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Village Story Blanket

Many Hmong families now live in Minnesota. These photographs by Wing Young Huie were taken in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul in the 1993 and 1994..

Many Hmong traditions have changed to reflect their new way of life, like this family celebration.

Hmong families in Minnesota continue the tradition of wearing fine pa ndau to celebrate the New Year.

key idea
A "story blanket" does more than tell stories.

Hmong women continued to practice traditional sewing methods in the refugee camps. But they turned their skills to a new type of pa ndau, the story blanket.

International aid groups in the camps helped women sell their work in America and other countries. Thai traders bought their work to sell in tourist markets. The new form developed as women discovered that embroidered pictures sold better than their traditional costumes. Story blankets were often a family’s only source of income. They helped the Hmong survive the years of waiting in refugee camps.

Story blankets also became a way to strengthen the bonds among family members and preserve their history. Traditionally only women had created pa ndau. In the camps, however, everyone had time on their hands. Almost every member of the family might be involved in the process. Men drew the scenes on the blanket. Women used those drawings as guides for creating the embroidery. Young children learned to sew the same way their mothers did, by watching and helping their elders. The scenes they sewed helped them get to know a way of life they could not experience.

September 2004