Izzy L | Jeremy
| Dylan | Benjamin
| Abigail | Erika
| Thomas |
Jenny | Gabby | Nate
When we first got off the bus to go
inside the Hmong American Friendship Association, all I saw
was a small building with windows. I had no idea what a huge
amount of Hmong culture would be inside...
The Hmong have a strong tradition in
needlework. In fact, Hmong have been doing needlework for
centuries! Different kinds of Hmong have different patterns.
The most well known patterns are: elephant track, sea shell,
and vegetable seed.
On our tour we went to a place where
Hmong ladies do sewing and have a sewing store. They also
have Hmong classes at the center. The place is called the
Hmong American Friendship Association because they are helping
Americans learn about Hmong culture.
They have a huge story cloth that shows the Hmong living
in Laos, and soldiers coming into Laos to take control of
it. It shows the American soldiers and the Hmong fighting
the Vietnamese. It also shows China, Hmong people crossing
the Mekong River and Hmong people in Thailand getting ready
to leave for America. The cloth is five feet wide and eight
feet long. A man did the outline for the cloth, and a woman
did the needlework...
A lot of storycloths show soldiers fighting. But the storycloths
made before the Vietnam War probably didn’t have soldiers
fighting on them...
There is a needlework and sewing store in the Hmong American
Friendship Association. They sell clothes, paj ntaub, etc.
Different types of Hmong (green, blue, striped, white and
black) have different styles in sewing and needlework. Boys
and girls are supposed to wear different clothing.
They told us about some different kinds of stitches: the cross
stitch, the seashell stitch, the elephant foot, vegetable
seed, and the leaves design. There is a difference between
American paj ntaub and Hmong paj ntaub. Hmong paj ntaub is
more colorful and bright, and the stitches are closer and
harder to do.
We had a needlework lesson at Hmong
American Association. Sheng Lo explained that there are many
different stitches. These are just a few: cross stitch, reverse
applique, ribbon work, embroidery, and bead work. She also
said that when you make paj ntaub there are a bunch of patterns:
heart, snail, elephant foot, seashell, mountain, and seed.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Sheng
Lo directs a sewing class. Two women came in and, without
speaking, showed us some patterns. (Well, it was really ONE
woman. The other woman was sewing but she didn’t show
[her work] to us. In fact, she didn’t even look at us!)
I learned later that she made the snail pattern, the heart
pattern, and both snail and heart pattern together. Wow!
A cross stitch is a stitch that crosses
(as you might have guessed). If you look really close at story
cloths you’ll notice a tiny cross in each of the intricate
stitches. They often start out as one to two stitches but
grow and grow and grow into a spectacular pattern with wondrous
colors. The Hmong like using really bright colors, like almost
neon green, pink, and yellow. Often there are beads and coins
[stitched into the design]. The beads are NOT traditional
but have usually been developed in the USA...
They make the seashell by taking a
coin and curving it on a piece of paper. That is how they
cut it. Then they open it up and it is a seashell.
Hmong needlework is different than the
American way of sewing. The Hmong people do really small detailed
needlework. The American people’s needlework doesn’t
have that much details and small needleworking ...
They have a giftshop with lots of needlework
at the Hmong American Friendship Association. Everybody who
sews puts their stuff in the giftshop and the center gets
10 percent of the profit. They sell clothes, hats, dolls,
and [handmade] toys like beanie babies and mermaids...
Boy and girls clothes are different. Boys hats are basically
just round and kind of look like a Jewish yarmulke. The girls’
hats are oval and sometimes not as colorful. Some have coins
hanging down from them. Some clothes aren’t so wild[ly
colored]. They are black with colored embroidery and are made
more for the American customers. But some Hmong wear them
for everyday life.
[The Hmong say] that if girls don’t have a lot of nice
clothes when they go to the Hmong festivals, it means that
their mother is lazy...
Hmong women do so much needlework because
it lets them pass some time, and so that they can remember
more on Hmong Textile arts, please click here
see more student photos, click here