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Hanoi Craft Villages 4 December 2008

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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Originally posted on 4 December 2008 (edited)

We have had the opportunity to see a little bit more of Vietnam over the past couple of weeks.  In early November we went with Friends of Vietnamese Heritage to two craft villages south of Hanoi.

Silk Village

The first village we went to was the silk village, where we saw the silk threads being extracted from the cocoon.  Basically, silk is a thread woven by the silk worm into a cocoon, so that it can develop into a butterfly.  When the cocoon is formed, it is transported from where they raise silkworms to the village where they make the silk. Within 10 days of arrival, the silk must be extracted, or the cocoons will hatch.

(Photo from the interweb)

The cocoons are dumped in boiling water, to kill the worm inside, and to roll the silk off the cocoon.  Silkworms create two layers of silk when spinning its cocoon, the outer one being of the highest quality.  The lesser quality layer is not used in the village we visited, but they sell their left-overs to China, where they use the lesser quality threads for lesser quality silk.  The dead silkworms are often used for food.  When extracted, the large bundles of fine silk thread (think bundle of yarn before it is wound into a ball) are hung out to dry.

When dry, the thin strings of silk are carefully strung onto very long contraptions, and matted with rice flour paste.  This makes the threads sticky, and about two or three threads are stuck together to create a single, stronger thread.  Each process of the silk is done by different workshop, with entire families specialising in each specific trade.

When the threads have been made, the silk is wound onto spools, and taken to weaving huts.  Basically, these are houses with one or several looms that weave the thread into cloth.  This is mostly done mechanically now, with modified machines from the Soviet Union, Japan and France.  Some of the looms are still made of wood, but because wood gives, the weave will be looser, and will cause the finished silk cloth to be less valuable.

Silk, by the way, is white in its natural form.  But don’t think cotton or wool white, think snow or icing sugar white.  It is pristine in colour, absolutely amazing.  Once woven, the cloth goes on to the next workshop where they first wash, then dye, the silk.  And finally, the finished product is either sold as metres and metres of cloth or made into silk products, like scarves, ties, shirts, traditional Vietnamese dresses or whatever you desire it to be.

(Photo from the inteweb)

Drum Making Village

After spending quite a bit of time walking around the silk village, (and spending money in the silk shop) we went on to the drum making village.  Many drums are sold in Vietnam for religious purposes, however, this village was actually established by royal decree.  When one of the many historic Vietnamese kings was going to visit this particular village, a couple of brothers decided to make a drum in his honour.  It was said that the sound from the drum was like thunder, and the king was so impressed that he wanted the whole village to make drums from then on.  The drum making skills used to be handed down from father to sons, and never went outside the family, but now this is no longer the case.

They make drums in all sizes, but it takes several strong men to make the biggest ones, because the buffalo hides used for the drums need to be very taught.  For the frame, they do not bend the wood, but cut the wood in circular shapes.  Subsequently, they bind the carved planks together with iron, like a barrel.  Once the wood is sanded down and nice and smooth, the hide is pulled over it, first on one side, then the other.  It is pulled extremely tight by ropes, and when it is tight enough, it is secured onto the wooden frame by nailing small wooden pegs through the hide into the wood.  Once the pegs have secured the hide, the left over hide is cut off.  Some drums are painted (mostly red), but the ones we purchased were just natural wood.

(From the interweb)

It was a great day, we had a wonderful time.

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