Caroline Trumpold

Amana quilter and cook
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Caroline TrumpoldCaroline Trumpold, a skilled cook and a song mistress in her church, is a master quilter in the Amana tradition. She learned to quilt from her mother and other women in the community and is known for her speed as well as her fine stitches; Caroline makes up to fifteen quilts a year, a number matched only by the oldest women of the community

Trumpold, whose ancestors came to this country from Germany in the 1840s seeking religious freedom, is a member of the Church of the True Inspiration church in the Amana Colonies in eastern Iowa. Committed to a simple, communal lifestyle, the original colonists brought along simple comforters, warm blankets rather than showy bedspreads necessary in the pre-central heating days of the nineteenth century. Not "pieced" like other American quilts, the oldest Amana comforters (now known as quilts) were made of whole cloth, woven to fit single beds and filled with wool batting, which was "quilted" to keep the batting in place. In keeping with their economical life, women of the seven Amana Colonies would recycle the old worn quilts, removing the wool batting and having it cleaned and re-carded to fill a new quilt.

Like many folk traditions, quilting allows for innovation and adaptation to change but still operates within certain rules. Today, Amana quilts are made for double, queen, and king size beds, so the quilting frames have also gotten larger. Printed material is now used as are contrasting quilting threads. Traditional quilts used the diamond pattern as the principle design with perhaps a flower print on the outside border.

Over the years, other patterns entered the repertoire: the serpent pattern, hearts, flowers, wreaths, and so on were copied from books, drawn by hand, or even copied onto linoleum or heavy paper and then cut out. Using chalk (which will wash out of the finished quilt), quilters trace designs onto the quilt top using these "templates," straight edges, and strings. The color of the top often influences the quilted design: pink fabric often has wild roses while blue material has forget-me-nots or irises.

In the Amanas, as in many cultures, quilts were particularly important at the time of marriage. Both bride and groom brought at least two quilts to the marriage. Although most other quilts were recycled, wedding quilts were often saved for sentimental reasons, providing a window into the past for today's Amana residents.

Even after the Amana community was dissolved officially in 1932, traditional crafts and particularly quilting continued to be an important for women in the community, providing them with a social activity and an way of identify with their heritage. Always a community or family affair, quilting in the Amanas continues to involve women of all ages, many of whom display and sell their quilts at the Amana Arts Guild in High Amana. Caroline Trumpold was a featured artist in the Smithsonian’s 1996 Festival of American Folklife, the Sesquicentennial Festival of Iowa Folklife, and the 2001 Festival of Iowa Folklife.

Contact Information: Amana Arts Guild, www.jeonet.com/ag/, 319.622.3678.