Hmong Reverse Applique’

Reverse appliqué is not a very popular technique in the quilting world, but I like to do it. In “regular” appliqué, there is a background fabric and pieces are sewn onto the top. In reverse appliqué, the background fabric is on the top and the appliqué fabric is basted on to the back. The top/background fabric is {carefully!} cut and the fabric turned under and sewn down. Well-known examples of this are the molas of Panama and Hawaiian style quilts. In this signature square for my first Baltimore Album quilt, the background is the creamy white. The lavender dotted fabric is “regular” appliqué. The dark pink fabric was basted under the white fabric, which was cut and then sewn. Then the cross stitched fabric was also basted under the white fabric… You can go on and on with this technique.

Heart reverse applique

If you’ve attended any big quilt show, you’ve seen a booth or two, stacked with lovely and intricate reverse appliqué pieces made by Hmong ladies. On a trip to Laos and Thailand many year ago, I had the great pleasure to meet a group of sewers when we were in Luang Prabong, Laos. These ladies were sitting in a field, stitching away.

Hmong quilter

These pieces are not just for pretty but used on their clothing. I don’t seem to have a photograph of anyone in that very traditional dress, but you can see that the strip of the appliqué she is working on could be sewn on the blue part of her jacket, and a wider piece might go on her sleeve. If you click on the link above or Google the Hmong, you will see that their clothing is quite incredible with the cacophony (?) of the all appliquéd pieces!

Another Hmong woman

Why am I telling you about this? Wait for the nest post to find out!


4 thoughts on “Hmong Reverse Applique’

  1. The Hmong culture has a huge presence here in Madison WI and regularly have an impressive cultural celebration involving many of their traditions, including dress, food, and dance. The schools have Hmong interpreters….look forward to how you develop this very interesting approach to reverse applique.


    • I had forgotten until I went on that trip, that the whole area was Indochina when we were young! Our history with the Hmong dates back at least to the Vietnam War – they fought against Communism/for us and then we moved many of them to the US. We saw many in Thailand but now that I read more about it, I’m surprised these ladies were in Laos. When we were there, the middle section of the country was dangerous and we took a plane to get to Luang Prabang; the Hmong men held that part and they are fierce fighters. One woman we spoke to spent something like 5 years living in a cave with her family with other villagers because of the relentless bombing.
      Wow – Hmong interpreters – you must have a large group!Years ago I read about a large group in CA and their difficulties assimilating. I would love to see that celebration!


  2. I don’t do applique so I’ve never tried reverse appliqué but have always been mightily impressed with molas, etc, so this background on the Hmong tradition is very interesting. Looking forward to the next post!


    • I actually find reverse appliqué easier in some instances. Somewhere in another post, I have a picture of a heart in hand that I did. The hand was reverse and I found the detail and curves were easier done that way.


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