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Friday, May 05, 2006


Pa. quilt makers get a hand from Hmong

Don't miss this fascinating article in the Baltimore Sun about the Hmong tribe of Thailand that assists the Mennonites of Pennsylvania Dutch Country in keeping up with the demand for Mennonite and Amish quilts.

Many Hmong came to the United States after the war, and this group was rescued by the Mennonites of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Mennonites and Amish, the Plain People of Pennsylvania, are the monarchs of American quilt making.

These people of northern European origin had much in common with the Hmong, despite being from opposite sides of the world. Both cultures were agrarian, insular, deeply religious and bound by tradition. The new arrivals had one other thing in common with
their hosts: the ability to ply a needle with grace, a skill the Amish and Mennonites admired and valued. The connection between these peoples would eventually push the cottage industry of quilt making into the global marketplace, an example of history's serendipity.

. . .

But most quilt shop owners do not mention their Southeast Asian workers. That would spoil the image of a Lancaster quilt as the product of strictly Amish or Mennonite hands. Quilt tags in pricey shops credit the work of Lancaster's Plain People but rarely the Hmong, who are
referred to as "local Lancaster quilters" or not mentioned at all.

To keep the identities of these women from the eyes of tourists, some shop owners won't allow Hmong in their stores during business hours and make them use the back door when delivering piecework. One Amish shop owner once made a Hmong seamstress hide in the coal cellar. It is the dark side of the alliance that has existed for more than two decades.

Read the full article about the Hmong now.

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