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Hmong Story Quilts

Hmong Story Quilts Posted on October 10, 2017Leave a comment

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Hmong Story Quilts
Up to date on April 19, 2017 Denise McGill moreDenise has been finding out and educating art and painting for forty years. She has received quite a few prestigious awards for her artwork and design.

Contact Writer Lives Of The Hmong Folks Informed In Story Quilts
All arts and crafts are close to and dear to my coronary heart. It was no shock to seek out me staring on the framed show of an unusual quilt. Mesmerized by the hand-stitched little folks and the talent of the needlework, I had to ask what it was and where it came from. I noticed it for the first time after i came to show Watercolor Painting on the Fresno Adult Faculty. This unusual and charming blue quilt displayed within the foyer was simple but advanced. Since that day I have seen a number of Hmong story quilts, or clothes as they’re generally known as, with the identical blue fabric background and triangular patterned border, but with totally different tales to inform. The people marching across the cloth are trying to tell me something about the Hmong folks. That is their journey and their story.

I apologize for the glare on this picture as there was glass over the unique quilt.

Trying To understand The Culture Better
In my analysis, I keep the deal with the lives of the Hmong people and not just the “factor” of the story quilt. Making an attempt to know the culture higher and going beyond the floor of the beautiful story quilt, I aspired to seek out the meanings and definitions placed on them by the Hmong folks. To that finish, I sought out Say Xiong to assist decipher the story quilt displayed on the Fresno Grownup College. Also with a view to get a detailed account of the quilt, I needed to include a detailed backdrop.

The Hmong folks have a long history of searching for a land where they can be free. Their individuals were subsistence farmers and are mentioned to have come from northern China way back, and moved southward to keep away from persecution. Why they were thought of “alien” others isn’t quite clear. They’d their own language dialect, which might have made them completely different sufficient to be ostracized. Nonetheless, they clearly developed their own identification and wished to remain free. “The freedom they cherish is an all-encompassing liberty that means far more than their independence from a political government or a system of economics. It is a freedom of the spirit, a freedom to be their very own people, and it’s the very essence of their being,” quoted from Creating Pa nDau Applique: A brand new Approach to an Historic Art Form. Finally, they settled within the hill country of Burma, Laos, Thai, and Vietnam, to farm and live as they desired. The hill country was laborious to navigate, so the Hmong people have been principally left alone. They might clear a piece of land and farm it until the nutrients had been stripped after which transfer to a brand new piece of land. This meant that sometimes they needed to stroll a good distance from their village to work the land, even camping there overnight typically. This isolation worked for them till the 1950s when Communism came to China and the growing ease of journey opened up the hill nation to increasing traffic.

They wore distinctive dress and will even establish different families and clans at a distance by the design, minimize, elaborate embroidery, and colors used for the headwear. Among the many H’mong, costume as an necessary element of ethnic identification.

A Form of Communal Farming
They engaged in a type of communal farming. “People who agree to participate within the communal farming go to work with each other. First, we’ll work on Say farm (pointing to Say), the following day we work your farm (level to me), and the subsequent day all of us work my farm,” defined Eldrick Chang, describing their type of agrarian reciprocity. They worked collectively in a close-knit neighborhood relationship, doing for each other. After they came here to the United States, many were unfold out by the immigration companies in order that the influence on one state or city would not be too tough. However what this did was to interrupt up shut village communities and even families, who later spent years searching for each other. With more instructional and employment opportunities right here within the US, many Hmong now not farm. Nonetheless I have seen many communal backyard plots here in the town of Fresno. Working together, they’re able to complement their income by reworking these empty tons into blooming, fruitful backyard spots. I love seeing rising things and these hardworking folks appear to additionally.

Through the Vietnam Conflict, the CIA recruited many Hmong individuals to spy against the Vietcong. The Hmong were sturdy supporters of the United States throughout the Vietnam Conflict and have been in grave hazard each throughout and after the struggle due to this. After the United States pulled out of Vietnam, many Hmong people escaped persecution by crossing the Mekong River, the place many drown in the try. One story instructed in Eldrick Chang’s family was of a mom who gave her baby opium to maintain him from making noise and giving their place away to the Communist troopers. Unfortunately they gave the baby a lot and he died. According to Chang, there are some story clothes that depict this story as nicely.

