There Are Moments

You’re reading this blog because 37 years ago an Amish woman invited me to sit down next to her and put a few stitches into a quilt. I had never seen a quilt in frame before, and I wasn’t all that familiar with Amish people either.

There are moments that define us. We may not recognize them at the time,  but looking back it is easy to see the profound impact a single moment can have in our lives. A single moment, a gesture of friendship, can be life-changing.

In the summer of 1975 I was about to start my senior year of college. As an anthropology major I was required to write a thesis that year, and I had decided to study the Old Order Amish. There was a large community close by, my advising professor had an “in” and I showed up at a barn raising one steamy August day hoping to meet Harry Stutzman. He and his family had allowed several introductory anthropology classes to visit their dairy farm. My plan was to somehow make a connection which would allow me to study Amish culture by participating in it.

I met Harry as he and about 40 other Amish men were taking a break in the shelter of a tool shed across the road from the barn that was being rebuilt. Only the young men were still working on the framing as it drizzled. I  felt everyone’s eyes on me. It didn’t help that I had driven up to the barn twice before (turning around each time, driving back to the main road) trying to work up enough courage to stop and get out of my car. I’m sure they were quite interested to know what an English girl (non-Amish) with out-of-state plates was doing driving back and forth on this small country lane.

Harry smiled and shook my hand. He walked me over to the barn and we stood chatting in the center of the structure as the hammering went on above us. I felt like an idiot. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, I didn’t have much experience with barns. It was really hard keeping up my end of the conversation. After a while Harry suggested I drive over to a “quilting” and meet Ida, his wife.

Geographically challenged anyway, and totally befuddled with directions that included only compass points, type of road surface and references to curves and hills, I set out for the quilting, whatever that was. I was used to roads with names, traffic lights, and landmarks that were buildings. I got so lost I had to ask an Amish man on a bicycle for directions. I must have looked really confused because he offered to have me follow him there!

Ida invited me to sit down next to her at the frame. I knew what a quilt was but had no idea how they were made. I didn’t expect to see something that looked like a giant trampoline. She asked if I wanted to quilt. I wanted her to like me, so I said yes. Did I need a thimble? No, I didn’t need one. All the women around the frame giggled.

I tried to imitate the quilting stitch, thinking it was a peculiar way to sew since the object seemed to be to push the needle straight down without any clue where it was going to come out on the other side. Then, unbelievably, you had to find the needle by touch (I didn’t see any of the women bending over to stick their heads under the trampoline to find their needle) and push the needle back up again without the benefit of sight. My stitches were huge and I bled all over the quilt, top and bottom.

Still, somehow, I found the process and the camaraderie of the women sewing together as appealing as it was painful. Long story short, after I finished my thesis I asked Ida to teach me how to quilt. For years I wouldn’t quilt a top until I had driven back to Indiana to show Ida. She always told me I had done well. Without her encouragement I never would have had the confidence to continue.

I am a quilter because of Ida. The moment when I first sat around that quilting frame changed my life.

Ida and I became good friends over the years. Visits with Ida and her family always included recalling the several months after we met when I stayed with the family. I dressed Amish, learned how to milk cows, pick corn, hitch up a buggy, and find my way around on the country roads. I was given an incredible opportunity to learn about Amish life. Most of all I have been blessed to have Ida and Harry and the Stutzman family as part of my life.

On Friday night I got a phone call that Ida had “gone to eternity.” She was 91.  Harry and their daughter Martha preceded her in death. Mourning Ida’s passing are her nine living children, 43 grandchildren, 98 great grandchildren, and an English girl in Flint, Michigan whom she taught to quilt.

Thank you, Ida. You will always be in my heart.

182 thoughts on “There Are Moments

  1. I remember fondly the time I got to hitch a ride with you and stay at Ida and Harry’s house. I still giggle when I remember Harry telling me if I wanted to ride in the buggy, I had to catch a horse first, and the little barefoot boy who had to go get one for me because I failed at my attempt. I so enjoyed that time with you and your sweet friends. God has two faithful servants in Heaven with Him. Thanks for sharing, Ami! Hugs to you!

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  2. Ida is in wonderful company. My dear father-in-law went to glory late last Wednesday night. I converted my M-i-L to a quilter years ago… So he’s pre-trained in picking threads off people, should the need arise!

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  3. Ami– Ida’s lovely gift to you lives in the many new quilters you have taught as well as the in the money AAQI has raised. It is unbelievable to me how one simple gesture can have such a profound impact. I am sorry for your loss and grateful to you for the reminder that my impact in life can be simple to be effective and profound. I will pass this on to my children.
    Alice in Bloomington, IN.

