Hmong Applique and Embroidery

The Hmong people are an ethnic group thought to originate in central China. For centuries, they have been driven from their homes by expanding majority populations in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.


The process of drawing, dying, and washing Batik can take up to a month. Photo courtesy of Dream Weavers Project

The two most common Hmong subcultures in the United States are  Hmong Daw (White Hmong) and  Hmong Njua (Blue/Green Hmong). These subcultures are referred to by the dominant color or pattern of their traditional clothing. Blue Hmong are associated with the indigo batik method where wax is drawn onto fabric in the maker’s chosen design. Layers of indigo dye are applied to the fabric for several weeks until the desired darkness is achieved. Then the wax is removed from the cloth and the design remains, which is then used to guide the addition of other decorative elements. 


The deep indigo color in this cloth indicates a high quality dye. Photo courtesy of Dream Weavers Project.

Conversely,  White Hmong are known for using plain white fabric as the base for their designs. Both incorporate versions of flower cloths to embellish their traditional clothing.


Women of the Hmong Hill Tribe Women Artisans Community creating batik designs in Northern Thailand.

Vocabulary Words: 
  • Hmong Daw (White Hmong): One of the main subcultures of Hmong in the US dsitinguished by linguistic diversity as well as certain cultural aspects regarding dress and customs.
  • Hmong Njua (Blue/Green Hmong): One of the main subcultures of Hmong in the US distinguised by linguistic diversity as well as certain cultrual aspects regarding dress and customs.
  • batik: a technique of dyeing whole cloth with wax-resist that originated in Indonesia.
  • flower cloths: (Paj NTaub) (pronounced Pan-Dow). A textile technique which combines embroidery and reverse appliqué techniques. Traditionally, these fabrics have geometric patterns that symbolize specific meanings. (From Visual Culture)
Hmong Textiles