Quilts Created By Girls of Different Cultures
Just as Clifford Geertz was interested within the interpretive anthropology of symbolism, and how they were part of the social processes, I needed to grasp the deeper which means of the story quilt and its symbols. In so doing I turned to other quilts created by ladies of other cultures.

It isn’t unusual for girls to search out ways to add colour and creativity to their everyday work. In my background there is the tradition of Memory Quilts. A reminiscence quilt might return much farther than the pioneer days my mother speaks of. When cloth was hard to come by, every bit was utilized even when a child had outgrown their clothes or when a rip had made a garment unusable. Useable items of the clothes have been then minimize out and saved for quilting functions. Memory quilts have been special because each piece of fabric had a memory and a narrative behind it. One piece from the child who didn’t dwell previous his 6th month, one other from the marriage clothes they married in, another from a shirt worn during the final dance attended. Many instances the reminiscence quilts included applique shapes of flowers, timber, birds, and even embroidered names and dates. These turned cherished heirloom keepsakes passed all the way down to daughters once they wed. At this time there are numerous web sites offering the development of reminiscence quilts using pieces of clothing of the consumer choice. One such site advised of constructing quilts for the widow and four daughters out of the man many signature plaid shirts.

Paj Ntaub
The Hmong story quilts function because the written language of the people for many years, saving their lives, their tales and their folklore. Language is a crucial part of any tradition or organism to share in a society.

Hmong Story Quilts or clothes are referred to as paj ntaub, pronounced “pa daow”. The vivid colours and the embroidery have evolved through the years. Initially the needlework was used to decorate clothing. These decorative tales were traditionally sewn on the “Qua Sev, a belt that is worn on the Hmong women waist,” however quickly became bigger squares used as tablecloths or wall hangings.

The Hmong needlework may very well be considered “primitive art” in that almost all didn’t have any known artist related to it, partly as a result of the artists were “preliterate”. In line with Dr. George Leonard, preliterate implies that the Hmong people were not illiterate, however that they merely had not invented a written form for his or her language. In the 1950s, Christian missionaries created a standardized and Romanized Hmong language. Beth Conklin writes in her article that Westerners admire “primitive” art because it resonates a visual exoticism and is ahistorical or unchanging. The Hmong story quilts may be considered primitive artwork; they aren’t, nonetheless, unchanging. No matter the reason, Westerners have appreciated the Hmong story quilts and have created a supply of income for them, allowing for some measure of independence and artistic voice.

Pictorial And Symbolic Stitchery To Record Family Lore
The Hmong folks used their pictorial and symbolic stitchery to document family lore, which over the centuries, they became very skillful at. The symbols and style is slightly completely different for every of the clans. Their artwork is both useful artwork and representational. Most fascinating are the story cloths where the households can “inform” their household historical past in pictographs.

In the refugee camps of Thailand, it was found that the story clothes had been a source of income as increasingly more Westerners and vacationers supplied to buy them. While within the camps, the men couldn’t farm and due to this fact, feed their households, however the ladies continued to have interaction in their stitchery. Interestingly sufficient, it was the males, not the women, who drew the stories for the women to stitch. The stories included not only depictions of everyday life from the outdated days in the hills of Laos, but additionally folktales and stories of their escape to freedom. The anthropologist, James Spradley writes that cultures include three issues, cultural habits, cultural data and cultural artifacts. The Story quilts include all three. The girls with the knowledge and skill created quilts to sell out of their shared experiences and folktales. Apparently, the Hmong girls were uncharacteristically unconcerned about parting with their craft. It’s the emerging era that has derived extra value in the story quilts they still personal.

Purchase Your own Conventional Hmong Story Quilt
You’ll be able to still purchase your own conventional Hmong Story Quilt for a lot lower than you would assume. They are not priced like a small used automotive, however noting the ability, talent and time, they should be. Shopping for one of those helps assist the folks each here in the US and some of these still relocated in refuge camps in Thailand and different places.

Traditional Story Clothes
In the United States, the Hmong girls don’t spend as a lot time on traditional story clothes because of increased employment and instructional alternatives. Because of this it has been a concern that emerging generations could lose the method and need to study the standard arts. Nonetheless Eldrich Chang and Say Xiong are encouraged by this second era of Hmong younger individuals, who are returning to embrace the outdated abilities comparable to the standard Hmong flute: qeej, pronounced “kang,” and the standard Hmong New Yr celebrations. This is propitious news, for the loss of this culture and art type would be a tragedy. Anthropologically, it could be mistaken to ask this culture to stay static, for the creation of story quilts to by no means develop with the dynamic progress of the tradition, however it would even be sad for the stories to discontinue altogether.

