Amish lay out spread for Olde Tyme Days Quilts, food highlighted at weekend festival

July 07, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

To Anna Stoltzfus, quilt-making is not a yuppie trend -- it's a way of life.

Since she was 10, the young Amish woman has created art out of scraps of cloth and thousands of tiny stitches, cutting shapes from fabric and sewing them together into a patchwork of color and texture.

Generations of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage are woven into the stitches of the quilts, from the bright red-and-yellow floral designs to the pink and green pastels and blue and white diamonds.

This week, from Thursday to Saturday, exhibits of Ms. Stoltzfus' work and that of many other Amish quilt-makers will be for sale during Olde Tyme Days at the Amish Farmer's Market at the Annapolis Harbor Center, just off Route 2.

It takes one person working full time about three weeks to make a quilt, says Ms. Stoltzfus, 24, who works several days a week at the Amish Quilts store at the shopping center.

"But once you get to the end, it's so exciting," she says. "[Finishing a quilt] is like going to a parade. It's always so beautiful when you lay it out on the bed; there's a feeling of victory and accomplishment."

Patterns range from the "Diamond Star," which sells for about $500, to the "States and Bird", an elaborate quilt with a map of tTC the United States, showing all the states and each state's flower and bird, which sells for about $1,800.

During this week's Amish festival, about 20 women will make a quilt under a big tent, and the finished product will be one of many prizes being given away in a drawing.

Explains Ms. Stoltzfus, "When you have that many ladies around one quilt, you can do one fast. You can do a couple a day."

The festival also will include the chance to take a free ride in an Amish horse-drawn buggy.

Old-fashioned ice cream freezers will churn out homemade ice cream during the three-day festival, and on Thursday, a Mennonite country band will perform. Laurie DeYoung, an announcer for country music radio station WPOC, also will be at the festival.

The three-day event will be a bright tribute to a simpler way of life, says Aaron Beiler, manager of the Farmer's Market.

In the Amish world, girls start quilting with their mothers at home, then progress to join monthly church quilting bees, which are held to raise money for the needy in other countries, Ms. Stoltzfus says.

"Some girls can't sit, so they just don't quilt," she adds.

When a son is married, his mother invites the mothers of her son's friends to her home to make a quilt that will be a wedding gift to the couple. Most girls leave home with two or three quilts, including a bridal wreath quilt.

It is such lore that draws many visitors to the Farmer's Market.

People come simply to look at and talk to the Pennsylvania Dutch, says Mr. Beiler. They aren't disappointed; the place abounds with bearded men in broad-brimmed straw hats, smiling women in long skirts and white aprons, children dressed like miniature versions of their parents.

But visitors also come for the food -- fresh-baked bread; homemade chicken-corn, cauliflower-broccoli and ham-and-bean soups; barbecued chicken; and mounds of cheese.

The lure is not unique to Annapolis. In the past 10 years, the number of farmers' markets has doubled in the state, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

The Pennsylvania Dutch's produce and baked goods, however, are unusually fresh, straight from kitchens and farms. Workers travel 100 miles from Lancaster County, Pa., three times a week to bring the fresh goods to the market, Beiler says.

In the building with the two-story windmill, Amish families work at fruit and seafood stands, make funnel cakes and roll out the dough for homemade doughnuts. High rent forced the market from its Eastern Shore location a year ago.

The Amish church still requires that members forgo such amenities as cars and tractors, electricity, public schools, radio and television, telephones and store-bought clothes.

"Some people have asked me if we just wear the clothes, but we're real. At home we don't have electricity," says Mr. Beiler, a merry man with a long brown beard.

However, the liberal factions of the church increasingly are permitting some Amish to participate in the modern economy, he adds. For example, the market is equipped with telephones, electricity, refrigerators and a microwave oven.

The market is also updating itself by offering food for the diet-conscious, such as sugar-free jams, no-salt potato chips and low-salt cheese, plus a full line of chemical-free prime beef and pork.

"We work as many as 20 hours a day," says Mr. Beiler, "but we enjoy every minute of it. We are passing on recipes handed down through the generations."

The market is located in the Annapolis Harbor Center, 2472 Solomons Island Road in Annapolis. Regular hours are Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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