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Thanh Ha embroidery village

For more than a century Thanh Ha villagers have been recognized for their needle work and their lives have been deeply impacted with the art of embroidery. Although it is uncertain exactly who introduced embroidery to Thanh Ha, currently of the eight thousand inhabitants, more than sixty five hundred are involved in producing world famous needle work.

Thanh Ha is located along national highway No.1 in the Thanh Liem District of Ha Nam province, about 10km south of Phu Ly. Thanh Ha has two main hamlets specialized in embroidery. The first is An Hoa hamlet and the second is Hoa Ngai hamlet. Combined they contribute nearly USD 2 million annually to Vietnam’s economy.

To observe the embroiderers of Thanh Ha, one easily gets the misleading impression that embroidery is easy. However upon close observation, this art form has been carefully crafted. There are many stages to go through once an abstract design is drawn on paper. First is tracing the outline. A needle is used to lightly prick through a thin transparent mica paper which is then carefully placed over a specially selected fabric. Next ink is thinly spread over the mica paper to soak through the perforations and print onto the fabric. Once this is complete, an embroiderer can begin their needle work.

For each villager embroidery brings forth limitless inspiration. Under their skillful hands the most intricate and delicate flowers ever so gradually appear making vibrant decorations on cushions, handkerchiefs, bed covers and window curtains. There seems to be an unlimited number of designs produced by Thanh Ha villagers. Some are made to appear simple, recollecting the designs of the 18th century, while others are more contemporary.

During the prosperous period of the 1980s, diversified products were exported to Russia and Eastern Europe while some were reserved for local markets. Since the 1990s and the opening of Western markets to Vietnamese exports, there has been an increasing demand for the quality Thanh Ha has been renowned for. Due to their successful market adaptations, the embroidery from Thanh Ha has maintained a prestigious reputation in both local and international markets. The young generation of Thanh Ha today has inherited a firm standing in the market and continue to bring forth a lively spirit into each picture reinforcing the popular view of embroidery as an art form.

Photo: hanam.gov.vn