Overview
Embroidery

Embroidery has a long history in Việt Nam, where different ethnic groups have developed the art over many centuries into a unique form of cultural expression - for details see Ethnic minority crafts.

The art of embroidering on silk was introduced into Việt communities of the north during the 17th century one by Lê Công Thành, who learned the ancient skills during a diplomatic trip to China and then brought them back to his native village of Quất Động in Hà Tây Province. Thereafter it spread to other villages in Hà Tây and neighbouring Bắc Ninh and Hưng Yên Provinces, eventually reaching the Old Quarter of Hà Nội, where various guilds were set up. In its original form silk embroidery utilised just five colours of thread - yellow, red, green, violet and blue - and was used mainly to adorn temples and pagodas.

By the 19th century silk embroidery had become very popular at the royal court in Huế; several exquisite examples of embroidery commissioned by the Nguyễn dynasty kings have survived and are preserved in the Việt Nam History Museum and Việt Nam Fine Art Museum in Hà Nội and in the Huế Royal Fine Art Museum.

During the French colonial period the ancient craft took on a new lease of life when the wives of French officials hired local women to help with their dressmaking. By the end of the 19th century a new class of urban artisans skilled in French-style lace embroidery known as cô khâu đầm (sewing ladies) was emerging in the urban centres, some working directly for French families and others setting up small private tailoring shops of their own. Several rural workshops were later established to make lace for export and by 1930 the northern province of Hà Đông alone had some 4,000 lace makers.

With the Great Depression the international market for lace embroidery slumped and the subsequent introduction of machine-made lace dealt a severe blow to Việt Nam's lace makers, although some villages in Hà Tây and Ninh Bình Provinces continued to export small quantities of lace to Europe into the 1960s and 1970s. Since the advent of dổi mới (Renovation) the introduction of new technologies have brought about significant changes and a wide range of mass-produced items are now produced to meet the demands of tourism as well as domestic and international markets.

Source: http://www.culturalprofiles.org.uk/viet_Nam/Directories/Vi_ACYAIw-7879_ADs-t_Nam_Cultural_Profile/-3673.html