hmong textiles

An important achievement in a young Hmong girl’s life are mastering the skills of hemp cultivation, processing, spinning, weaving and sewing her hemp skirt and other hemp items.  If a Hmong girl cannot spin and weave hemp cloth, she is seen as incompetent. The level and quality of the woman’s cloth work is seen as a standard to judge if she is hard working and intelligent.

They usually begin at the age of six or seven. By the time a young woman is fifteen, she can design and produce her own blouses and skirts. Hmong skirts represent the pinnacle of their hemp textile craft and can take months and years to accomplish due to the time consuming work of weaving, batik dye, and embroidery.

In the Western diaspora, particularly in the United States, things have changed dramatically as the Hmong communities quickly assimilated into the dominant culture. Instead of young girls learning the unique textile craftsmanship that had been passed down from mother to daughter for generations, many Hmong girls now choose to pursue higher education in order to be competitive in the Western job market.