The photographs and images take precedence over the text, though each appliqué piece is described in detail, from the type of stitchwork and the fabric choices made to the symbolism of the shapes within the pieces. All images of the embroidery and of the Hmong people are clear and bright, with additional close-up images for important detail work, like decorative borders or intentional “mistakes” sewn within each piece to “let the spirit out of the work.” Gerdner often presents patterns in groups, highlighting individual approaches to motifs like X-shaped crosses or “cucumber seeds.”
Gerdner’s research into Hmong craftsmanship and culture is impressive, and she occasionally weaves in stories from her own travels and experiences with the Hmong stitchers, which add a welcome personal touch to the subject matter. While the descriptions of individual works can, by necessity, be repetitive, even casual readers with an interest in textile art will find the book gorgeous and informative. Ultimately, the Hmong peoples’ craftsmanship and resilience is reflected with respect, care, and insight.
Takeaway: These handmade creations from the Hmong peoples will inspire anyone interested in textile art.
Great for fans of: Clare Hunter’s Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle; Johanna Amos & Lisa Binkley’s Stitching the Self: Identity and the Needle Arts, Claire Wellesley-Smith’s Resilient Stitch: Wellbeing and Connection in Textile Art.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A