and serve hot with potatoes, meat and any other vegetable preferred. This makes a fine spring dish and is relished by most everyone.

Till we meet again, best wishes in “finding your gold shining in dark places.”  Rebecca Haarer