One more Amish mask post (last one?). This one was a little under-the-radar, but caught my attention for several reasons (via the Beaver County Times).

One, this is probably the plainest Amish group I’ve seen involved in mask making. This is New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Amish here are not as strict as say Swartzentruber Amish, but this is one of the most traditional Amish communities. These women are using old-style foot-powered treadle sewing machines. “Higher” Amish that we’ve seen in similar stories are likely using more modern machines powered by electricity from various sources.

Two – they describe the process in more detail than any of the other reports. I found this interesting, including how they set up their machines:

Four foot-powered antique sewing machines were brought into one local Amish home, and three families immediately got to work. Children began measuring and cutting fabric and elastic, and the women began sewing.

Amish women have been quilting and sewing their entire lives, and can get a mask made in under five minutes without electricity, Hougleman said.

The seamstresses placed their sewing machines facing one another.

“Talking and laughing together makes our work go faster,” one Amish seamstress reportedly said.

More sewing machines and sewers were added and they’ve been sewing for 12 hours a day. After two days, the ladies began running out of elastic, until a local seamstress shared more than 1,000 yards with them.

Orders are coming in through the mail from all over the nation, and locals are flocking to the quilt shop for masks.

At 12 hours a day and 5 minutes per mask, that would be over 140 masks per sewer per day, breaks not included. Even with breaks it’s safe to say they are doing 100+ apiece on that schedule. That’s hustling.

This is a business venture, and I say good for them. Earlier efforts, for instance in Lancaster County, were described as charitable with masks being donated. But that was nearly six weeks ago when there was more uncertainty and questions over shortages. Now that things are clearer and more stable, it looks like there is simply going to be a steady general public need for basic masks, for at least the short term. These entrepreneurial people are helping to fill that gap.

The third point that stood out is that I have been in the quilt shop at the center of this effort before, and maybe some of you recognize it as well. Byler’s Quilt Shop (aka Byler’s Quilts and Crafts) used to be called Teena’s Quilt Shop. It looks like the name changed at least a couple years back. Teena is still in the business. I wonder if that name change was inspired by the spirit of community. Here are a couple photos from inside the shop; you’ll find more here:

amish quilt shop

Teena is a niece of Emma Byler (“Jonas Em”), who wrote the book Plain & Happy Living: Amish Recipes & Remedies (cited recently in the 5 natural remedies post). This shop is where I got my copy years ago, and where I visited briefly with Teena, who seemed like a nice lady.

quilt shop amish pa

The mask-making effort was sparked by Susan Hougelman, who runs a local tour business:

“They asked me, ‘what should we do’ and some asked if it was a plague from God,” Hougelman said. “So I printed up some flyers on how to protect themselves, and went to them and talked to them.”

On one flyer, she gave instructions on how to sew a face mask, and she delivered it two weeks ago to the Amish-run Byler’s Quilts and Crafts store in Volant.

“I asked them if they wanted to make masks and said I would put it on my Facebook page,” Hougelman said. “I told them to make about 50. Elizabeth (an Amish quilter) said OK. But the post went viral and was seen by about 100,000 people in [western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio] and got shared thousands of times.”

If you’d like to get a mask, here’s the info:

Masks may be purchased by visiting Byler’s Quilts and Crafts, 435 Quilt Shop Lane, Volant, PA, or by sending a check or cash for $5 per mask with $2 shipping costs for each mask to that same address. Masks will be mailed out the next day.

For more information contact Hougelman at susanhougelman@gmail.com or 724-923-9730.


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