The attractive approach these expert artisans captured their lives and their culture could be compared to the way Grandma Moses captured a time earlier than the twentieth century in upstate New York. She didn use conventional perspective guidelines but in a “primitive manner”, she still pulled us into her world of quilting bees and making apple butter in the front yard. These story quilts do the identical factor. The beholder is drawn in and needs to know more, just as I did.

My Dad and mom Had been Born Over There
“My dad and mom have been born over there (Chang points) and came here within the eighty’s,” Chang told me. In response to Say Xiong and Eldrick Chang, the story quilt on the Fresno Adult School foyer, incorporates a 12 months within the life of a village in the hill country of Laos. The upper portion incorporates a tree with wild birds indigenous to the jungle areas of Laos. There are additionally delicate mountains stitched in line, and farm animals: chickens, pigs, and donkeys. At the highest there is a man working a mortar with is foot. The mortar was used to crack the dry hulls to free the rice for the household meal and even for the chickens to eat. Also at the highest of the quilt are houses of the village.

Additional down the cloth are villagers strolling to the farm, which might be a good distance away from the village. The males, ladies and youngsters, all dressed alike, go together to the farm to work for the day. In keeping with Chang, they might sometimes spend the night time, essentially camping out. They seem to leave the village with empty baskets on their backs and on their donkey, however return with them stuffed with harvested produce. All through the quilt you may see crops: rice planted in June by July and harvested in November; lengthy beans planted in March and harvested in October; Banana palm, cucumbers, pumpkin, pineapple, corn, and one thing similar to yams.

Within the higher right side, there’s a rope hanging from a tree, which Xiong and Chang indicated was a new Yr celebration. “An elder blesses the villagers as they stroll clockwise 5 occasions and counter-clockwise four occasions, leaving dangerous luck and misfortune behind as they welcome the brand new 12 months full of prosperity, good fortune, and health.”

Significance For The Blue Background
I asked what the importance was for the blue of the background. Say Xiong mentioned principally, that there was no significance. They similar to blue. I asked concerning the grey and blue triangular pattern across the quilt. “Is it as a result of the Hmong people felt security in the mountains that they use this kind of a mountain border on the quilt?” Say Xiong needed to ask an older lady, introduced only as Could. She said it was only decoration and had no additional significance as far as she knew. On a analysis net site I found the triangular sample listed as symbols for mountains. Maybe I’m reading an excessive amount of symbolism into the quilt the place there isn’t any, however the triangular sample is a repeating theme in many of the quilts I discovered online. Maybe subliminally it is a comforting and familiar mountainous pattern there.

There is no signature on the quilt. It’s nameless as most of them are. The plaque at the underside simply states that it was bought October 13, 2005.

Grandfather’s Story Cloth
Grandfather’s Story ClothA charming story of a boy dealing along with his grandfather’s lose of reminiscence attributable to Alzheimer’s disease, so he decides to make a story quilt to file their life collectively.

Buy Now Time and effort involved in making a quilt.
Have you any idea of the effort and time concerned in creating a quilt?

No. Never made one or knew anybody who did.

Not likely. We’ve a couple of family quilts however it is a misplaced artwork.

Sure. I made one once and by no means wish to do it once more.

Sure. I really like making quilts and spend a number of time amassing colors and fabric.

Yes. Why would anyone part with one?
See outcomes Continuing To remodel In Function
Though the original purpose of the Hmong story clothes has modified from a private history document, to a business enterprise, the quilts are continuing to remodel in goal. They are becoming even more than a memory quilt or a consumer merchandise. They’re artwork types on a cultural degree. In the kids’s story “Grandfather’s Story Cloth” the young boy is dealing with his grandfather’s failing memory via the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The boy, Chersheng, feels helpless and sad however had discovered that each time he shows the family story cloth to his grandfather, the reminiscences of his life in Laos becomes clearer and alive in his reminiscence. Ultimately Chersheng decides to create his own story quilt so they can all remember that their life and love together is stronger than Alzheimer illness, it doesn’t matter what country they dwell in. A beautiful story.

