Lung Tam Village

Unique indigo flax and brocade

06:00 | 10/07/2022 Culture & Tourism

(VEN) - The pandemic has considerably decreased the number of visitors to Lung Tam Village, a renowned linen weaving center in the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang’s Quang Ba District. With the disease under control, the flax weaving craft has begun recovering in the village.

Unparalleled indigo-dyeing techniques

Lung Tam is a small valley surrounded by rocky mountains, with the Mien River flowing through. This is a land where the H’Mong people have lived for generations and established their fame with the craft of linen weaving, indigo dyeing, and beeswax drawing, creating many unique brocade products. The craft has helped Lung Tam attract tourists and improve villagers’ incomes.

Vang Thi Mai, Head of the Brocade Weaving Cooperative of Hop Tien Village, said linen weaving is an heirloom craft of many H’Mong families in Lung Tam. Making linen fabric from flax requires a lot of work with all of the stages being done manually.

In 1998, Mai and her husband, Sung Mi Qua, mobilized capital from commune residents to found the Hop Tien linen knitting facility, which was then renamed the Brocade Weaving Cooperative of Hop Tien Village in August 2001.

Made-in-Lung Tam flax fabrics are not only transformed into colorful dresses, scarves, and handbags but are also used as decorative products at hotels and restaurants as well as souvenirs and paintings for visitors.

unique indigo flax and brocade
Making fabric from flax involves 41 steps

Making fabric from flax involves 41 steps. The H’Mong believe that drawing on the fabric with beeswax forms the fabric’s soul. This step is done with a special brush, the nib of which is a flat copper plate. Making a full-color patterned dress takes a month or even a few months.

People in Lung Tam are also skilled in unparalleled indigo-dyeing techniques. Indigo-dyeing takes hard work and patience. The fabric must be dyed several times over a few days to achieve the desired hue. The fabric is soaked in indigo fluid for about an hour, after which it is taken out to drain and soaked again. The process is repeated five or six times before the fabric is ready for the actual dyeing.

Plant-based colors

Once the fabric is dry, it gets soaked about a dozen more times. The time required to achieve a deep shiny hue after soaking is highly dependent on the weather. In sunny weather, each piece of fabric takes only a few days to dye. However, when it rains, the task can take up to two months. The unique colors and patterns are all taken derived from natural plants and flowers, which undergo meticulous processing to ensure the fabric’s colors are durable and look fresh. In addition, some patterns are hand-embroidered with designs popular with European customers, adding a touch of modern beauty to Lung Tam brocade.

unique indigo flax and brocade
Handmade flax-based products of Lung Tam Village

The cooperative currently produces more than 20 different types of products and has found a traditional partner – the Center for Handicraft Research, Linkage and Development (CRAFT LINK). CRAFT LINK also helps the cooperative introduce its products to foreign visitors and brocade lovers.

In 2008, 2010 and 2011, Mai was invited by the Vietnamese Embassy in France to attend an annual craft fair honoring creative and dynamic women around the world. This was a turning point, after which the first pieces of flax fabric produced by H’Mong artisans in Ha Giang began reaching the wider world. These items are sold in many countries these days including Italy, the US, France and Switzerland.

The products have been sold across the country and exported to more than 20 countries worldwide, improving local income and promoting the traditional cultural value of the H’Mong ethnic group.

Thanh Tam