Beautiful Window into the Quilted World at Riehl’s Quilts & Crafts
Whenever I have the opportunity to step out of the office and show some friends around the Amish countryside, I always make sure to include in my “tour” certain standards, such as passing by a one–room school, seeing a field full of green and leafy tobacco (looks pretty despite its dubious health effects) and there’s one stop that I just have to make. That is at Riehl’s Quilts & Crafts. Riehl’s is a lovely Amish family farm, and like most Amish farms multiple generations live on site, tending the land and working together to provide a quiet, serene place to be. However, unlike many farms in the area, this is one homestead that visitors are welcome to stroll and see. There is a barn on site where visitors can see where the family’s horses, ponies, and goats live, a carriage house that often has a buggy or two to view, and what many call the area’s best shop with Amish-made quilts and crafts. When giving a “tour” I often have to gently pull my people out of the shop before they spend the whole afternoon browsing.
Riehl’s Quilts & Crafts 2023
Riehl’s quilt and craft shop is quite large, filling a barn built specifically to house the store, cooled by fans running on “Amish electricity” and lighting to match. Roughly half of the store is devoted to quilts, while the other half is stocked with candles, books, baskets, scented soaps and other personal care products, toys, jams and jellies, and small craft items. It is the quilt–room that always draws my attention.
Such beauty and functional artistic expression make surrounding oneself with quilts a sublime experience. Riehl’s provides not only a way to see handmade Amish quilts but the full spectrum and variety of handmade Amish quilts. It seems like each time I visit, I find a new design to critique. My current favorite is the “Ocean Waves.”
In the world of quilting, the “Ocean Waves” pattern is truly a longtime favorite. The design was created by taking squares quilted with single flower design; rows of small triangles quilted in a straight line, cream triangles quilted in a crosshatch pattern, vines and leaves outline quilted with a background of crosshatch squares, outer border quilted with a larger diamond pattern. At the moment, these quilts are one of the best sellers at Riehl’s because they’re a combination of this beautiful concept of patterns. The pattern continues out to the edge of the quilt, thus continuing colorful waves all the way out to the very edge of the quilt. Not that I think a quilt should be handled in such a way to get it dirty, the absence of a white border does mean the “Ocean Wave” does not show dirt as easily as other patterns. Even with around 70 ladies (Amish friends and neighbors of the Riehl’s) in addition to the Riehl womenfolk themselves providing the stitching and sewing handiwork, it takes 4–5 weeks to complete the pieced, patchwork quilt blueprint of an “Ocean Wave.” All of the patchwork is done on a sewing machine, and then the quilting is completed by hand. Other popular quilt patterns at Riehl’s include Country Love, Wedding Ring, Dahlia Log Cabin, Heirloom, and Penn Dutch Sampler, as well as their selection of other crafts.
Riehl’s Quilts & Crafts might have a gorgeous and grand mortise and tendon store building now, but over thirty years ago, when it all started, the craft “shop” was simply two of the Riehl family’s daughters sitting along the road selling potholders that they had carefully made. Seeing the success the little entrepreneurs had, the family thought perhaps they should sell some quilts as well. They put some quilts on a bed in their home and told some local tour guides about their new shop and visitors started to come down the lane to their farm. Thirty-plus years later, visitors are still enjoying the Riehl family hospitality.
Riehl’s Quilts & Crafts is located at 247 E. Eby Road, Leola. The shop is open 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday–Saturday, and closed Sundays. For more information call (717) 656–0697 or visit www.riehlsquiltsandcrafts.com
— Clinton Martin