Updated: Dec 10, 2020
November 2020 - The story behind the product...
The Sapa Mountains are in the north of Vietnam and home to many different indigenous tribes, under which the Black Hmong, Zhao, Tai and the Tay Ethnic.
About one year ago, during our world travels, Luna, Marley, Edouard and myself walked for 3 days together with the women of the Black Hmong tribe though the gorgeous mountains crossing the terraced rice fields and climbing the muddy steep hills of the magic bamboo forests.
We visited their traditional home and drank Vietnamese coffee, learned about their ancient indigo art forms and shared with them making batik designs on natural hemp with which they create clothing, pillow covers, table runners and bed covers. We did a workshop and made our own pillow covers with batik design to be dipped in the indigo paint afterwards.
What is Batik actually? Batik is a textile technique using hot liquid wax to draw patterns on a fabrics surface before dyeing. In Hmong culture traditionally hemp fabric is used along with natural indigo leaves to make the fabric a dark navy blue color. When applied to the surface of the fabric the wax cools, and drys to act as a resistant against the indigo dye, keeping that part the fabric with the patterns on in the original color. When the dyeing process is complete the wax is removed with heat and the pattern is revealed.
The textile gets dipped in the Indigo bath over and over again....the number of times depends on the shade of blue you like to reveal. Mimi is dipping the pillow covers we created that morning....
When we were hiking in the hills where the Black Hmong tribes live... you could see next to various houses the textiles that were bathed in the indigo bath, drying. A beautiful site.
We liked all the different clothing, purses, bags that the Hmong create but fell specially in love with their colorful hand embroidered blankets and decided to offer those special treasures to our family, friends and anybody who is interested in traditional fabrics via our Mercado On the Go site.
What makes this collection unique?
All the products we offer in our 'Sapa Tribes Collection' are made by hand by the tribe minorities of Vietnam. From homegrown hemp to traditional batik and handmade embroidery.The Tradition.... (which i really like)... Hmong clothes are made every year in time for the lunar new year in February. For this event a mother or young woman will design a combination of symbols in embroidery and batik, that they want to attract into their life in the year ahead. So every new year they create a new skirts and dresses. The material/textiles of the previous year's skirts and dresses is re-used for making this gorgeous colorful blankets.
Also important to know is that unlike many languages, Hmong didn’t have a written form until very recently, thus textiles became a form of visual expression. The inspiration for batik motifs is derived from the natural environment, such as snail shells, animal teeth, ferns and cucumber and pumpkin seeds.
In short, The Hmong blankets we offer on Mercado On the Go are assembled from handmade skirts worn by the Hmong women, that were used and worn by them in previous years. The are very colorful and every blanket is unique.
Besides the blankets - you can also find the pillow covers made from hemp in our shop. The batik pattern in the middle is made with textile of a formerly used baby carrier. A great gift with a beautiful story behind it for a loved one! I took this picture during our hike, it reminded me of Luna which I carried on my back until she was 3 years old!
Crazy to think that even Pen (picture below with Marley) and Mao (her sister) with whom we now work to purchase these items and who were also our guides during the track in Vietnam are also in full confinement even though they live far out in the mountains, actually Pen lives a 3 hour walk from the nearest road! They are part of The Sapa Sisters...a group of women from the Sapa region that support each other and make sure the tracks and home stays are organized in an ethical way. At the moment with the Covid there are no more tourists. I am happy we can some work together with them to get through these rough times.
For now we send you big hugs, good health and warm Holiday Wishes from Portugal....
Ilse & family