Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hmong Needlework and Applique


The Hmong (pronounced mung) are an ancient tribe of mountain people who originally migrated from China to the mountains of Laos, where they made their homes in the mid-nineteenth century. Ironically, the word 'Hmong' means 'free'. The Hmong people cherish the concepts of freedom and liberty and it shows in the unusual free-spirited fabric arts that they create.

The history of Hmong needlework involves both ancient traditions and the more recent adaptions from their survival in refugee camps in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The Hmong were strong supporters of the United States during the Vietnam war and were in grave danger after the war. Forced into the refugee camps, many later immigrated to the U.S .and other supportive countries.

A large contingency of Hmong refugees settled here, in Oregon. It quickly became apparent, that the Hmong women took great pride in their needle crafts and possessed a unique ability to capture both their cultural traditions and the history of their lives in their lovely work. Possibly, the most difficult of these was their reverse applique called Pandau, meaning "Flower cloth."

Pandau is traditionally given to commemorate special occasions. It incorporates cross-stitch patterns of snails, elephant footprints, trees and celestial stars. As they integrated into our own culture they began to use some of our own designs such as hearts and swirls and have had incredible success with their small stuffed animals which are highly appealing to young and old alike. Whether a pillow, a bag, a cell phone holder, a stuffed animal or a simple patch applied to blue jeans, their delicate handiwork is always a wonderful token of friendship and blessing.

shown:
Pandau appliqued pins and a small bag,
Hmong embroidered pillow

2 comments:

  1. I've seen Hmong work at the Asian festival and other events like that around here, and it is always incredibly beautiful.

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  2. Hmong needlework is new to me. It is very pretty.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.