Surprises galore when I chatted with friends in Lancaster County last week! I’m grateful many of my Amish and English (anyone non-Amish) friends in Lancaster County, PA, have cell phones or were standing near their phone shanties when I called.
I spoke to friend Herb Scrivener, owner of Zook’s Fabrics in Intercourse, PA. Herb is English and bought the popular shop from its Amish owner, Lizzy Zook. Zook’s is spacious. The majority of the fabric is a plethora of vibrant colors and designs. Fancy fabrics are purchased either by English for their own use, or by Amish to sew items like potholders or pillows, or fabricate quilts, aprons, and gifts for tourists.
Bolts of solid colored fabric, which the Amish use to sew their own clothing, are displayed near the store’s front door. Not only may Amish women work in Zook’s, owned by an Englisher, but they also come in to purchase fabric.
Keeping in mind that all church districts have their own Ordnung (rules they must obey), I asked Herb the same question I’ve asked several Amish women: May Amish wear red in this District? All emphatically assured me younger Amish women wear red, with a black apron. I was surprised, as I’d assumed they were restricted to maroon or burgundy. In fact, one Old Order Amish woman told me, “Sometimes guys will wear red shirts to match their girlfriend’s dress.” The older women continue to wear more traditional dark colors, such as sage green, navy blue, or charcoal gray.
Another surprise was that one of Herb’s Amish saleswomen rides a motorized scooter to work. By scooter, I mean low-to-the-ground conveyances many Amish propel with a push of the foot, as Amish are not allowed to ride bicycles in Lancaster County. This ingenious scooter is powered by a battery.
Herb let me in on a controversy five years ago surrounding organdy, the delicate, white fabric used for sewing women’s aprons and head coverings—Kapps. For decades Zook’s was one of the few places to buy the exquisite and expensive organdy imported straight from its Swiss producer. A new organdy is now available at one-third the cost, is easier to handle, and lasts two to three times longer. Some districts did not initially allow the new organdy, but according to Herb it is now accepted throughout the area. Keep in mind that there are almost two hundred church districts in Lancaster County and each has its own Ordnung.
Zook’s doesn’t carry yarn, but Amish-owned Nancy’s Notions, a business attached to the rear of Zook’s, does. I called Nancy’s. The salesperson, an Amish woman I’ve spoken on several occasions, said the yarn is mostly bought by Englishers as the Amish in her area do not knit. An Amish friend in Indiana echoed the same opinion. “They do crochet baby blankets and doilies, but not sweaters.” In Lancaster County the Amish are more apt to wear sweaters bought at Nancy’s Notions or Walmart. In Lancaster County, usually in solid black.
What else might they buy at Walmart? The younger women might purchase a modest bathing suit, while women over thirty may prefer to sew their own, or wear a T-shirt over shorts. In Lancaster County, Amish women also shop in the outlet stores.
The Amish are a fascinating group and their customs vary from district to district, in locations all across North America and Canada. Did any of these facts about them surprise you?
Enter to win a signed copy of one of the books from The Legacy Lancaster Trilogy, plus a light-weight tote bag and mug from Zook’s Fabrics!
Kate Lloyd, a native of Baltimore, loves to spend time with family and friends in Lancaster County, PA, the inspiration for her bestselling novels Leaving Lancaster and Pennsylvania Patchwork. Her latest book, Forever Amish is the third novel in the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.
She and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest, the setting for Kate’s first novel, A Portrait of Marguerite. Kate studied art and art history in college. She’s worked a variety of jobs, including car salesman and restaurateur.
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