The long grid-like structure you see against many Amana buildings is the trellis, that in old Amana served to support grapes that grew there for winemaking and for jams. They stood to just above the windows of the first floor, were made of wood, some left to weather naturally, some painted white. This simple wood lattice work was nailed to the houses and also protected the mortar and stone houses from the vines. It also provided insulation and decoration to the house. The design of the trellis is an idea artist Prestele had, for he needed supports for his many plantings that inspired and were subjects for his many, beautiful litho prints of nature.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The local cabinetmakers made beautiful furniture for the homes in Amana. The furniture of the bedroom usually had twin size beds, made of a variety of designs. The headboards and the foot boards were usually the same height and of solid wood paneling in walnut, cherry or fruit wood. One exception to this was the "Ebenezer"bed in which there was a small negative space on both the headboard and foot board next to the corner posts. We put the two side by side to make a king headboard for today's beds. The beds were shorter than those on the for sale today. Mattresses of horsehair made by the harness men were supported by ropes which were knotted in a square pattern and attached to the frame's pegs. The beds were place parallel to the sides of the room with a nightstand on the male's side.
Ticking fabric, used to cover Amana twin bed mattresses, is a cotton or linen fabric that is tightly woven for durability. It was commonly a striped fabric design in brown's, blues, reds, greens, against a plain, textured background. It has also been used for backing rugs and other bedding. Made by the harness men, the mattresses were heavy and solid. The tight, twill weave prevents down feathers from poking through the fabric. This fabric was woven by the Budingen, Germany ancestors of the Amana members as well. They were tufted in several places to hold horse or pig hair in place. The 3 matching mattresses were laid on slats the width of the bed side-by-side, for easier handling. Other bedding such as black and white cotton calico was used to finish the bed...all very nice.
Needlework embroidery, crewelwork, was a type of free style embroidery, using a variety of different long and short stitches, using 1-2 ply fine wool, cotton, or silk and a sewing needle. Sometimes patterns copied from German books, were printed on the linen fabric, and followed. It is not a counted thread craft like needlepoint. It started in the 17th century and passed on. Girls at the age of 7-8 would learn this technique. In Amana it was usually done in florals to decorate key holders, pillows, pictures, and runners.
The Amana woodworker would make a special piece every so often that showed his great interest in wood and his talent. He would create pieces of unusual design and combinations of woods, carving and inlay. One such piece was a sewing item, a sewing box, with a needlepoint cushion for needles on top and a utensil drawer on the side. It has a wooden screw on the bottom that fitted the sewing box to a side of a table. It was about 4x6 in size. This was a useful and beautiful tool to the sewing one.
Basic needlepoint and cross-stitch were found in many Amana homes. Found on key hooks, sewing birds, pillow covers, chair seats, and more. This would allow the artist a use of more colorful yarns. Often the young girls would learn this technique before the age of 10 when her first cross stitch or needlepoint sampler was made. Coarse linen and worsted yarns were used to learn the ABC's and also do some picture painting, making yarn flowers. Many designs were geometric borders and florals inspired by the many gardens in the Amana Colonies. This craft was a legacy that kept idle hands busy. Since everything in the Old Amana Colonies served a purpose or pertained to their religion, needlepoint was functional and a very beautiful addition to the home.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Crocheting was done for many generations in the Amana Colonies in the form of toys and functional items. Wool and Cotton yarns were used to make animals and figures. with their accessories such as rabbits with eggs, Santa's with bags of toys or hens with nests and many more. Handmade steel crochet hooks of many sizes were used for tiny stitches. Some hooks were made of wood or bone. Each was very unique and from one to six inches in size, a fun piece to collect ,decorate or play with.
Knitting was taught after school to boys and girls in the Strickschule (knitting school). The boys made mittens, the girls made lace pieces, and the women made fine doilies, among other pieces and trim. Socks, slippers and mittens were popular in the communal Amana era before 1932 and later. Many knitters had unique patterns inspired by German and Scandinavian designs. Deer, snowflakes, roses, and dogs were popular in the women's mitten designs. Patterns were adjusted for fit many hands for cold, winter wear.
