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Explore an aspect of Mennonite culture such as quilting (Essay Sample)


10 sources Write a 2000 word (about 8 double-spaced pages) essay on the topic below, making use of the 10 sources( 3 books, 2 journal, 5 internet resource) TOPIC Explore an aspect of Mennonite culture such as quilting. NOTE Cite your sources using University of Chicago style (this is what historians use). An academic paper must include footnotes or endnotes to credit sources that you have used in your paper. A foot/endnote is used to provide the source for a direct quotation or when you are referring directly, even in your own words, to an idea taken from another source. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page while endnotes are listed on a separate page at the end of the paper. Remember that the formatting for footnotes and bibliography is slightly different. For assistance in how to cite sources and using Chicago style, consult a style guide such as: Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations or A Manual of Style by the University of Chicago Press. Both these books offer guides for all aspects of essay-writing. Refer to the library resources links for online style guides

[Quilting among the Mennonites]
The process of sewing together two or more layers of material to come up with a thicker padded fabric is known as quilting. A needle and thread is used to join two or more layers of fabric. In a typical quilting process, three layers: the top fabric also known as the quilt top that is sewn on top, the backing material that is sewn at the back and the batting or insulating material that is sewn in between the top and the back fabrics. The joining of the three material involves the use of a thread that is passed through them by the use of either the hand or a sewing machine. Commonly used is a straight or running stitch and the material are sewn together in all places a quilt is required (Silk Zantine, 2013). The stitch design used are usually either purely functional or elaborate and decorative. The purpose of the whole quilting activity is to come up with products that would be used as art quilt wall hangings, bed spreads, clothing and a variety of other textile products.[Silk, Zantine. "Quilting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (accessed July 9, 2013)]
The English word ‘quilt’ came from the French word cuilte which itself comes from the Latin word culcita that means a large stuffed sack. The specific origin of the art is not well known but evidence of its existence has been found in various ancient world cultures. An ivory carving of one of the first dynasty Egyptian pharaohs shows evidence of a quilted garment (Zantine, 2013). A quilted floor covering was also discovered by archeologists in Mongolia in 1924. Quilted clothing began to be used generally in the 14th century in the form of quilted doublets in Germany, France and England and as quilted tunics in Italy.[Silk, Zantine. "Quilting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (accessed July 9, 2013)]
The practice of quilting is widely practiced in among Mennonite women. Mennonite women create handmade quilts with which they cover beds during the day. They decorate the beds with especially elaborate quilts. This paper explores quilting as an aspect in the wider Mennonite culture, its history among the Mennonites, characteristics and how it impacts their lives, especially the women who participate in the process of sewing of quilts. This paper also examines the importance of quilt making in the Mennonite culture.
The process of quilting
The basic process of quilting involves selection of fabrics, patterns and batting. Batting is the synthetic fiber, cotton or wool that is used as filling for quilts. It is placed in between the top and bottom fabrics of the quilt. The second stage involves measuring and cutting of fabrics according to the sizes of the patterns so as to make blocks. The blocks are sewn together to come up with the quilt top. The sewing is done along a common sized edge in order to create a large fabric piece. The quilt top, backing and batting are arranged into some sort of fabric sandwich. The fabrics are then sewn together, as the thread is passed through all fabrics with the aid of a needle. Excess batting and fabric is trimmed from the edges. The raw edges of the quilt sandwich are covered by sewing a strip of fabric known as binding along them. For quilts that would be hung on the wall, a hanging sleeve is also incorporated (Aldrich, Margaret & Whitney Otto, 2001).[Aldrich, Margret, and Whitney Otto. This old quilt: a heartwarming celebration of quilts and quilting memories. Stillwater, (MN: Voyageur Press, 2001).]
Quilt making among Mennonite women
It is common perception that quilting originated for its usefulness rather than aesthetics.
