The Amish community in Shipshewana, Indiana, and its surrounding townspeople, is the setting in Wanda Brunstetter’s latest Amish fiction novel, The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club.
Amish woman, Emma Yoder, decides to offer in-house quilting classes to supplement her income after the death of her beloved husband, Ivan. Advertising in the local paper, and on store bulletin boards, Emma is surprised by the students drawn to her offering.
Six diverse people enroll in Emma’s class, each bringing their unique life story to the workshop dynamics. The six-week quilting course proves to be not only a craft learning experience, but life lessons as well.
Twenty-year-old Star Stevens joins Emma’s class in memory of her grandmother who died two weeks ago from cancer. Perusing her grandmother’s belongings, she finds an envelope detailing Emma’s pre-paid quilting class in Star’s name.
Star, born Beatrice Stevens, despises her birth name. Raised solely by a mother who left a trail of boyfriends, Star never knew her father. Star aspires to be a successful songwriter despite her mother’s discouragement.
Thirty-something couple, Pam and Stuart Johnston, is experiencing conflict in their marriage. Their marriage counselor suggests they explore activities together. Having gone fishing (which she hates) with Stuart two weekends in a row, she convinces him that it’s his turn to accommodate her likes, which is quilting.
Ruby Lee Williams is pastor Gene’s wife; and they’re experiencing tension with their congregation. Gene wants to build an addition on to the church; yet members are against spending their limited funds. Ruby joins Emma’s class as a diversion to her troubles, thinking she’ll make a quilt for a local shut-in, or decorate their newly purchased home.
Paul Ramirez lost his twenty-five-year-old wife, Lorinda, in a car accident; and is now the sole provider for their nine-month-old baby, Sophia. Lorinda’s sister, Carmen, blames Paul for her death. Paul enrolls in Emma’s class upon his sister Maria’s suggestion he learn how to complete the quilt Lorinda had started for Sophia before her death.
Burly, roofer, Jan Sweet, relies on his coworker, Terry for transportation to work. Convicted of a DUI, he has three months left on his license suspension. His probation officer suggests he find a creative outlet to bide his time. Jan notices Emma’s quilting class advertisement at a convenient store; and enrolls.
Widower, Lamar Miller is smitten with Emma; yet she shuns his adoration, swearing she’ll never love again after Ivan. Her defenses weaken after a recurring bout of shingles. Lamar, knowledgeable in quilt making since his deceased wife owned a quilt shop, offers to teach one of her classes. Reluctantly, she agrees, with a surprisingly positive outcome.
“Half-stitched” refers to the group’s life struggles they’re facing. Lamar tells Emma she’s teaching a “bunch of half-stitched quilters.” She replies, “What do you mean?” “They’ve all got problems, Emma, and with the exception of Pam, none of ’em can sew all that well,” he answers.
Scriptures augment Brunstetter’s narrative to reinforce key messages: “I know I need to keep praying,” said Paul. “In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, it says we are to pray continually. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard-especially when we don’t see answers to our prayers.”
Amish culture is accentuated throughout the book: Emma uses a treadle sewing machine (vs. her students learning on a battery-operated machine), because the Amish shun electricity; and she declines to be featured in a group photo because the Amish see posing for pictures as a sign of pride.
The book features glossy pages explaining the history of Amish quilts; quilt patterns complementing the narrative, including The Double Wedding Ring, The Star, and The Tumbling Baby Block; Emma Yoder’s Angel Cream Pie recipe; and questions for discussion at book’s end.
The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club entertainingly reminds us of the power of faith; and mirrors any group you might be participating in-each person embodies a unique life perspective, along with life challenges, many unseen. The musical, based on the book, opens this summer in Shipshewana, Indiana.
To discover more about the Amish community in Shipshewana, Indiana as a tourist attraction, visit: http://www.riegsecker.com.