Monday, May 15, 2017

The rise of Amish quilts businesses

In 2009, well past the summit of the Amish quilt marketplace, the satirical online newspaper, The Onion, printed a brief article below the headline, "Amish Girl Knew She'd Quilt Sale the Second She Laid Eyes on Chicago Couple." The post carried on to detail the way the proprietor had her daughters "put on a small dog and pony show"; she said, "Give 'em a little 'no electricity' this, and some 'butter churn' that and chaching, you have got enough barn raising cash to last you a month." Just as this fictional store did, Amish and non-Amish quilt companies advertised quilts with the knowledge that consumers were fascinated with Amish culture and comprehended that when it came to quilts, Amish ones were greatest.

Many Amish settlements---especially those that bring tourists---have become home to quilt companies. The very first Amish-run quilt companies started in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the early 1970s. Hannah Stoltzfoos started her store in 1972, growing her company at a time when Amish quilts had started to bring widespread attention. In this period, the "Quilt Revival" started to emerge, inspired in part by the impending American Bicentennial as well as a renewed taste of conventional women's artwork. Companies like Stoltzfoos's began small, but grew as demand rose: in 1972 she sold 20 quilts on consignment, and in 1976 she sold 500. Most Amish companies were managed right out of houses, enlarging as needed. Some stores ran on the consignment model, retailing quilts made by others, while others purchased quilts outright. Some functioned as highly ordered operations, together with the businesswoman organizing all facets of quilt creation. Non-Amish entrepreneurs handled some businesses in the Amish quilt business, working with Amish quilt makers to make quilts for the consumer marketplace.

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