A Hmong basket takes shape at the Hmong Senior Center in La Crosse Tong Vang & Seamstress Lead Basketmaker Deng Yang makes a basket at the Hmong Senior Center in La Crosse Basketmaking Lead Basketmaker Deng Yang and Expert Seamstress Tong Vang demonstrate their talents at the Hmong Senior Center in La Crosse Expert Seamstress Tong Vang demonstrates Hmong embroidery at the Hmong Senior Center in La Crosse Basketmaking

Location | Themes | Reflections | How We Did It

Sewing and Basket Making

Sewing: Dylan | Maggie | Pakou | Maggie | Dylan | Jenny | Dylan | Dylan

Basket Making: Pakou | Dylan | Emily | Dylan | Maggie | Dylan | Emily | Jenny

While we were at the Blacksmith and Senior Center we interviewed two ladies who were working on sewing.
–Dylan

The sewers were Shoua Her and Tong Vang. Shoua Her was sewing in what appeared to be cross-stitch, by hand, a piece of pandau [paj ntaub] to go on the back of a shirt. She learned how to sew from her heart, because her mother died when Shoua was 10.
–Maggie

No one taught her how to do needlework. Many people copied her style of making pandaus. On the needlework there are many different kinds of dark and bright colors.
–Pakou

Tong Vang was using a sewing machine and was making some traditional clothes for a White-Hmong man. She uses only sight to measure. She helped a boy from Longfellow [Middle School, in La Crosse, Wisconsin] put on a shirt and pants and hat that a Hmong man would wear. She let him keep the pants.
–Maggie

She likes the sewing machines that they have in America. She only makes traditional clothes and compares the body parts to the piece of clothing to make the cloth the right size.
–Dylan

The lady that is sewing by hand started when she was in Laos when she was a little girl. When her mom died she started to sew more and she is still sewing. The cloth she is holding up is a cross-stitch and it’s a baby carrier. There are clothes she makes. She sews whenever she is not busy. When she is alone she sews. Her daughters want to sew but they can’t because they have to do their homework and so they don’t have enough time to learn how to sew. The clothes that she makes are very traditional to the Hmong people that buy them.
–Jenny

There was a picture of two Hmong women. You can tell they were green Hmong because they wore green sashes. Although there were men’s clothes, there weren’t any women’s clothes in the room that day.
–Dylan

The women come to sew here so that they can sew together and talk and have fun. She had some other beautiful clothing that she brought that I think was just to look nice.
–Dylan

Neng Yang is a basket maker. He is making baskets so Shoua Her, a woman, had to talk. She does needlework. Shoua said back in Laos the baskets were made to carry dishes, clothes, babies, food, plants, dirt, tools, etc. They use thin bamboo that has to be the same size because thin bamboo can bend and doesn’t break and it can hold a lot of things. Everybody has to know how to do baskets by the age of about five or ten. The Hmong people only make baskets at certain times. The children learn how to make the basket by looking at how the elders do their basket weaving. Without baskets, you need to carry heavy things with your hands and your head. The baskets have names from the objects that the basket is used to carry. Many, many baskets were made in many different kinds of sizes to carry objects that would fit into the baskets.
–Pakou

The baskets were originally made in Laos with bamboo that was very thin. They use plastic to weave the baskets in America. He likes the bamboo baskets and the plastic baskets just as good as each other.
–Dylan

All of the baskets they make out of shipping plastic. Why? Because in Laos they use bamboo to weave the basket and since they don’t have bamboo here, they use plastic because it’s: 1.) cut in the right size strip already, and 2.) nice and durable. Some of the baskets were made of cut up hoses.
–Emily

Sometimes in America people sell the baskets or use them for personal use of the family. Basket making is important in Hmong culture because you need to be able to move and carry things around. The baskets were more important in Laos where they used the baskets a lot.
–Dylan

In Laos everybody knew how to make baskets. But they could only do it in their spare time. If children wanted to learn, they could. Elders would show them how.
–Maggie

Children would normally learn how to make baskets when they were teens. Not all teens in America learn how to make baskets. The way they learned to make baskets in Laos was by watching an elder make a basket and then copying what they do.
–Dylan
The design he was making was called a “star.” The holes were shaped like .
–Emily

He said they are hard to make because you could make them in different shapes. He said that you can’t learn when you are five years old or younger. He said you could learn how to make the basket when you are a teenager. He said that the basket is not that easy to learn. It looks easy but it takes a while to learn it. The basket could be any color but it is mostly green and black. I don’t know why but I think it means something. When he is done making it he takes all of his baskets and sells them and if no one buys the baskets then he gives it to one of his friends if they want the basket and they don’t he keeps them for himself. [He] keeps supplies in it. One basket takes about two hours because it takes a long time to put the plastic together to make the basket and make the shape you wanted it to be. They make the baskets when they are not busy.
–Jenny

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For more information on Hmong Textile Arts, please visit: http://polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/aasp/scratch/kpics/