The pleated silk by Ngoc Bich

18 August 2013

In Vietnam you need to leave big cities like Hanoi and Saigon to discover the other side of this country and immerse yourself in rural life, punctuated by other rhythms and activities. There are thousands of what are called “craft villages”, each specialized in a specific know how: lacquer, basketry, pottery, wood carving and, of course, silk.

Again, thanks to the Craft Link organization, I had the chance to visit one of these craft villages in the Thai Binh province and got to meet a local silk scarves supplier. It took a one hour and a half drive by taxi on flat and regular roads through miles of green rice fields, in the South of Hanoi, near the South Chinese Sea.

Ngoc Bich has greeted me with simplicity and warmth. Her family has always been working as weavers. You can feel a family atmosphere in the workshop which employs a dozen local people and from neighbouring villages.

The creasing silk process used by Ngoc Bich is not a traditional technique, but a unique and recent know how, quite unknown. Once the silk fabrics are woven by mechanical looms into long wide strips of great delicacy measuring tens of meters long, they are dried outdoor. After being hung in open air, the pieces are twisted into long ropes and dyed in several successive baths. At each dyeing bath, the twisting process prevent the silk ropes to be colored regularly. Thus you obtain a stylish spotted effect, a new version of tie and dye, for a washed multicoloured result softly printing the silk chiffons.

The fabrics are then cut into scarves. There is still one final step, the most difficult and meticulous one: the twist by hand. Ngoc Bich has become so skilled! Squatting on the floor, she holds a wet corner of a scarf under her foot, then gives the other wet edge to her colleague and begins to roll and braids the transparent and colourful piece. Her flexible and nimble hands are impressively allowing her to roll up to twenty scarves per hour. The pieces are then dried in their braided form to definitely keep their skillfully creased look which made their great success.

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