Hmong Story Cloth

Hmong are an ancient tribe originally from China, Laos and Burma. They were nomads and because they used to move frequently, their material was very light and easy to transport. The traditional Hmong attires are known as paj ntaub or flower cloth. It is not only complex but also comprises of a beautiful combination of appliqués, embroidery, reverse appliqués and batik. Earlier girls acquired this technique in their tender age. Today the use of Hmong flower cloth has gone beyond the traditional costume making for encompassing varied textile objects. Now men have also started participating in the sale and manufacture  of these textiles.

The best form of Hmong needle art is Paj Ntaub Tib Neeg, also known as story cloth. Hmong story cloth is like a banner that comprises of some of the traditional techniques. They are similar to paintings or pictures made out of different fabrics and sewn together. It is pictorial embroidery that developed recently in the Hmong history. This started when Hmong men began drawing elements of the traditional Hmong stories to ensure that they will be remembered when time would change. In refugee camps, the women had the men draw on the fabric and they used to stitch the stories on the cloth.

The Hmong story cloth is a description of the various aspects relating to Hmong life, which includes a story relating to a woman who fended off a tiger. The tiger had killed her husband and wanted to replace his position in the family. Another story cloth displays a giant flood that was responsible for dividing the Hmong into clans and families. Other Hmong story cloths present life in a Hmong village, life in America, entering internment camp or escaping war. These embroidered remarkable story cloths not only include the stories and daily life in Hmong culture but also records their experiences of Vietnam War and escape to Thailand. Several Hmong story cloths made in America today, incorporates written English into their composition for teaching English as a second language.

These story cloths are made in the refugee camps extensively for foreigners who visit the camps. Many are sent to people in America and other countries where they are sold in a broader market.

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