This past January, my husband and I traveled for several marvelous weeks through Vietnam and Cambodia. The countryside was unimaginably beautiful, picturesque and full of contrasts, the cities teeming and intriguing. For me, one of the delights of the trip was visiting craft workshops in cities along the journey, and I plan to share some of these experiences going forward.
Hoi An, an ancient city not far from Danang, is situated on the Thu Bon River. Because it was an important trading port from the 16th century onward, it possesses a rich cultural heritage with influences from China and Japan. We visited ancient houses, strolled across the Japanese covered bridge, sampled delectable food at several local restaurants, and even took a Vietnamese cooking lesson. Happily, we also visited an old, venerable silk embroidery studio. Initially, we gazed at silk worms spinning their cocoons then watched the tedious process of unwinding the silk from the cocoon and spinning it into silk thread. The patience required for these activities appeared to be enormous!
Dyeing and weaving of the silk followed. Now, of course, the majority of silk cloth is not necessarily woven by hand, but several looms were set up to demonstrate how the sheen and texture of various kinds of silk are created. The textures, the colors, the shimmer of the silk– all were irresistible and begged to be touched.
Finally, we watched two rooms of women patiently stitching wonderful designs—traditional scenes, trees, animals, flowers, and especially the lotus—onto the silk cloth. Smaller designs might take an artist a day or two to complete, while larger works meant to be hung on the wall could take weeks to finish. Truly, the creations are works of art. The work is delicate, the stitching so precise—and altogether entrancing. We chose several lovely pieces as presents that day, but, alas, there was no silk yarn to purchase!