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      1. Isn’t it wonderful how one person can make such a huge difference, by sharing their love and talent, to some many people? I’m not particulary good at quilting but have decided to make 24 quilts for our new Veterans Homeless Shelter in South Bend, IN. I told some friends, who told some friends, etc. that I needed cotton material for this project and the out pouring has been awesome! Not only will those Vets get quilts, but am now also making quilts for the 18 beds for our local shelter for victums of abuse, called Polly’s Place in Niles, MI….it is struggling financially and needs our help………..what a blessing to have so many care so much……for someone less fortunate than themselves!

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    1. Beautifully said, Alice! You have managed to put into words what I felt but could not articulate so well. The visual image was the drop in the pool causing ripples.

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  4. This story touched my heart. I wish when those life-changing moments happen in our life there would be trumpets playing in the background so I would remember the smells, sounds, sights, and everything about that moment for the rest of my life. But, alas, it is only by looking back at our lives carefully can we realize what moments changed our lives drastically. Thanks for this memory.

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  5. Ami—I had the pleasure to visit Lancaster PA this past Fall and encountered many lovely Amish women, one of them will always have a special place in my ♥. Thank you for sharing your lovely story, Diane

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  6. Sharing your experience of how the moments that change our lives come without warning is a reminder to live in the present and to treat it as such, an unexpected gift. Thanks for sharing that gift with us.

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  7. How difficult to lose such a dear friend as Ida. My sympathy to you, as even we know that Ida is so happy in Heaven. You surely were blessed to have her in your life. Thanks for a beautiful story.

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  8. Ida lives on in the quilters she has touched and taught as well as through you and your own legacy. Thanks for sharing your memories so we all can see that truly our lives are defined by our simple gestures and moments of kindness.

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  9. Thank you Ami for sharing your life changing experience with us all. You have changed many lives as a result of your time with Ida. You were blessed to have a quilting teacher who gave you encouragement and friendship. I’m truly sorry for your loss of your friend and mentor.

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  10. What a sweet and touching story. So sorry for your loss, but so happy for that moment that forever changed you like. Just think – if you had not met her, so many of us would never have enjoying you, your quilting, and your sense of humor.

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  11. God bless Ida’s family, including you as you mourn her loss and celebrate the legacy this lovely woman created, simply through patience, kindness and a gentle disposition. Often too much time is spent on legacies of the rich and famous, when in reality, people like Ida touch the lives of others in greater depth. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story.

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  12. Ami, you have been truly blessed with two beautiful women to guide you through life’s journey. I am sure that your two angles are in heaven singing your praises and sharing their “Ami” stories. Thanks for sharing your stories of Ida and your Mom.

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  13. Ami, What a wonderful experience you had with Ida and her family! This so touched my heart. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Pat

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  14. Ami, I lost my dear 93-year old mother on Saturday. She was a beautiful quilter and a beautiful person. There are those in our lives who influence us in many ways. Thank you for sharing your story of Ida. Jean

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  15. Ami, thank you for sharing. You are fortunate, indeed, to have had Ida in your life, and to have maintained contact with her. We are all indebted to Ida – the ripples of her influence extend to us all. And your sharing your story has undoubtedly influenced many of us to pause and examine our own defining moments. May blessings abound.

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  16. We all have quilting Mothers, Grace Buchanan was mine. I was eight years old or so, together we made a doll quilt, by hand. I used squares from her stash. I heard over and over, that’s not good enough, you must take it out. She quilted it after the top was done.
    I owe my skills to her and still remember those summer days on her porch in Brooklyn

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  17. Such a wonderful and inspiring story. Like you said, you never know when that person, event or moment will change your life forever. It certainly sounds like you got the “right directions” from Harry, Ida and all the others who have helped to shape your journey. I appreciate you sharing this gift with so many quilters and regular people around the world. You have made your own impact, Ami, and for this I thank YOU!

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  18. Ami, what a beautiful tribute; it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it. I’m sure Ida still feels your love. Your words made me pick up the phone to call a dear senior friend of mine to say hello. Thanks for sharing this story, and the gentle reminder to treasure our friends.

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  19. What a beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for sharing! I am going to pass it on to the ladies in my charity knitting/crocheting group (called Mother’s Hugs) so they can see how important each stitch they make really is. Hugs and prayers for you.