Times And Cultures Usually are not Static
I wouldn’t say that figuring out more about Hmong story quilts has changed my own artwork as much as it has changed the best way I see artwork. Their use of perspective, or lack of conventional perspective, has allowed me to see outdoors of conventional guidelines of Western methods of doing art. I feel this methodology of portraying more than one moment within the life of one individual or folks is fascinating. They have discovered a means to describe their life collectively and a year of their world.

I might say instances and cultures should not static, however dynamic and flowing. The Hmong folks and their story quilts will proceed to mirror that. The Hmong artisans might have been their very own salvage anthropologists, capturing a moment in time, which may be gone endlessly, but are immortalized in stitched snapshots.

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sendingAuthorDenise McGill 19 months in the past from Fresno CA


It is true, I haven’t found lots of them available online at locations like ebay or Amazon anymore. The oldsters I spoke with for the interview stated that relations have been often going again to Laos to go to household and could convey me one if I wished to buy one. With that in mind you can maybe name a cultural center or instructional heart in your town and ask if there is a Hmong consultant you could converse to about shopping for a story quilt. They’d know at the least, who to get you in contact with. Sometimes they take the quilts to outdoor stalls at farmer’s markets and New Years Celebrations like the one I went to. There have been many there for sale. I’m fortunate that there is such a large group here within the Central Valley of California. Good luck. Thanks for commenting. I hope I used to be of some assist.

AuthorDenise McGill 19 months in the past from Fresno CA

Easy Exercise,

I am so glad you enjoyed reading about this story. They are great and sweet people. Thanks for commenting.

Jessie 19 months in the past

I need to buy a story quilt for a professor who is retiring. She absolutely loves learning in regards to the Hmong culture and had us learn “and also you fall down”. The place can one be purchased? I can only find wall stickers!

Kelly A Burnett 19 months ago from United States

Absolutely gorgeous – brilliant, beautiful and with a narrative to tell. Thank you a lot for an important tribute to this nice culture and legacy of art.

Tim Andrews,

I had to find someone Hmong who may translate what the story cloth was saying and even she needed to defer to her elder to actually get the entire message. I counsel you start by calling your local Adult Neighborhood Training division in your metropolis and ask if they know someone who could be keen and obtainable to help. Good luck.

Tim Andrews 2 years in the past

I purchased a Hmong story cloth, now I’m trying to find out more about it. It’s 33″ large and 53″ tall very detailed work Who can I contact that has more information on these items

Dip Mtra,

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I like my quilts and was happy to share this.


Wouldn’t that be something if each culture throughout the world had a storytelling gadget like this? Really I feel they do however every culture used one thing specific to them like totem poles or bards, or music, or literature. Fascinating.

Millionaire Suggestions,

So glad to be of service. I enjoyed my analysis very a lot. Thanks for visiting and commenting.


You went to Laos? That should have been superb and a good looking trip. Did you purchase any of the Hmong story quilts on the market there? I’m certain it was an superior experience. Thanks for sharing.


So true that the embroidery is wonderful. It is a disgrace that more individuals don’t know about this superb artwork form except they have visited a Hmong New Year Celebration or occurred upon one in a museum. I loved learning more about them myself. Thanks a lot for visiting and commenting.


Thank you a lot for visiting. I agree they’re colorful, skillful and outstanding. It was wonderful interviewing these amazing people and hearing their story too.


I really like the colors too. They’re so vivid and vibrant. It’s amazing the skill involved.


I do know, they are so amazing and clearly time consuming, that it amazes me after i see they promote them for thus little. I made an Etsy web page for my aunt to sell a few of her quilts on and after going over how a lot time she put into them plus the materials, we determined not to promote them underneath $seven-hundred. After all they have been queen bed size and most Hmong story quilts aren’t that size but nonetheless, the materials plus time are price lots greater than they’re promoting them for. Wonderful.

you are welcome PAINTDRIPS…..:-)


Thank you very much.

Evelyn, that may be a beneficial find. Good for you!


Lovely and wonderful

Evelyn Vannier, Canada 2 years ago

I recently discovered a Hmong quilt in a value Village Shop in Saint John, New Brunswick,Canada. Imagine my pleasure at this discovery. I am nonetheless feeling excited!

Bobbi, my grandmother made just a few quilts also however my mom has been making them for the previous couple many years and making sure every member of the household has one. It is quite a legacy she is spreading round. I really like mine and actually use it but I do not launder it in the washer. I would like it to final.

