Here we go for the first non-Western block!

This is a method of reverse applique developed by the H mong (‘mung’) people who are dispersed through parts of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos (and more recently, of course, places like Australia and America). It’s one of two basic methods of cloth decoration they favour: the other is a very colourful figurative embroidery, and there are many examples on the web. This is an expert-level flower cloth with an ‘elephants’ foot’ design:

The ‘flower cloth’, as this is called, is formed by folding a square of coloured cloth, making tiny cuts in the edges, and unfolding it again, then cutting and sewing along the lines formed. For this step, I suppose you might think of making cut-out snow flakes in primary school. Here’s my very first try at a basic pa ndau star, folded three times and basted, with chalk where I measured the places to cut:

There’s an extra cut on the long side, for reasons that will become clear.

Then unfold, and you’ll find you have concentric circles of notches. These will guide your reverse applique.

Place the coloured cloth on another piece of cloth (the base). Baste. The H mong will often add a third, but I’m going to quilt mine and need it to be thin.

This photo unfortunately doesn’t show the notches up very well (the cloth is too dark) but you can see where I’ve marked a star shape by joining them up. When that’s done, you simply reverse applique along the lines of the star, making sure that you don’t get too far ahead with the cutting and you don’t let one side get too far ahead of another (stability is the key). You can see here that I’ve started turning and sewing.

Keep going with the centre star, then the second and subsequent stars. There are three in this beginner’s style block.

When the stars are done, there will be an extra cut on what used to be the diagonal lines. These are, usefully enough, the inside points of the stars. They are for decorative little accents, viz:

I’m not that good at applique, but at least though it’s wonky, this is firm.

This block was originally cut a bit bigger, because I had a feeling (justified!) that I’d be marking and cutting a little wonkily on my first go. It’s easy enough to trim back.

I’m not sure that this is really a good guide to get started. I’ll think about explaining it better when I do another one: I want to try an elephant’s foot, now!

Here’s how an expert would make this block:

Patches in this block: a measly 2!!!

Patches so far: 290

There is no PDF for this as it’s not really meaningful. See for examples, photos, and links to more information: http://www.lib.uci.edu/libraries/collections/sea/hmong.html

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