Textiles of Vietnam: The Black Hmong of Sapa

It’s no secret that Vietnam is a creative’s paradise. Small communities lie at the heart of Vietnam’s crafting traditions, driving them into the modern day and keeping ancient techniques alive. For many tribes, traditional dress is still a part of everyday life which is evident by the silk villages and indigo farms dotted across the rolling plains. Hidden amongst the emerald hills of Sapa live the Black Hmong minority, a fascinating hill tribe with a very distinctive style of Vietnamese clothing…

Located near the Chinese border, the former French hill station of Sapa lies at an elevation of 1,650 metres. The region holds countless trails and is home to many isolated communities including the Black Hmong minority. This tribe immigrated from China approximately 300 years ago and relocated to the stunning mountainous landscape of Sapa, bringing their traditions and heritage with them.

The Black Hmong minority have a very distinctive style, instantly recognisable by indigo dyed hands, following years of practicing their traditional textile techniques. Their clothing is coloured black and embroidered with pops of bright colours.

The women of the Black Hmong minority are well known for their indigo-dyed hemp textiles, still enforcing traditions based on natural cycles and the landscape around them. It’s a lengthy process to create the traditional vietnamese clothing worn by this hill tribe, but one which is still practiced and celebrated today.

Hemp is harvested before being laid to dry out in the sun and then softened by hand & flattened under a millstone, smoothing the hemp and making it more flexible. Hand looms are then used to weave the smooth strands into cloth, ready for the next step – batik. The Black Hmong have developed around 20 different designs inspired by nature and rural family life, which are applied onto the fabric using melted bees wax, creating a resist for the indigo dye.

Indigo leaves are harvested between May and July and mixed with limestone & water before being left to brew for 4-7 days to develop a rich indigo colour.The waxy hemp fabric is then dyed for 6 days, dried and then repeated 3 more times before the wax is removed and it can be made into traditional garments.

Thankyou to Pat Archibald for her lovely photographs of Vietnam

Why not experience it for yourself?

Join Karin Hellaby on a superb textile holiday to vibrant Vietnam in November 2019. This special tour showcases the rich colours and cultural highlights of a truly fascinating country. Explore historic cities, walk and cycle through tranquil rural landscapes, discover villages high in the rugged mountains and stroll through local ethnic markets where traditional Vietnamese clothing is still a part of everyday life. Vietnam’s textile traditions are very much alive and you’ll explore silk villages, learn about the ethnic Thai minorities’ traditional weave, visit indigo farms, and see batik and the tritik technique found in the textiles of the Hmong hill tribes.