Hmong embroidery II: Chain stitch and mirrors

Update: This seems to actually be Indian embroidery. See this post on Indian embroidery for more information.

In my last post on Hmong embroidery, I promised to show you more Hmong embroidery pieces. And here is another one! This is very different, both in stitching and overall design, from the geometric cross-stitch work. As you can see in the closeup below, it’s almost entirely very tiny chain stitching. While I’ve certainly seen chain stitch used to outline shapes, and even chain stitch used in rows to fill long skinny kinds of shapes, this is the first time I’ve seen it used in spirals to fill lots of different shapes.

Here is another closeup so you can see the other major feature of these embroideries: shisha mirrors. They really make the embroidery sparkle.

If y’all take a look at the full embroidery below, it’s very geometric. There are basically three main stylized motifs – flower, elephant, and peacock, arranged in concentric circles with fancy borders. You could get spectacularly different effects by simply swapping out the petal shapes on the flower, or changing the border stitching of the circles, or by swapping the elephants and peacocks with another animal, plant, shape, even lettering or monograms. Because it is very stylized, it does not require “realistic” drawings of elephants or careful shading. It’s an incredibly versatile design.

There are five colors here – red, yellow, green, white and black. Black and white are neutral colors. In this piece, the black background makes the red/yellow/green pop out, and the white serves as an accent and contrast to the black. If you swap out the red/yellow/green, you will get different effects depending on the proportion of warm to cool colors. This design would look very different if, for instance, the main colors were blue and purple instead of red and yellow.

This entry was posted in Embroidery around the world, Indian embroidery, Surface embroidery. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Hmong embroidery II: Chain stitch and mirrors

  1. Rachel says:

    Love the elephants!

  2. Hannah,
    This pattern-the elephants,peacock and mirror work seems to be typical of Indian embroidery .Did you find similar pieces in the museum? Probably this is Indian. If you google Hmong embroidery and check the images,99 % of the work seems to be geometric. No animals or birds. Whereas if you google Indian embroidery elephants and check the images the pics that come up are similar to these.

  3. Pingback: Indian Embroidery: Gujarati dancers | enbrouderie

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