Mola Quilting

Mola QuiltingGood Morning, Quilters!

Over the weekend, I took a jaunt to the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market and among the fruits and vegetables and flowers, I came upon a real gem…Molas-a form of reverse appliqué.

Mola QuiltingAll of these beautiful pieces were hand made by Kai Vang.  Her granddaughter was with her and was so proud to tell me that her grandmother made them all herself!

MolaQuilting.LKennedy002I don’t know much about this type of appliqué, but I did try it years ago and I know enough to appreciate the skill of this lovely lady!

While Mola is associated with the Kuna women of South America, it is also practiced by women in Southeast Asia-where this artist was from.MolaQuilting.LKennedy003It was hard to choose, but I came home with this turtle:MolaQuilting.LKennedy004and this beautiful pillow:MolaQuilting.LKennedy005

MolaQuilting.LKennedy006I bought a bunch of asparagus, a salad worth of beautiful lettuce and some sugar snap peas.  All the veggies will be gone by next week, but I’ll cherish these Molas forever!

What about YOU?  Have you ever tried Reverse Applique?

One happy shopper,


Read more about  Molas HERE and the history of Reverse Applique HERE

PS…If YOU know of any links about the history or how to stitch this beautiful quilt form, please share the links with us!

PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, share or Pin with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  for all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!

44 thoughts on “Mola Quilting

  1. The Hmong of southeast Asia call this needle-turn technique Pandau. There are large communities of Hmong in Minneapolis and in central Wisconsin and in California. We invited one of the gals to come to our quilt guild and present a teaching workshop on this technique. It’s easy to understand, but requires much skill to execute. It’s not quite the same as the mola technique.
    The Hmong were extremely valuable to our armed forces during the Vietnam conflict. We owe them many thanks. It’s worth your time to seek out their amazing stories.

    • I thought that molas were made by native people of Panama. They have a similar look, but are done using the traditional method of appliqué.

    • I have a dress and a jacket made by a Hmong lady that used to come to the guild’s quilt show. Also have lots of her blocks, pillows and other things she made. Once she gave me a block to do. She would cut the design of the top piece without a pattern. She could cut a perfect circle!!
      I never finished the block, but did a repair on the jacket. Took me a lot of time, but you can not tell where I did the repair. The Hmongs also did cross stitch freehanded . The designs were memorized. Amazing talent I became friendly with Mayko and was sad when she no longer was a vendor at our quilt shows.
      There is a difference in the Molas that are done in the Panama Canal and the Hmong work. Designs are different and I can usually tell the differences. I haved some of the Molas as my brother in law was stationed in the Panama Canal and they brought back many pieces.

  2. These are really such pretty pieces. I can appreciate the number of hours it would take to make one of these articles.

  3. Was this market in Stillwater? I will be coming through next week and would love to see this work!

  4. Do you by any chance have contact info for Kai Vang or her granddaughter? I always enjoy your posts. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Those pieces are beautiful! I have a lovely mola that a friend gave me years ago after one of her many mission trips to South America. I have it framed on my office wall! The women who make these wear these as a sign of power. That’s why I keep it where I can see it!

  6. I did try reverse applique with a small hawaiian applique design. My kids were pretty young then, maybe 4 and 2, and I shied away from hand work (though I’ve always LOVED hand work, being a cross stitcher before a quilter) and I LOVED it! I’ve done several hand applique projects since. I still don’t have time to get much finished; can’t blame the little kids, they’re now 15 and 13, so it must just be my procrastination that gets in the way. I don’t understand that. Why do I put off doing something I enjoy?! These are beautifully worked pieces. The turtle is adorable!

      • My husband’s parents collected several molasses made by the Kuna women. The molas were made into blouses. They bought the blouses and took them apart and framed a few molas and several were made into a table cover. I have the cover and hope I have been inspired by you to make it into a wall hanging.

  7. When my husband (US Air Force command post) went to Thailand in 1974 one of his first missions was to meet with his Hmong Group. (I forget that everyone does not have a military minded & I apologize.)
    The Hmong were our guides–eyes & ears, yes even in 1974. One of the first things given my husband on his arrival were 2 pieces of Pandau as a gesture of respect; even though they (Hmong) were the important ones. Although my husband was one of the casualties, in his returned baggage & effects were the two Pandau he had written about. Since the Hmong were so important to his command post successes or failures he came to rely on them as family & with deepest respect. And, as Peggy said, we owe them many thanks & yes, our deepest respect! I have the two Pandau stretched, framed, & displayed along with my husband’s many pieces of AF history & memorabilia.
    i never thought I would open my favorite & first email (each day) & write about my husband & the Hmong. This will stay with me all day today & possibly longer.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. I am grateful to the Hmong for their part in our history. Th

  8. For a couple of years now, I have collected photos of mola work..all from South or Central America. I had hoped to find a detailed instructional some time as to how to do it..What I did find was daunting for these arthritic hands. I am amazed at this Hmong work. I didn’t know it existed. it…..It looks so smooth. Thanks for all the educational posts about it.

  9. I have done a few reverse appliqued details on needle turned applique blocks, but nothing as extensive or as challenging as the Mola workmanship you’re showing here. It’s spectacular!

  10. There is always a booth at quilt festival in Houston that has a huge selection of these appliqués.

  11. The molas of Panama are done in traditional appliqué–at least the ones I’ve seen. They look very similar to the Asian ones, however.

  12. I have collected a few of these beautiful Mola over the years. They have always fascinated me with the bright colors and forms. I did make a couple as gifts (in my own fashion) for gifts and I used a Pendleton wool remnant behind them, giving them more texture and it made it easier for me to distinguish between the layers 🙂 Craftsy has a class available on layered applique that would be suitable for this type of stitching. There are a lot of pictures on Pinterest.

  13. To all of the people who posted replies and especially loosecannon2- thank you for sharing your stories. It is amazing to hear about our connections to other cultures and history through needlework. I often think of all of the unnamed women (okay, and men too) who have created items of beauty throughout history: unsigned, unrecognized and probably underappreciated — but we sew because we love the process and the product (usually)…. I made a reverse applique (Hmong style) once in a quilting class and learned to appreciate the challenges of this intricate style!

  14. Hi Lori, I think that there is a mistake here. The Hmong work is reverse appliqué and so are the Mola’s of the Cuna indians of the San Blas Islands of Panama. However the traditional Mola’s are story pieces while the Hmong work of Asia are shapes often like the beautiful pictures that you show on your blog,

  15. I have a beautiful mola panel from a trip to Panama a few years ago. We stayed in the San Blas Islands, home of the Kuna people, and were able to visit a village on the mainland. It was really cool to see the women sewing these while the men carved canoes. I HIGHLY recommend a trip there.

  16. I have made several of the Pacific Rim two-fabric applique wall quilts. They use the reverse applique technique. I love how the design starts to emerge from the fabric as you cut along the cutting lines and then applique to the background. I have several more to do (whenever life gives me more time!).

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