Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quilt Frames

One of the main pieces needed to make the Amana quilt (comforter) was the Quilt Frame, made by the local carpenter. It was made up of four wooden boards about 1" by 108" by 98", depending on the size of the bed. The boards had holes drilled down the lengths of them and as the material was quilted the holes served as holders for pins to hold the rolled work in place on the frame. Village blacksmiths used to make iron pins which could be fitted into holes to hold the frame securely as the quilt was quilted. Heavy ticking material was tacked to the boards and that is where the quilt material was then sewn on so it could be quilted. The four boards were put on stands about 26.5 inches off the floor, weighted down by heavy crossboards made of wood. Baby quilts, double and single, and now queen and king sizes can be made on these frames, all popular,traditional designs as the serpent (Schlangen Kranz) and diamond (Karo) patterns.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Amana Tables

Two styles of tables were predominant in the Amana homes. They were made of beautiful walnut, cherry or pine woods, usually square in shape, with round tapered legs and some turned areas below the apron and above the foot. This style had two drawers and white castors. The second style was a bit more ornate with molding or turning. It was a five or six-legged gate leg table which could extended to one side and had a leaf. Both of these style tables were placed against the living room wall and covered with a tablecloth.  This made the table more decorative than functional. It was the smaller side tables that were more functional.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Salesmen Samples

When traveling around the countryside selling Amana woolens and CALICO goods, salespeople would have samples of the items they were selling. Ten men, mainly Amana men, were on the road part of the year selling for the Amana Woolen Mill. They were known as honest and dealing fairly all the way to both coasts of the USA. Some customers had bought their goods since the Ebenerzer days of old Amana in NY. The samples were miniature models or small pieces of fabrics on folders to show potential customers what they were selling. Each was nicely laid out and presented. In Amana, the CALICO and woolens were sold to an outside market. AMANA believed in manufacturing "good goods" for CALICO and woolens. The samples were placed on cards and patterns identified. These are nice to frame and hang on the wall as samples of the beautiful fabrics once made and sold in early Amana.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Chest

There were a variety of chests found in old Amana homes. They were in various sizes and some were plain wooden chests with hinged lids, some had painted surfaces of blue or green or brown, and some had added handmade wrought iron handles to port family possessions. Some had recessed panels and hand rubbed finishes. Writing was found on some as to the destination of the chest from Ebenezer or Germany. One popular chest at sales is referred to as the Brandk├║ste or the fire chest as it held the most important family possessions and in case of a fire, it was the first to be moved easily out of a burning building, with its oval metal handles on each end. The two front doors on this low chest made it easy to store papers, garments and valuable items. The cabinetmaker, even though he did not identify any of his creations with a mark or name, did fine work on these prized pieces.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Copper Monogram Stencils

In early Amana, a young girl by the age of 10, would have learned many stitches to make up a sampler. If you look closely at the samplers before the turn of the century you can see the English Gothic letters, but only 25. The letter "i" was sometimes used instead of the letter "j". When the young girl became a young lady she started working on her trousseau which included pillowcases, tablecloths, bedsheets, socks, etc. Each piece would be initialed and numbered using the copper stencils as a pattern to stitch the numbers and letters. The stencils are rare and paper thin. A carbon placed under the letter or thin ink brushed on letters helped transfer the letters designs onto the fabric. Often the initials were embroidered in colored cotton threads and always neatly and nicely done.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Paper Patterns

Fiber crafts were taught to young children generation to generation starting at age 7 or 8. Some designs were original designed by the crafter and some were transferred from paper patterns found in magazines as HAUSFRAU or early kits. The patterns themselves are interesting pieces, very colorful and well drawn. There are stacks that can be found at auctions. Patterns for needlepoint, cross-stitch, quilting(cardboard), crewel work, crochet, knitting, and more. They are fun to collect and viewed as early folk art.

The Schrank

The Amana home was equipped with only one closet located under the stairwell. It was used to store laundry, candles, fuel for lamps, and lamps.  Clothing was stored in the wardrobes or Kleider Schranke which were found in the unheated hallways and attics. Some were stand-alone, some were built in.  The wardrobe was a tall, rectangular piece with one or two full length doors on the front and the sides were constructed of recessed panels. Made by the local carpenters, Schranks were made of pine, walnut, fruit woods, or recycled woods from immigrant chests. Many were straight across the top and bottom, some had decorative molding on the crown or carving around the feet which were mostly bracket type.  The interiors had a horizontal row of pegs across the back and sides to hang clothes. These Shranks were plain, massive and beautiful.


Ornamental items in old Amana were not allowed much but flowers and birdhouses brought color and birds to the garden landscape and neighborhood. The birdhouses were made by local woodworkers and placed on poles high above the gardens for the many birds to nest. There were many shapes and sizes, some painted, some not, but all were special pieces of folk art with lots of detail, a nice place to call home for any bird!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


The yarn swift was a handy tool for the knitter, weaver, and crocheter as it kept the yarns from tangling as one worked to wind a ball of yarn or put it on a shuttle for weaving. There was a floor model and a table model both made mainly of wood. Skeins of yarn were placed on the wide body of the swift and as the ball was wound the swift would rotate to unwind the skein for easier handling. It was quite a handy piece of equipment.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Just after 1855 when Amana was first established women had to carry in wooden wash baskets, the dirty laundry of the men who worked in the field , feedlot, and animal stalls. The streets and yards were muddy so there was lots to be washed often. Rainwater was caught in a cistern, pumped and heated in large copper boilers for laundry to be done. Monday was always wash day, done by the community kitchen and garden workers who would adjust chores to do laundry in the community washhouse. Laundry was soaped and scrubbed on washboards, wrung out and rinsed over and over. It was then hung on an outdoor line or in a dry attic if it rained.. Lye soap was made by the local soapworks from ashes, liquid lye and lard cooked for 3 days, then poured into barrels or forms.  This "SCHMIERSEIF" was made for the laundry. Other soaps were made for bathing and facial use. After 1932, each house had its own wash house located near the main house, and the community washhouse system met its end.

Garden Tools

The carpenter shop in old Amana would keep very busy making tools for the community garden use, farm use, or home use. He would make rakes, Setzholz, (planting dibbles), pitch forks, hoes, shovels, potato shovels, drying racks with large wooden slats for produce, wheelbarrows, lap trays, wooden sieves, wooden sinks, and many other handy tools. Each very unique and noticeably Amana!