Thursday, September 16, 2010

Northern Vietnam - Hues of Colours

In 2004 I visited Sapa for the first time, backpacking with my girlfriend- Chwe. I felt in love with this place and in the next 5 years I revisited it 3 times and further explored to other regions of Northern Vietnam. Back in 2004 Airasia hasn't fly to Hanoi, we were told that not many Malaysian visited Sapa then. I enjoyed these trips very much with all the great trekking experiences, meeting and making friends with different hill tribes.

Friendly Red Dao girls at Taphin Village
Being someone who loves ( more accurately is obsessed with)  fabric ,sewing and crafting, I had full harvest each trip with embroidered textiles, tribes old costumes, and modern finished products made with tribes textiles. Some were kept as personal collection and many were sold in my little seasonal business which I ran together with my sister who shared same passion with me. It was tough job to bring our harvest home with all the walking with heavy loads and multiple travelling transports. I came home each trip with body ache but they were worthy.

From the tribes markets in all the countries I visited, I brought back accessories which the hill tribes use to make their costume like hand woven fabric, buttons, laces and etc. All these accessories add characters and flavours to my sewing projects.
Colourful blanket in Bac Ha market

Blankets made from assembling of few old Hmong pleated skirts are commonly found in Sapa and Bac Ha Sunday market. The blankets made by  Flower Hmong as shown on the left are panels of fully embroidered with cross stitches. Their works are colourful as how they were regarded as "Flower Hmong". There is also another more subtle colour combination in indigo dye batik with brown, white and red cross stitches and applique panel which is not shown on my blog. That is rare and more expensive. My last set was given to my sister as Christmas present.

Black Hmong blanket
The black Hmong blanket are combinations of Indigo dyed batik with panels of cross stitches and appliques. The original colours range from yellow orange and deep pink with red. As these blankets are an assembling of old pleated skirts, those really seasoned pieces are further dyed in various colour like yellow, lime green and purple. However, my preference sticks to original colours. These are easily obtainable in Sapa. Prices subject to the intricacy, condition and size of the blanket. If you get them in Hanoi, be prepared to pay 3 times or more for the price. My advice is to buy them in Sapa if you are taking a trip there and have the backing sew in Hanoi if you are making them into bed cover or anything you had in mind.

Left- White Hmong skirts from Mai Chau; Middle -  Tay applique of wallhanging and covers;
Left top- Headcloth of unknown tribe; Left below- Hmong children hats

I have bought rolls of the panel and indigo dyed batik for my crafting and sewing projects. I have the habits of buying something and think about what to do with them later. They came in handy when I used them for designing T-shirts, table runners, cushion covers and belt for my little store previously. The response was especially great on T-shirt & table runners! Some of materials and knick-knacks have sat in the cupboard for years before I decide to use them for my projects. My husband sometimes tease me collecting junks. Some of the places like villages and town in rural area are not easily accessable and you wouldn't make another trip in near future.  It is best to grab what you like than to regret! These items are getting less and more difficult to obtain these days. The next trip you will need to spend much more money on it.

Left - fabrics of Vietnam hill tribes; Right-  Laces from Vietnam and China and accessories

So, if you are into sewing, crafting and love collecting beautiful stuffs, be sure to grab some of the hill tribes needle works when you visit Northern Vietnam. Be it in its original form or modern design of bags, wall hanging and etc.


  1. Wow! Congratulations on your new blog!
    Very interesting and colorful! Well done!
    I have sent my friends and clients your blog!

    Keep it up!

  2. Wow! Very nicely done! Good job~! =)