About this object

History of use

The sarong is a common form of clothing for both men and women. The wearer usually steps into the tube of cloth, pulling the sides up around the body, men tie it into a fold in front, at the waist, and women often gather it in on the left hip. There are many uses in addition to clothing for sarong tubes; including carrying merchandise, a baby's cradle in the fields, or for night wear. For festivals, traditional sarongs are often elaborately decorated.


Purchased in Chiang Mai in 1975. Embroidery is one of the oldest craft traditions; styles vary by region. The embroidery is done by women who learn traditional designs from an early age. Among the hill tribes, mastering embroidery techniques is essential for a young woman's marriage prospects.

Iconographic meaning

Abstract geometric embroidery symbolizes ancient Miao stories and their reverence for nature.

Specific techniques

Most embroidery of the hill tribes is done on a plain weave cloth. Cloth is generally basted in a plain cloth covering to keep it clean with only the part to be embroidered exposed; worked on backside of cloth and turned over when the work has been completed. Cross and running stitches form basis of embroidery. Symmetrical patterns composed of geometric forms and stylized animal and plant motifs are used. Colour and styles vary. Warp is usually made up of monochrome threads of cotton, lined or embroidered with coloured threads, or weft.

Physical description

Large tubular sarong, The plain weave top with white band is hand sewn to plain red band and this is stitched to large dark blue and black striped base section with mock weaving in dark green thin horizontal x'd and o'd bands. Each end has band of red with white, orange and green designs in alternating pattern also mock embroidery. Next largest piece is black plain weave cloth covered entirely with zigzag lines of predominantly red, with light brown lines in between lines. The bottom has brown mock weave embroidery in zigzag horizontal thin bands; white and red vertical embroidery. The top edge has red and yellow wefts in horizontal lines on a white band with a frayed cut edge. The bottom edge is selvedge.