Taab tab

Taab tab - the bottom piece of a Hmong skirt.

Taab tab – the bottom piece of a Hmong skirt.

Measuring over 7-yards long, this is a piece that I am currently working on. Once completed, it will be sewn on the bottom portion of a Hmong skirt, which is made of batik. The batik is usually a hemp-type fabric that is dyed indigo or black. Once both pieces are sewn together the entire skirt is pleated and the 7-yard wide skirt will become half that size. When a skirt is ready to be worn the pleats are let out, which gives the skirt its fullness and movement.

A ‘taab tab’ (pronounced thaang thah) is a huge commitment. It requires a lot of time and patience. Since the cross-stitch fabric is black, it’s easiest to work on in bright, natural light, which limits the time you can devote to the project to the daytime only. You could work on it in the evening under incandescent or fluorescent lighting, but I wouldn’t advise it.

Traditional taab tabs consist of three colors of thread: any shade of red (pink and magenta are very common), any shade of orange, and white. I always start out a taab tab with red. The red outlines the design and lays the foundation for the entire piece. The red thread is the most amount of thread you will use, so I always make sure to have plenty of it or that the color and type of thread I choose is readily available. Once I finished the red I moved on to orange. The orange is used to fill in the majority of the design that was outlined in red. This is the step that I am currently on and am almost finished with. Finally, I will finish with white. The finished product will have none of the cross-stitch fabric exposed, except for where there will be appliqué work.

You will notice in my picture above that there are different shades of pink and orange and that the white is not totally filled in. This is because I was testing the different shades I wanted to use and how the colors looked against white. I was going for vibrant colors that would make the white really stand out. This section of the taab tab is at the very beginning and will not be seen once worn, so I am not worried that this little section is not the same colors as the rest. I ended up going with the color combination in the first block on the left. Once all the cross-stitch is complete, additional fabric will be appliquéd on. The style of the skirt determines the type of appliqué. In this case, I am making a Hmoob Dlub (Black Hmong) skirt. The appliqué will consist of long, bright pink or red rectangles on top of a white base fabric. The same white base fabric will be used for the bottom inch of the skirt, which is referred to as the foot of the skirt. There will be no appliqué work on the foot of this skirt.

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