Barbara’s Basket Quilt

Barbara’s Basket Quilt

In 1880 Barbara Bontrager Miller made a quilt for her son, John, in LaGrange County, Indiana. This happy Amish quilt of humble green and brown baskets set with teal blue squares and quilted with tulips came down through the family to John’s daughter, Mary Miller Fry. David Pottinger, collector and documenter of Indiana Amish quilts, purchased it from Mary and eventually it made its way to the Indiana State Museum.

When I learned that the quilt study topic was nineteenth-century basket quilts I knew that this was my opportunity to learn more about Indiana Amish quilts. I have always loved their rich jewel tones and elaborate quilting patterns, and with the help of my friend at the Indiana State Museum I found this quilt that fits the criteria for the study. It is an early Indiana Amish quilt – most date from after the turn of the twentieth century. The basket triangles in many shades of green and brown allowed me to practice a technique that is very difficult for a twenty-first century quilter: random placement of fabrics. Today we would certainly purchase enough fabric for the baskets to be pieced in two colors, but that would make a much less interesting quilt. Barbara’s baskets twinkle with light and dark triangles, and I had fun making my baskets twinkle.

The quilt is finished with a cheery Sawtooth border and wide outer border quilted with fancy ferns, allowing me to indulge in my love of hand quilting as I replicated Barbara’s ferns around the edges. Our lives are very different, but I felt a bond with this Amish woman of 140 years ago, expressing her love for her son with a beautiful quilt.