Around the middle of March this year Hosam EL Farouk, Tarek Abd El Hay and filmmaker Kim Beamish took to the skies for over 24 hours to reach Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the US of A. On arriving in Pennsylvania at Harrisburg airport they were picked up in a very plush car and driven to the Marriot Hotel in Penn Square, Lancaster. The hotel had been a retail store years ago and many people spoke about coming there when they were young, John A. King particularly remembered the buggy ride he used to make with his mother, but more on that later.
The hotel backs onto the exhibition halls that made up the American Quilters Society Quilt Week show. Three stories of quilts, fabrics, cotton, needles, sewing machines, books, gadgets and more with tens of thousands of people tramping about the show over the four days it was open.
Tucked up on the third floor were Hosam and Tarek who drew quite a crowd of amazed visitors. Hosam and Tarek have been sewing for over 60 years if you combine their experience and their needle skills prove it as they tore through 100s of stitches in just over a few minutes.
The needles they use are large and one of the most often commented on items. In fact the size of their needles has often been compared to a crow bar and the scissors they both use something akin to garden sheers. However with these two tools and yards of Egyptian cotton they are able to produce some of the most stunning and intricate hand stitched applique many of the visitors to the AQS show had ever seen.
Hung on the walls behind Hosam and Tarek were a selection of pieces bought by the AQS from Chareh El Khiamiah in Cairo. The works covered most of the 18 shops in the street and were hot items as the show progressed. Each night the work that had been sold would be taken down and replaced with new pieces and by the end of the show almost all of the pieces had been sold.
On the second day of the show standing in the background and looking intently on the stitching of Hosam was a man donned in a black felt hat, black trousers and black jacket with a long though trimmed beard with no mustache. He had a smile from ear to ear and would stand watching for a long while before turning to look at the pieces hanging on the walls and then return to watch some more.
Kim had been filming for a while before noticing that this man had become a big part of the scene. He had also realised that this man was a part of the Amish community that lives in and around Lancaster. The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christians known for their simple living, plain clothing and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology and a do not usually approve of their photos being taken or image being used. So when the opportunity arouse Kim went up to speak to the man to see if there might be a problem. There was none.
John A. King is himself a quilter along with his wife Emma G. King and the next day John brought his wife, Emma, to the show. Now in the background of each shot were John and Emma who could not go unnoticed due to their traditional attire. Both John and Emma had smiles from ear to ear and Emma often commented with an, “Oh my!” as Hosam kept a ferocious pace with the needle. After a while it again became necessary for Kim to ask about whether or not there might be a problem with John and Emma being in the scene. This time John introduced his wife Emma who instantly invited Kim for lunch the next day on their farm. As well as letting him know that as long as they were not directly interacting with the camera there was no problem with filming.
After three days of filming and many great scenes it was decided that a trip to John and Emma Kings place for lunch could not be passed up. Kim called the Kings and left a message on their voicemail, as they are not allowed to use the phone. A taxi ride out the farm in the pouring rain and Kim was greeted by a big handshake and invited inside.
The afternoon passed by quickly however at a slow pace and included a three hour horse driven buggy ride to the local store, past John’s old school and a visit to his youngest daughters house, one of 18 children. John’s daughter had just spent the morning baking 22 traditional apple pies for the church service that was to take place in their barn the next day. Kim returned with talk of an amazing pie and stories of home made peanut butter on fresh baked bread.
After returning to the farm John and Emma brought out a collection of their quilts that they themselves has stitched and quilted, John doing the tops and Emma finishing the quilting. The quilts had all of the traditional elements of an Amish quilt with the stars and simple patterns predominant and detailed hand stitched quilting bringing them all together.
Kim swapped mailing addresses and will be sending out some cushion covers from the Khiamiah as well as a postcard of the Pyramids on John’s request. Another big handshake and Kim was back in the taxi and headed back to Lancaster.
The Lancaster show was very successful and all three of the guys returned happy for the experiences and glad to have met so many great people.