Craft or Fine Art?

Hmong Reverse Applique

Last weekend Kevin and I took a bike ride into Philadelphia’s Old City to visit a few of the visitor sites.  One of our first stops was Head House Market, which is a lovely colonial market surrounded by cobblestone streets.  The first one was built on this site in 1745.  In current day it is on the National Register and there is a craft market in the Head House each weekend.

As we strolled through the craft stalls, I came upon a textile craft which I’ve not see for a few years.  A young woman was selling Hmong handcrafted items, of which the most fascinating was beautifully hand-sewn quilt decorations, pillow covers and larger items such as Christmas tree skirts.  Large or small, it was difficult to take my eyes off these reverse applique quilts which are so carefully sewn so that every line is amazingly consistent in form and size.  This art form has a long  history.  This type of quilting is done only a few places in the world.  In Southeast Asia reverse applique is primarily done by Hmong girls from the time they are school-aged and they continue to make these items as adults.

When we lived in Wisconsin it was common to see these quilts at craft fairs.  At juried fairs there was usually one stall where women sold these goods as well as the more common hand embroidered Hmong Story Quilts.  In fact it was so common to see these quilts that I don’t think I appreciated their beauty.  For some reason when I saw them on Saturday I was fascinated, like when you see and touch a beautiful piece of fabric and you keep going back to look at it one more time, knowing that there’s a desire but not a need. Finally I carefully looked through every one of the small pieces and purchased two small treasures.

Not being a quilter, I really don’t know much about this type of applique, however I believe both are made from 3 layers of fabric although there are some which seem to have as many as seven layers of fabric.  For the applique, the fabric is carefully cut and sewn under with unbelievable precision.  With the naked eye you can’t see a single stitch.

Kevin asked what I was going to do with them.  I replied, “just own them”.

Learn More……

There aren’t a lot of references on the web but if you would like to know more about this type of fabric art, here are a few websites:

http://www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/hmong.htm

http://www.siripankidd.com/HTML/HmongReverseApplique.html

If you have more information on this textile art, please leave a comment.

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