Brocade – Treasure of the Mong people

To create brocades, the first thing Hmong women in Sapa Vietnam have to do is harvest flax and dry it. Linen is dried in large piles in the yard or any large area of land. When the flax is dry enough, it will be taken home, stripped of the skin. Next is pounding flax and threading – this is considered the most difficult and laborious stage. Hmong women have to pound the flax for 4-5 days in a row, then meticulously connect the flax fibers so that they are even and beautiful. Even and beautiful linen joints are not exposed joints, the fibers are even so that when the fabric is applied, the new fibers are even, the new woven fabric is flat and smooth.

A few times when I come to Sapa Vietnam, I always see many Hmong women with quick hands connecting yarn and rolling flax yarn into small buns in their hands. It is said that Mong women know how to take advantage of work, on the way up to the fields, down to the market or anywhere, whenever their hands are free, they will connect and roll linen yarn. After spinning and splicing the yarn by hand, the flax is put on the wheel again before being retracted into the reel. In order not to break, these skeins are dipped in water for about 15-20 minutes before spinning to soften and increase toughness. After a few more preliminary processing stages such as boiling, incubation, washing, flax fiber will be white, smooth and tough. At that time, people will bring the yarn to roll again to make it thinner and flatter and then fold it into a thread to weave. Hmong people usually weave fabric about 40 – 45 cm.

After weaving into sheets, the Mong people in Sapa Vietnam use a very unique technique to create patterns and textures for the fabric, which is painting beeswax. Beeswax is heated on the stove to melt, the craftsman uses a wooden handle, a copper nib dipped in hot wax and paints on the fabric. This special “ink” paints until it dries, the pattern eats into every fiber of the fabric. The beeswax painting is to prevent the indigo color from staining the fabric, because when the dye is finished, the fabric is soaked in hot water, at which time the beeswax will melt and reveal the patterns. Due to the sophisticated nature and high technical requirements, this process is usually performed by elderly and experienced people.

The cloth is soaked in cold water to absorb evenly, then dipped in indigo. Dipping indigo is an indispensable step in creating Hmong products. After dyeing indigo, the fabrics will be dried, waxed and washed again and again before rolling to create flatness and smoothness. The finished linens will be brought to the market to sell or sewn into shirts and skirts. Each cloth contains the sweat and effort of Hmong women. The end result for the tireless labor chain is the dresses and tops that not only help keep warm but also bring their own colors, highlighting the beauty of the Mong people in Sapa Vietnam.

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