Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hmong embroidery

Recently there was an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about Hmong embroidery.  There is a large Hmong community in the Twin Cities and an effort is underway to preserve an intricate and beautiful style of needlework from their culture. 

Many years ago, probably late 1980's, I was at an art fair where some elderly Hmong women were sewing and selling their artwork.  It was one of the earliest times I recall seeing Hmong embroidery  for sale.  The prices were way undervalued compared to the extrordinary amount of work I knew had been put into them, but still most were out of my humble price range.  Then I found an entirely hand sewn 'reverse embroidery' table runner in blue and white that I could afford!   I was so excited to have this beautiful piece of applique - and even then recognized it as a cultural treasure even though I knew it was made for sale to non-Hmong. 

From the Hmong embroidery website I found out this table runner has a zig-zag border symbolizing the mountains of their homeland.  The heart shapes are formed by pairs of 'dragons tails', and the small square-in-a-square pieces are called 'diamonds'.  The corner pieces in each block are somewhat similar to the design which symbolizes the home, but the motif for the home has steps where these are zig-zag or toothed like the inner edges of the dragons tails.

More information can be found on this style of needlework at

40.5 cm x 98 cm reverse embroidery runner late 1980's Minnesota unknown maker
blue and cream cotton front, cream muslin backing

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