Fillet crocheting was found in the Amana Colonies on pillows, in a tablecloth, or daily. This was done as a series of open and closed squares with the closed square creating the design, often adapted from cross stitch patterns. Here a beautiful pillow cover is backed with dyed cotton fabric.
Amana community women have been quilting for decades .. Today the " church ladies" still gather and quilt by hand. Traditional Amana quilts are made with solid colored polished cotton.A new bride would have two summer quilts of lighter fabric and two winter quilts of heavier fabric. Calico fabric was also used then and now. The fabric is stretched and pinned onto a handmade wooden frame and stand. Small, precise running stitches and perle cotton threads create the geometric and floral patterns drawn on the fabric with soft white chalk. Popular patterns were the Schlangen Kranz (serpent), Karo (diamond), Spiegel (mirror center),and Pfeife (pipes).The quilting bee was a day long, social event for the women with pride taken for the smallest stitches on the quilt. After removing the quilt from frame it is "stoffiered" (finished with blind stitches on all sides), shaken out and given to a new bride, baby or someone to enjoy in cold of winter.
On a sunny day in early Amana you could see ladies in the many gardens and children wearing these calico hand made bonnets. Many were made of the white with black calico, lighter weight fabric. A thin cardboard piece inside the top brim hol...d the form. They could be tied in front for better shade from the sun or tied in back for more sun and ventilation. Since many hours were spent in the vegetable and flower gardens, these bonnets were forever useful and greatly appreciated.
PLAITING or flat braiding is a form of fabric or rug construction made by diagonal or lengthwise interlocking of narrow strips of fabric. Color plays an important part in the design of the plait. As with any rug, the beauty of it depends on the creator. These plaited rugs were made in various sizes and used as throw rugs in early Amana. This is a rare find , technique, and talent. I have seen them in greens, blues, and browns. These finely plaited rugs are truly an Amana treasure!
Many House Blessings (Haussegen) were displayed in Amana homes above a table or dresser often quoting scripture or reinforcing religious ideas. Some house blessings, done on perforated papers or linen, were original designs while others were patterns ordered from Germany and Chicago. They were embroidered or cross stitched with a fine needle, using wool or silk, and ornaments such as pressed flowers, hair, or celluloid angels were glued to the surface.The perforated paper work was also called "Berlin Woolwork". This was then mounted on foil covered boards to give it strength and an iridescent look. It was eventually mounted on a newly wed couple's wall. One might read," Ein Frohliche Herz, ein Friedlich Haus das macht das Gluck des Lebens aus"--What a wonderful way to praise God.
INDIGO BLUE CALICO, my favorite fabric, was printed in Amana from 1861-1917- 450 yards a day in its prime. The mill or "print works" was located on the site of the present Amana Furniture Shop, the smallest brick building to the west being part of the original factory that employed 30 workers. Designs were random geometrics, florals, borders, and repeated stripes with about 500 patterns documented. The fabrics were used for summer work clothes, upholstery, curtains, quilts, etc. Calico patterns were printed with hand carved blocks, paste resist rollers, and discharge print blocks. DYES were special indigo plant dyes -when exposed to the air would oxidize and turn yellow-green to indigo. These dyes were not fast in the early days so would often leave residue on pine benches and hands, only to be bleached clean later. The Print Works mill closed in 1917 due to lack of dyes and supplies so the German influenced, indigo CALICO dye art is very rare and much appreciated by collectors. RS
My favorite fabric!
INDIGO BLUE CALICO, my favorite fabric, was printed in Amana from 1861-1917- 450 yards a day in its prime. The mill or "print works" was located on the site of the present Amana Furniture Shop, the smallest brick building to the west being ...part of the original factory that employed 30 workers. Designs were random geometrics, florals, borders, and repeated stripes with about 500 patterns documented. The fabrics were used for summer work clothes, upholstery, curtains, quilts, etc. Calico patterns were printed with hand carved blocks, paste resist rollers, and discharge print blocks. DYES were special indigo plant dyes -when exposed to the air would oxidize and turn yellow-green to indigo. These dyes were not fast in the early days so would often leave residue on pine benches and hands, only to be bleached clean later. The Print Works mill closed in 1917 due to lack of dyes and supplies so the German influenced, indigo CALICO dye art is very rare and much appreciated by collectors. RS