Sedge mat weaving is a famous traditional handicraft in rural Northern Vietnam, especially in villages of Nga Son, Kim Son, Chieu Hoi. Sedge plants have a similar appearance to grass plants grown on mudflats. After harvesting, farmers split them into fine fibers, paint and then dry them in the sun for several days. Next, good quality sedge fibers are selected to be processed.
The weaving loom is quite simple, fabricated from 2 big parallel wood sticks with jute fibers tightened as warps. It is necessary to have two craftsmen for the weaving process. One person sits on the loom to control the heddle as the other uses a long thin wood stick instead of a shuttle to insert the weft. The weaving process of sedge mats is the same as other tabby or basic weaving. Firstly, they insert sedge wefts with repeated “over one – under one” motions into warps. Next, they push them down with a heddle and then repeat the steps. Finally, they wash the mats and decorate them with pattern prints or hand paintings.
Sedge mat is one of the most favorite products in Vietnam because of many reasons. Since the 20th century, these organic mats are ubiquitous among the daily lives of Vietnamese families. They utilize them in certain important ceremonies such as New Year, marriage as bed sheets, tablecloths and decorations. Made from organic materials, they are not only eco-friendly but also harmless for health. Many people prefer lying all day long on these sedge mats. The reason is that they help to cool down the temperature in the summertime, also because they are easy to clean.
The price of these handmade products varies from 0,55 euros to 40 euros per one in terms of material quality, production time and method. Vietnamese craftsmen have already applied technologies into production to enhance productivity. But nowadays, the material supply would probably be exhausted because of the limited quantity of lands and maneuvers to cultivate sedges and jute plants. However, the essential value that makes sedge mats become traditional Vietnamese handicrafts is the handiness of artisans in each process, from growing and harvesting sedges to finishing products.
The sedge mat not only brings material and spiritual values to the lives of Vietnamese people, but it is also a feature representing their traditions and culture. I believe that, in this actual age of technological development and innovation, preserving tradition is essential. Protect our traditions and our cultural heritage is to conserve and maintain the singularity of our identity for the purposes of cultural diversity.
P/S: If you are interested and curious about the process of sedge mat weaving, this Youtube video (https://youtu.be/J5xi PfFg) would be helpful to you.