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  20. Ami, Ida’s gift to you was not just her teaching you to quilt, but also her gentle and loving encouragement along the way. Her support gave you a new medium in which to express yourself. That world gave you opportunities to share your humor and joy with others. Her example allowed you to then be encouraging to others as they began their journey. And through your reaching out to others you have created a way to share your family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and now you are able to help others in a way I know you never envisioned even 10 short years ago.

    We all have an effect on those we meet in this life. It is how we choose to share the blessings He gives us with others that let’s us truly touch others in a positive way. He sent you to Ida for a reason and her faithfulness to Him as well as her affection for you will always remain as an example to her family on how to live a life of integrity, love and openness to those they meet.

    My prayers are with you as you both mourn this wonderful woman’s passing.

    ~ Melissa

    p.s. – Think what a kick she and your mother must be having sharing stories about you.

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  21. So sorry for your loss of Ida. I read about some of your quilting start in How NOT to Make a Prize Winning Quilt. It was the 1st quilt book I ever read. I will say a prayer for all of Ida’s family & for you.

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  22. Ami, please accept my sincere condolences on your loss, and know that because Ida taught you to quilt, you taught me to quilt an applique through your classes and books. My thanks to both you and Ida.
    Peace and Love
    Jan Igoe

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  23. Ami, I first fell for Ida in your “how NOT to make a prize winning quilt”; that book made a difference in my life.Three cheers for Ida in your life. Godspeed to you and Ida’s family, and Scooter, of course.

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  24. Ida’s left a legacy thru you to all of us that you have inspired in quilting. May God bless her soul. I’m so sorry for your loss of such a good friend and inspiration.

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  25. What a lovely tribute you a dear friend. And now the rest of “your” quilting friends have gained from all you learned with her help.

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  26. What a beautiful post. Made me laugh, and then cry. This goes in the all-time best posts lists.
    Lordy, 98 grandchildren? That’s astonishing.
    My condolences on the passing of your quilting mentor.
    Would love to hear more of your Amish stories. :)

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  27. Am, I am sending a copy of this to my Mom. No one ever know what a profound affect they will have on a person! The main idea is to be able to accept the lessons

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  28. What an incredible opportunity you had! Thank you for sharing the story of how you met Ida and continued that friendship. How blessed you were for knowing her, and somehow I’m pretty sure she felt the same way about you ;-)

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  29. You have my sympathies and prayers. It is always difficult to loose a friend and mentor. I know Ida was proud of the legacy she left by teaching you the quilting and life arts. Rejoice in her spirit and hold those memories dear.

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  30. What a beautiful memorial to Ida! I remember you writing before about your experiences with the Amish, college and learning to quilt. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  31. Gosh Ami, you are so eloquent in your story telling during your grief and mourning; typing through tears I’m sure. What a lovely tribute to Ida, Harry and their family/way of life. I’m glad to get more details on your total experience. Up until this time I was thinking it was just a single day or week perhaps. Such a legacy you’ve built and shared with all of us too! I hope Scooter is licking your tears away. Dogs are so wonderfully absorbent that way!! Hugs, Allison

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  32. (((Hugs for Ami))) What a wonderful treasure Ida’s friendship was for you. Do I remember correctly that you wrote a book about your Amish experience? Are you going to do a quilt of your car going up a country road to a barn raising, or you and Ida at the quilt frame? What an amazing experience you were given such a long time ago.

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  33. We all should be so fortunate to have special moments and special people in our lives. You were blessed with Ida.

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  34. Ami, it is evident that it was not just cloth that Ida taught you to quilt; her simple but profound gifts pieced together the fabric of so many lives … I am humbled and blessed by her talents passed on to you and then on to so many others … Hugs and smiles to you, Yvette and Ms Daisy in SCa

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  35. What a wonderful tribute. Gone, but not forgotten into the arms of eternity. You were lucky to have had her in your life. We are lucky you had her in your life, too.

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  36. Our world is getting smaller and smaller as people connect and go out with their experiences and friendship to share. Ami, you have enriched and influenced so many people as a result of your “adopted” family and their way of life. Thank you for sharing! Take care of yourselves in this time of sadness and memories.

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  37. Ami, What a wondrful way to celibrate your quilting life with this great tribute to Ida. She sent you off on an adventure that she never could have imagined that day you asked her to teach you to quilt. Thanks for sharing !! Nancy

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  38. Thank you, Ami, for sharing this lovely story. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Ida’s family at this sad, but joyous, time.

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  39. What a wonderful story! You are very fortunate to have such touching and beautiful memories! It certainly brought a tear to my eye, experiences like yours are truly heartwarming.