Thank you all so very much for the type votes and visits. I found these fascinating too. Stunning hand stitching and creativity.

sandybrownpop 2 years in the past from peshawar

#Superior and #inventive

Dip Mtra 2 years ago from World Citizen

Attention-grabbing hub. Voted up.

PurvisBobbi44 2 years ago from Florida


My Grandmother Knight made me a reminiscence quilt it was beautiful. I cherished her a lot I carefully wrapped it and put it in a steamer trunk.

Your analysis instructed the gorgeous story and thanks for writing this one. I myself have never made a quilt. My mom stated Grandmother would have other farmer wives over to a quilting occasion—what they did moreover sewing and talking I do not know.

I voted Up +++ I’ll share with Twitter and placed on my re-pin board on Pinterest.

Have a wonderful week.

Bobbi Purvis

Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years in the past from Norfolk

Quilts that inform a story! Fascinating to read about other cultures and to have their tales woven into quilts by way of the ages.

Shasta Matova 2 years ago from USA

I’ve seen some Hmong story quilts and have been fascinated by them. Thank you for educating me extra about them.

Mary Norton 2 years in the past from Ontario, Canada

When we were in Laos, the Hmong have a night market in Luang Prabang and their quilts had been really fascinating.

Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

I used to work for an arts organization that had a number of Hmong quilts on display in our building. They’re so lovely and unique. I love how the embroidered particulars pop against the normal blue background. Thanks for sharing the history and details of these artworks. So glad to see these wonderful works shared with a larger viewers! Voted up and stunning!!

Audrey Hunt 2 years in the past from Nashville Tn.

These story quilts are fascinating! The colors and designs, absolutely stunning. Thanks for bringing this cultural art to my attention. Voted up, helpful, awesome, lovely, fascinating and can share with others.

Kimberly Schimmel 2 years ago from North Carolina, USA

I like using colour in Hmong quilts. Stunning!

Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years in the past from Excessive desert of Nevada.

That is a fascinating cultural art form. The in-depth information you provide of the Hmong people and their story quilts could be very attention-grabbing and I really loved learning concerning the individuals and their historical past. I like to make quilts, so am very a lot conscious of the effort and time it takes to create one. I additionally love to research and research about cultures around the globe – so, this hub holds a lot of interest for me. I admire and thank you on your research and writing this article.

AuthorDenise McGill 2 years in the past from Fresno CA

This one along with the function on Multiculturalism jogs my memory that we have to embrace the multicolored threads that make up this country’s mosaic.

@favored: So true. It was a joy to interview my informants. The taught me a lot.

Fay Favored three years in the past from USA

Though I am not familiar with these, I have seen other story quilts. They are so beautiful and the background for every half is fascinating. Such a work of artwork.

@Heidi Vincent: I learned so much too. Glad you visited.

Heidi Vincent 3 years in the past from GRENADA

Very interesting lens about the story of the Hmong and their tradition. I did not understand that a lot might be instructed concerning the life of a person, family or village in a single quilt. Thanks for sharing.

@AcornOakForest: Thank you a lot. I like needle arts and these quilts are really special.

Monica Lobenstein 3 years ago from Western Wisconsin

This web page is effectively achieved and very fascinating. The Hmong people have a captivating and, many times, unhappy historical past. I knew and tutored many Hmong students in school and realized their stories. My parents are lucky to own one of these beautiful quilts and have it hanging in their house. Thank you for sharing this lens! I recognize the respect you gave to the individuals and their tradition!

@ecogranny: Thank you for that. I have several good Hmong associates who tell me of the struggles but additionally of the hope. They positive appear to be a resilient and creative folks. Very modest and loving.

Kathryn Grace 3 years in the past from San Francisco

Thank you for sharing the beautiful Hmong quilts with us. I last read a e-book about their tradition and the neighborhood that they had inbuilt Fresno a number of years ago. At that time, they had been having a really troublesome time of it. Your story provides me hope that, as a neighborhood, the Hmong in Fresno and surrounds are finding peace and constructing a great life that bridges each cultures.

AuthorDenise McGill three years ago from Fresno CA

@Merrci: It’s true. It’s like raising youngsters, I believe. You don’t get paid but it is a labor of love and the outcomes are often lovely.

Merry Citarella 3 years in the past from Oregon’s Southern Coast

These are amazing. What a wonderful background on them as nicely. The main points look so intricate! Quilting takes such persistence, a labor of love.

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