Though Thang Loi village of Thuong Tin district is not given credit as the birthplace of embroidery, it has improved and made the art more popular. The craft of embroidery first began in Quat Dong village. The legend is that Le Cong Hanh, born on January 18, 1606, is its ancestor. Known as an intelligent man and holding a doctorate under the rule of Emperor Le Nhan Tong, Hanh went to China as Ambassador in 1646 where he lived in a castle. During his leisure time, he took the embroidered paintings there, off the wall, detached them and rebraided them, thus learning the Chinese version of the art of traditional embroidery. He combined the Chinese version of the art of traditional embroidery with the Vietnamese one and handed it down to the people of Quat Dong village and neighboring communes.
Embroidery is a handiwork where skilled hands, talent, sharp eyes, a sensitive mind, patience and carefulness are needed. The crafts people seem nonchalant while working, but don’t be deceived. In fact, the artist is dwelling on experience and creativity in performing the work. The specific place where one works and other intangibles must be taken into account. For instance, it is advisable always to choose bright places so that the craftspeople can infuse their soul and vitality into the works. They need to be able to sit in a straight manner, slightly looking down at the embroidery loom and having the right hand against the loom with the left hand free under the line of embroidery, thereby precluding eye strain and creat – ing the necessary ease and comfort to be able to accom – plish the work efficiently and effectively. Regarding the tech – nique, the most difficult is to combine colors to form the desired overall color. An ordinary painting, once completed, is a critical mixture of colors. After surveying the design, the craftsperson commences to work carefully, accurately and precisely selecting the colored threads, needles and adorn – ments to be in harmony with one another. The color factor makes up 50% of the success of an embroidered painting.
There have been ups and downs over its long history, but the embroidery craft in Thang Loi Village has always been a means of earning a living for the citizenry. Under the state subsidy system, the Hop Tien Embroidery Cooperative was known all over the North for its traditional articles, including blankets, bedspreads, pillows, and clothes exported to the former Soviet Union, France, etc. With more than 500 mem – bers, it was rated as an exemplary cooperative for many con secutive years. Many high ranking State and international delegations made visits to the cooperative. In 1993, the cooperative disbanded, partly because of the loss of its traditional markets and partly also because of the way business was conducted during the state subsidy system, which was no longer suitable for the market-based economy. Private producers and groups then replaced the cooperatives. Since then, the embroidery craft has developed strongly.
To win over consumers and meet their wishes, new producers have continuously improved the designs of traditional embroidery. Traditional bedspreads have undergone magnificent design changes; an example is where the four corners are embroidered with flower band patterns and there is a large embroidery in the middle. There are eight different appealing embroidered patterns, for example a pine tree, a white stork, a couple in a lotus pond, and a peacock dancing by a clump of bamboo. Embroidered landscape paintings showcasing various aspects of Vietnam – land and people, pagodas, birds, and interesting ancient tales – have developed. The embroidery art and technique have undergone much improvement. Some artisans, with Nguyen Cong Su being a notable example, embroidered portraits to meet the demand or create the demand for images of uncle Ho, Lenin, Le Duan.
With the development of the embroidery craft, embroidery businesses mushroomed in Thang Loi village. Earlier the craft existed only in Dao Xa village, but now 9 of the 11 villages perform embroidery, 4 of which have been certified by the People’s Committee as qualified craft villages. Embroidery has attracted more than 90% of the more than 7,000 workers of the village and brought them security in income. There are more than 20 employers who perform as leaders in seeking markets, creating jobs for the majority of the locals and training in embroidery skills. Thang Loi embroidery is gaining popularity not only in Vietnam but also from foreigners of Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. While on sightseeing tours, many foreign tourists also want to visit Thang Loi village to admire and buy embroidered articles.