The Best Way to Buy a Quilt in Lancaster County
First, you’ll need a pair of boots and a plastic bag. Better take along a warm coat and I would definitely wear jeans. Go soon – this opportunity is only available in February, March and early April. Take cash, or, if you live in Pennsylvania, a check. Be prepared to walk a bit -there is never enough parking.
Next, you’ll head to the nearest Mud Sale. If you aren’t familiar with that term, it has everything to do with the boots and plastic bag. A sale, in Lancaster County terms, means “auction”. The Mud Sales held every spring are fundraisers for our local fire companies. All types of things are sold at them, from antiques to quilts. (See our blog from January, 2009 “Do They Really Sell Mud? to learn more about them.)
On Saturday, we set off for Honeybrook – the first of the Mud Sales. While it was actually just over the border in Chester County, there were enough Amish there that we felt as though we were in Lancaster! There were kids in charge of a wagon to help people with their purchases, Amish men bidding on horses and tools, and Amish women inside the quilt building. That’s what we’ll be talking about today.
The quilts are all made locally, and are either donated or on consignment for the Fire Company. The proceeds from this day’s auction will help fund the fire company – and as everyone knows, fires are a very real threat to farmers. Amish and Mennonites make up a significant percentage of the force – especially in Terre Hill.
Women work most of the winter (or longer) to produce the quilts for the sales. You’ll see every size, color, and pattern. If you are not too picky, and if you don’t mind not looking them over closely before hand, you can get a tremendous buy.
Be warned – the bidding is swift, there are hundreds of quilts, and there’s no time to put the auctioneer on “pause”. Set a price limit for yourself and know the colors that you can use. There will be a sheet available with all the quilts listed – they usually also put down the dimensions that will work for the different bed sizes.
Now the fun begins as the auctioneer starts his cadence, “Do I hear two hundred, two, two, two hundred”? Although every auctioneer has his own unique call, Bruce thinks they all sound a bit like a Native American war chant. Give your ears a chance to adjust and soon you’ll be able to follow the bids. You’ll probably learn several of the patterns, and you’ll experience Amish kids running in and out. While we were there, an Amish girl was fascinated with blowing her soap bubbles and another boy was busy eating a long tube of candy.
A good auctioneer will also announce if the quilt is signed, or if there are any “spots” on it. Once you purchase your quilt, allow about 20 minutes for them to process your bill and wrap the quilt. Surprisingly, some of the fire companies are now accepting credit cards, but I wouldn’t count on it, so unless you have a PA check, bring some cash.
Certainly this is not the only way to buy a quilt made in Lancaster County….there are dozens of stores, all with knowledgeable salespeople who will help you.
There are farms where you can purchase right from the quilter (just look for hand-made signs). And, on March 24- 27, the American Quilters Society is having its annual convention at the Lancaster County Convention Center. Any quilter worth her stitches will no doubt be there, as Lancaster County is Quilt Country.
So, yes, it’s not the only way to purchase a quilt, but it sure is the most fun!
Here’s a list of upcoming Mud Sales which will be selling quilts. They are all within a short drive of the Artist’s Inn in Terre Hill:
February 27 – Strasburg Spring Consignment & Mud Sale
8 a.m., Strasburg Fire Company #1, 203 Franklin St., Strasburg. 717-687-7232 or Strasburg Fire Co
March 6 –Bart Township Annual Auction/Mud Sale
8:30 a.m., Bart Twp. Fire Company, 11 Furnace Rd., Quarryville. 717-786-3348 or Bart Twp. Fire Co.
Antiques, quilts, furniture, new & used equipment, small goods, hay & straw, livestock, buggies, tools, crafts and food.