We’ve got a winner of Janneken Smucker’s Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon. You’ll find out who at the bottom of this post. But first, Janneken was kind enough to answer two more of your questions and share some more quilt images.
Hmong involvement in Amish quiltmaking
Janneken Smucker: Thanks to John Leuders for asking about Hmong involvement in Amish quiltmaking. This is a topic with which I am quite familiar, and one I address and place into cultural context in Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon. The short answer is, yes, Hmong women with their own extraordinary needlework skills, which combine applique (including a particularly intricate form known as reverse applique) and embroidery, have been active participants in the Amish quilt industry.
Many Hmong refugees relocated to North America following the Vietnam War, which spilled over into regions they inhabited in Laos. Some resettled in communities near Amish and Mennonites, including in southeastern Pennsylvania, where in the early 1980s they found work in the booming quiltmaking industry in Lancaster County.
Amish and Mennonite entrepreneurs hired skilled Hmong women to do much of the applique on the new style of quilts. And unfortunately, these skilled needleworkers received little public credit, as too often quilts were marketed as “Amish made” or “locally made,” which still suggested Amish attribution to most consumers. More accurately, these quilts were collaborations, crafted with non-Amish commercially published patterns, Hmong applique, and Amish quilting. As John notes, Hmong in Wisconsin, as well as in areas near Amish settlements have submitted quilts to charitable consignment auctions (aka mud sales).
My personal take on this phenomenon is that both Amish and Hmong needleworkers are quite adaptive and eager to apply their skills to a lucrative purpose. Amish did not bring quiltmaking with them from Europe. They learned once settled in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. And once the outside world became interested in their old bedcoverings, they began making them to sell.
Similarly, Hmong women did not make American-style bed quilts, until they learned to adapt their own skills and techniques to a new purpose. Every quiltmaker—no matter their religion, race, or ethnicity–should receive credit and respect for their skills and contributions. This is exactly what Old Order Mennonite entrepreneur and quilt designer Emma Witmer does with the quilts she sells called “Harmony a-Hmong the Cultures.”
Changes in Amish Quilt Color
Wondercat asked about the changes in colors used in Amish quilts over the years: “Might Amish quilts include pink and yellow in another decade? In a given area with which Janneken is familiar, what shifts can she tell us in “acceptable” colours and fabrics that quilters may use — say, thirty years ago and today?”
Here, as in other areas, it is difficult to generalize because of the great diversity in Amish quiltmaking. Even Amish made quilts from the first half of the 20th century featured pinks and yellows, colors worn regularly by children or used even then for undergarments and sleep wear. See the cheery colors on this Illinois quilt, the bright yellow here and here, a white and blue quilt from Iowa, and every conceivable color on this Indiana quilt. And these quilts are not anomalies. It’s just that the collector and tourist market for quilts has elevated a certain type of dark and somber quilt within our collective imagination as the “real Amish quilt.”
Today as in the past, most color choices are made at the individual level, rather than by church Ordnung. The variety of color choices—both solid and printed—is vast for both contemporary home use and for the consumer market. Quiltmakers use the colors they like and the colors that sell, as well as those that conform to what others in their individual community also like.
But there are no hard and fast rules. This is part of the continuation of Amish quiltmaking shifting and changing along with others trends and fashions. The Amish have never been static or monolithic; nor have their quilts.
Amish Quilts Winner
I just used random.org to draw a winner from among the entries. Number 14 came up, which means the winner is MaryAnn Pepe. MaryAnn, send your details to me at ewesner(at)gmail.com and I will let Johns Hopkins know where to send the book.
If you didn’t win, you can find Amish Quilts in a number of places. Johns Hopkins is offering 25% off if you use the promo code NAF. This is a hardcover, full-color book–great if you’re interested in Amish quilts, and great gift material for any quilt people in your life.
If you use a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader, those versions are available too, but you’ll want to access the book on a device which can display color to get the full effect–as noted earlier there are over 100 vivid images.
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