When I think of Amish craftspeople, I think of quilters and blacksmiths. I would never think of a leather worker who creates belts and purses from alligator or ostrich. But that is what one Amish craftsman does in a shop we visited during the Blue Gate Amish Tours Up Close and Personal Tour in Shipshewana, Indiana. As part of that tour, we also visited a Mennonite family that creates a special kind of basket, and an Amish bishop’s home.
Our Blue Gate Amish Tours guide, Allen, encouraged us to ask questions of the Amish bishop we were about to meet in Shipshewana, Indiana. “Nothing’s off limits,” he told us. So the twelve guests on the Evening in an Amish Home tour spent the time asking Bishop Monroe Yoder questions. We came away realizing that although the Amish culture is different in many respects from mainstream America, we have more in common with them than we knew.
Last summer we headed to Elkhart County in northern Indiana to travel the world’s only quilt gardens driving tour. The quilt gardens are intertwined with the area’s Heritage Trail, so we essentially took two driving tours simultaneously. The drive takes you along city streets and country roads in both Elkhart and LaGrange Counties, passing through seven cities and towns, including Nappanee and Shipshewana, the heart of Amish Country.