In southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as in some midwestern communities, Hmong women found work adapting their needlework tradition to the Amish quilt industry. Yet this economic arrangement among Hmong seamstresses and Amish and Mennonite quilt entrepreneurs was not without controversy. During the 1990s and 2000s, inexpensive factory-made quilts—true cheap imports—and an apparent decline in consumer demand had brought down the prices of quilts sold in Lancaster County’s quilt shops. By the early 2000s some Hmong working in Lancaster County’s quilt industry had become disappointed with the decreasing profits earned through quiltmaking. If consumers no longer sought out Amish quilts in great numbers, Hmong seamstresses could no longer consider stitching away on “Amish quilts” as a viable income. Hmong quiltmakers also grew frustrated that they did not receive credit for their work, as many shops referred to quilts Hmong contributed to as “Amish made” or “local made.”
Out of the controversy over Hmong contributions to “Amish” quilts, Old Order Mennonite businesswoman Emma Witmer has attempted to find harmony, celebrating the individual contributions of Amish, Mennonite, and Hmong needleworkers. Since the 1990s she has designed and sold hybrid quilts featuring Hmong paj ntaub in settings typically found on Amish and Mennonite made quilts.