Make a Hmong-Amish Reverse-Appliqué Square

“Preserving the Legacy of Needlework” is the mission statement printed on the cover of PieceWork, and needlework traditions stay alive through practice, adaptation, and sharing. When cultures come together, craft can be a common language that facilitates community. A great example of this can be seen in the textile connections forged between the Amish and the Hmong in Pennsylvania.

Trish Faubion explores this cultural connection in her article, “The Amish & The Hmong: Two Cultures & One Quilt,” featured in the November/December 1993 issue of PieceWork. Trish explains, “The Amish. The Hmong. At first glance, they seem like two very different cultures, but they have some strikingly similar characteristics: both are agrarian cultures; both are fiercely independent; both have deliberately remained separate from the outside world; both stress family and community as social structure; and both immigrated to the United States seeking asylum—the Amish from religious persecution, the Hmong from political reprisal. Both the Amish and the Hmong have strong needlework traditions.”


Make a Hmong-Amish reverse-appliqué square, which was designed by Suzanne De Atley and Chue Lao and featured in the November/December 1993 issue of PieceWork. Photo by Joe Coca.

In the companion project to Trish’s article, “A Hmong-Amish Reverse-Appliqué Square to Make,” designers Suzanne De Atley and Chue Lao describe the details of their reverse-appliqué square, which was based on the needlework traditions of both peoples:

“Traditionally, the basic construction of a reverse-applique piece calls for three layers of fabric: a foundation layer (invisible), a background layer (here, red), and an overlay layer (here, brown) that is cut and its edges stitched under to reveal the background color as the design. The work may be embellished further—as this one is—by additional appliqué and by embroidery stitches. In our project, the purple triangles are appliquéd on after the central diamond of reverse applique is complete, and a fourth layer of finishing fabric covers the back of the piece (hiding all the stitching) and is brought to the front as a brown border. The finished piece measures 8 by 8 inches [20.3 by 20.3 cm].

“Although reverse appliqueing is not difficult, it’s a good idea to practice cutting patterns on paper first and then practice turning under edges, keeping an even channel open, and making precise and evenly spaced applique stitches on fabric scraps. Creating Pa Ndau Applique, by Carla J. Hassel [Wallace-Homestead Book Co, 1984] is a useful reference that contains additional designs. The fabric colors and the Center Diamond design provide the Amish elements.”

To read more about the needlework traditions of the Amish and Hmong peoples and make the reverse-appliqué square, download a copy of the November/December 1993 issue of PieceWork.

Plus, celebrate 25 years of PieceWork and enter our 25th-Anniversary contest. A special thank you to our 25th-anniversary sponsors: Bluebonnet Crafters, The CARON Collection, DMC, Green Mountain Spinnery, Jagger Spun, and Treenway Silks. These generous sponsors are contributing to a deluxe prize pack that twenty-five lucky readers will win! Enter here to win!

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