On the second day of our Hanoi trip, we headed down south to Chuong Village which is about an hour and a half bus ride from the city centre in Hanoi. It is approximately 30 km away from Hanoi. We were there for solely to learn how to make traditional Vietnamese conical hats or Non La (means leaf hat) in Vietnamese. This village has a reputation for making conical hats and almost every house in this village makes the Non La which shields them from the sun and rain.
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How did these conical hats came abou
According to one legend, this conical hats originated from this story of a goddess who protected the people from the torrential rains with her giant hat. The hat is made out of four large leaves and bamboo sticks. Her hat was so huge that it helped shelter the people from the heavy rain and even dispel the dark clouds.
The goddess even taught the people how to farm and grow crops. But one fine day, while she was sharing a story, the people fell asleep after hearing her soothing voice. The moment when they woke up, they realised that she was gone. To honour her, people build a temple and even make hats which resembles her giant hat, using leaves and bamboo sticks. And that’s how this umbrella or conical-shaped hat came about!
Do you know that these hats are also often used as a basket to contain vegetables too? Some couples use these hats to hide their kisses.
How are these conical hats made?
The artisans first use bamboo to do up the framing of the hat. Next, they layered over the frame with dried palm leaves. These villagers have to manually spread open the palm leaves with their bare hands. And during the hands-on session, we were taught how to straighten out the leaves.
Next, the leaves are arranged on top of the bamboo frame and are stitched together using a thread. It takes about one day for these skilled craftsmen to make one conical hat!
As you can see, it is a very tedious process which requires years of experience to make a proper conical hat. We only get to open up the dried palm leaves and watched how the lady stitch the leaves together.
Next, we were all given each a conical hat which we could also bring it home too. But before we get to bring it home, we need to stitch the hat strap to the insides of the hat.
Making of the Hat Strap
They handed each of us one flat tapered needle and some strings for us to stitch.
Apparently, there is a method or a way of stitching pattern to follow through. It seems a little tough but some of us eventually got it. What’s really unique is the curved tapered needle which glides along the slanted sides of the hat smoothly.
We basically have to sew this spiderweb-like threaded holders on both sides of the hat so that the strap can be tied and anchored onto them.
Once we are done with this final step, we moved along to tie a small piece of neck strap on the threaded strap holders.
Non Quai Thao
The ladies who taught us how to make conical hats also create these traditional hats called
Today, these conical hats come in a variety of colours and designs. And each hat typically costs about VND 30,000 to 100,000 (between 1 to 4 USD). But I felt that these hats worth so much more. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to make a perfectly-shaped conical hat.
Overall, it is definitely a unique experience to be discovering how conical hats are made. But we wish we could explore this village and find out more about this traditional Vietnamese hat-making process.