Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Textiles of the Hmong People

The Textiles of the Hmong People

In the past I have written lengthy articles (for publication) about the Hmong people and their work. If you have ever laid eyes on a piece of H mông Textile Art, you know that it is love at first sight. The intricately stitched creations of Paj ntaub or Pa nDau (pronounced Pond ouw) are made with loving hands and utilize a number of techniques including cross stitch embroidery, surface embroidery, reverse appliqué, and appliqué.

The "H" is silent in H mông and the word sounds like "mung."

Types of Patterns

The H mông people produce two types of textiles: geometric and pictorial (scenes of war and peace). Each piece is uniquely-made and is a one-of-a-kind textile, yet certain recurrent themes are present. Common themes are “Snail’s House,” “Elephant Foot,” and “Ram’s Head,” a few of the geometric design names. Since I can now only post one photo to a Google blog, I will share the following today: a colorful baby carrier. Babies were brought out into the fields by their mothers to do farm chores in the hillside areas where Hmong lived in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. Babies wore highly-decorated hats that would look like flowers when viewed from overhead in order to ward off evil spirits and confuse them.

Hmong baby carrier from Thailand
The straps have been cut, according to Hmong beliefs, so as not to bring bad luck to the baby

There are a number of fascinating books available about the Hmong. Their lifestyle appears to be vanishing to some degree, and needlework traditions could become all but lost if the younger generation does not take an interest in learning the finely-tuned skills responsible for Hmong embroidery and appliqué.

Posted by Patricia Cummings
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