Hmong textiles are fascinating. We started sourcing them a couple years ago and have not stopped since. I have to admit that choosing them is not easy because the wide variety of patterns, colors, stitching and weaving techniques used to create this versatile textile are all so beautiful, all so unique and intricate, that choosing some over others is always a bit bittersweet.
One of the most satisfying things about having a business centered on handcrafted goods from around the world is that learning about the history of these textiles completely changes the way we see them. So in this week’s blog I wanted to share about where this textile comes from. So, let’s dive into learning a bit more about the Hmong culture first.
The Hmong people are an ethnic group that lives in southern China. The Qing dynasty imposed repressive economic and cultural reforms on the Hmong people, which led to the Hmong rebellion (1795-1806) where many Hmong people migrated to Vietnam, Laos, and others to Thailand as refugees where they used their textile making skills to sustain a fresh start. Many Hmong live in the United States, with large Hmong populations in Minnesota, California, and Wisconsin
The Hmong Hill Tribe people of Thailand have many subgroups. Every subgroup differentiates itself from another group with how they dress and accessorize. Some of the groups are Black Hmong, White Hmong, and Striped Hmong. The Black Hmong women for example wear their hair in a bun and wear dark blue and white pleated knee-length skirts with embroidered borders. The men wear a black or dark blue jacket without a collar and have wide sleeves and cuffs, both Black Hmong men and women wear silver jewelry, while White Hmong women wear long dark blue loose trousers with plain long-sleeved jackets with embroidered collar flaps and a turban. Each costume not only is meant to distinguish one subgroup from another, but also displays the unique artistry and talent of the Hmong seamstresses who meticulously craft and embroider each design for members of their family.
Photo by Kyle Petzer on Unsplash
Prior to the 20th century Hmong people had no form of written language and communicated their ideas and beliefs through motifs and symbols designed on pieces of cloth. Around fifty years ago Hmong people were almost entirely self-sufficient. Women designed and wove their own fabrics (often made out of hemp), hand embroidered their own cloth, hand stitched their own clothing. They rarely ventured into the Thai society. In the 1980’s tourism bloomed in Thailand and tourists from across the world showed interest and appreciation for Hmong textiles. This brought a great income opportunity for The Hill Tribes of Thailand who started commercializing their own products in local markets such as apparel, handbags, blouses, trousers, pocket books, blankets among others to meet the demand of tourists enamored by this craft.
Some of the most widely used textiles in western countries are often generically called “batik”, which are created through a process of dyeing cotton or hemp with leafy branches of an indigo plant, and embroidering, hand block printing it or hand stitching it with traditional motifs.
Today there is a vast variety of colors and patterned fabrics in the market that are widely used for home decor in western countries and around the world. You can check out our line of Hmong Hill Tribe Pillow Collection HERE.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about the Hmong People’s culture and their rich tradition of textile making.
Have a great week!
The Team at Apartment No.3