Cooking and sewing are skills that Mennonite women have long been stereotyped of, skills that allowed for a degree of creativity and individuality (Epp Marlene, 2008). Mennonite women did not have many avenues through which they could express themselves due to religious constraints. They had limited chances to put themselves forward in their churches and communities. To some, gardening and quilting offered an outlet for expression which was limited in other contexts. The Mennonite culture places prominence on women’s place in the domestic setting. Women were expected to be good home makers. Sewing and needlework skills that helped in quilting, hooked-rug making and embroidery were therefore important. Therefore, quilting helped in keeping the women busy, occupied and contributed to reinforcing certain gender roles for women.[] [Epp, Marlene. Mennonite women in Canada a history. Winnipeg: (University of Manitoba Press, 2008)]
Mennonites place great importance on ideals of humility and self-denial. This lead to the preference of group quilting, also known as ‘quilting bees’ among women rather than individual quilting. Individual quilting was thought of as encouraging personal pride and unhealthy competition among the women. Quilt making presented women with an avenue to express themselves in the Mennonite communities without necessarily undermining their roles in the church or at home (Aldrich, etal, 2001). The Mennonites also place importance on the work culture and the importance of maintaining a disciplined work ethic. Quilting bees provided a setting in which women could visit each other and still work at the same time. This meant therefore that, their work ethic was not undermined by socialization. The Mennonites also emphasize on thriftiness and simplicity. The use of scrap fabric to create beautiful objects showed this. Quilts were so important among the Mennonites that they became heirlooms. Mothers passed down quilt making knowledge to their daughters. Quilts were also an important aspect of dowry payment.[Aldrich, Margret, and Whitney Otto. This old quilt: a heartwarming celebration of quilts and quilting memories. Stillwater, MN: (Voyageur Press, 2001).]
In recent times, the quilt among Mennonites is no longer regarded only as a bed warmer or an object of art. The quilt is now connected to the community’s own spiritual self-understanding. Over time, Mennonites have had to face circumstances that exposed them to persecution, martyrdom and physical pain directly inflicted due to their beliefs and practices. The quilt helps Mennonites achieve a perceived degree of comfort that counters the painful experiences. The quilt therefore has come to coexist side by side with the oldest revered item among the Mennonites, the cross. The two have been used to find varying degrees of solace and comfort in a world that has been hostile to this community.
Quilting has also helped Mennonite women prop up their financial income. It can be noted that in the 1920’s Ontario Canada, the frontier settlement at Resor hosted desperately poor Mennonite families (Marlene, 2008). One lady, Mathilde Fresien transformed her knitting abilities into a small business. She made warm mittens and socks for men who worked in the Ontario bushes. Other women like Salome Buehler martin supplemented their husbands’ income by engaging in craftwork and quilting.[Epp, Marlene. Mennonite women in Canada a history. Winnipeg: (University of Manitoba Press, 2008).]
Quilting as an art
The declaration of quilting as an art resulted in the great popularity of quilting. Antique Amish quilts were exhibited at Whitney museum in New York. Some contemporary Mennonite infuse symbolic significance in their quilts. They utilize religious symbols such as the cross in their designs. They also hang quilts as works of art on the walls of their sanctuaries. Quilt images are reproduced for church related publications. One aspect that makes the Mennonite quilts distinguishably exquisite from regular quilts is the fact that quilt-making is among the few avenues through which beauty can be expressed to the outside world. Personal beauty is handled more gingerly among the Mennonites, since individual pride among the fellowship is prohibited. The fellowship expects that one does a good job. Pride in a job well done is not accepted as doing the job well is what is expected. Quilting is one exception through which women are allowed to unashamedly express themselves and show their skills. Minute detail in the whole quilt design and making process matters a lot.
Quilters themselves are also a diverse lot. Each person has their own style, design and traditions. They express this through the quilt product they come up with. A unique aspect of the traditional Mennonite quilt is the humility block. The Mennonites and Amish believe stress that only God is perfect. In effect, trying to make a perfect quilt would bring bad luck and it was tantamount to pride. Quilters would therefore put a deliberate error in their quilt (Lee Daniel Black, 1995). The error would be in form of a block turned sideways, a block that brought about a break in the blocks pattern, for instance a different color shade. The humility block idea however is not predominant in the Mennonite and Amish culture.[Lee, Daniel B. Black hats and white bonnets religious ritual and belief among Weaver land Conference Mennonites. New York City: (Rowman & Littlefield, 1995).]
Quilting as a social activity
Quilting has and continues to provide Mennonite women with the opportunity to meet, spend time together and at the same time sew quilts. At sewing circles, women meet at a members’ home. They usually carry along their sewing machines or paraphernalia. During this time, they talk about their lives as they enjoy each other’s presence. Concurrently, they also accomplish their individual tasks in a social setting. Newer members get the opportunity to learn more from the experienced older members by looking at their patterns and aski...
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