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  40. and isn’t it wonderful to know that, in a likewise manner, you continue to carry on her love of community, service and sewing with your circle of friends – she leaves a huge legacy, through you!

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  41. What a lovely story and to have lived a part of Amish life must have been an enchanting experience that many of us envy I am sure.

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  42. What a wonderful story.. She passed her legacy on to so many through you. You were lucky to have such a soul in your life. Blessings.

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  43. Sorry for your loss but what a wonderful tribute to your friend.

    It has brought to my mind my first time of quilting. I was invited by my girlfriend to go to her mother’s house (I was in high school). In her dining room was a large frame and many women sitting around the frame and quilting, I was asked to join them, like you were and the adventure had it’s start. My Mom became a quilter and year after she was gone have also gotten into quilting, Thank God for all the teachers who has taught us all how to quilt.

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  44. Sorry for your loss. I’m sure Ida is up in heaven quilting with my Judy, the one who changed my life with quilting. Hugs.

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  45. I was in tears when I finished reading this. What a blessing to have had her in your life for such a long time. Hugs to you and her family (think how long that would take).

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  46. How lucky you were Ami. What a priviledge to join the community and make such a friend – and how fortunate for the world of quilting.Thank you for sharing in such a moving piece. How lovely that Ida lives on in your quilting skills.

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  47. Another lesson on pursuing life outside your comfort zone. There are so many people and places waiting for us to discover…if we just take that chance and make the best of it. Thank you for taking that chance and sharing your story.

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  48. That is a beautiful story and you are such a fortunate woman to have such strong people in your history.

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  49. Ami,

    What a wonderful tribute to your dear friend and mentor. Ida was a wonderful, gentle, caring soul who touched the life of a young girl, who has since touched thousands of lives. We owe her a debt of gratitude for teaching you to quilt. One simple caring act can have a profound affect on a young person’s life. Thank you, Ida.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers as you say goodbye to a dear friend.

    Hugs, Norma

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  50. Ami,
    Lessons learned that you still share with your quilt sisters.
    Prayers for you and your family.

    Peace & blessings to you always.

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  51. Her kind and patient gesture (imagine letting someone bleed on your quilt!) continues to teach: A simple act of kindness can ripple out and who knows where it will reach? Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute.

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  52. Dear Ami,
    Your touching way with words always brings tears, (even when you’re being funny.)
    How wonderful for you to have had that joyful experience in your life and how generous of Ida and family to make you a part of theirs. You had to have been her favorite student !!
    So sorry for your loss.
    Sending hugs and prayers, (for your Mom too.)
    Dorrie

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  53. What a beautiful story of friendship and how much it can make a difference in our lives. I’m sure that Ida is now in heaven and that you’ll meet up with her one day. Just don’t make it too soon cause we need you here! Thanks for sharing!

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  54. What a lovely tribute to Ida. God rest her dear soul.

    My Aunt Evelyn introduced me to quilting when I was a teen. Like you, it was a life changing moment that set me onto the wonderful path of being a life-long quilter. I will forever be grateful for her teaching and inspiring me to quilt. She passed away just this past March. I made a point of telling her 2 daughters how much Aunt Evelyn meant to me…and my quilting.

    Thank you for sharing your love for Ida and how she set you on to the quilting-road.

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  55. Ami, so sorry for your loss of Ida. Both of you were blessed to know each other. I’ve been fascinated, like many, of the Amish ways. Would love to read your thesis. Is that possible?

    Will be thinking of you in the coming days.

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  56. Ami, Your friend lived a good long life and was cherished by many. I am so glad that she brought you into her family and shared quilting (and many other things with you). I’ve heard your stories about her many times over our long friendship, and share your sadness in the loss of this special friend. Hugs for you, Judy

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  57. Thank you for sharing your story of Ida. What a gift she gave to you and in turn to all of us that know you because of this fine art. May she rest in peace. Big Hugs to you!

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  58. Such a touching story. How very blessed you were, Ami, to have met Ida & her family. We never know when someone will have a lasting part of our life. Ida will be with you forever. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

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  59. this is a beautiful story about my grandparents.. i will always continue to treaure their awesome hearts of hospitality <3

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  60. Ami, I enjoyed your story…was so very touched. I, too, have always been intrigued with the Amish and their peaceful way of life. While I’ve done much research and have had the pleasure of purchasing an Amish quilt from a most wonderful lady, I’ve not been able to sit down with them at a quilting. I’m sorry for your friend’s passing, but what wonderful memories you’ll always have.
    Deb

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