Monday, August 24, 2015

Tie-Dyeing of the Bai Ethnic Group, Yunnan

Having a "weakness" towards loving textiles, I was naturally attracted to the tie-dyeing by the Bai ethnic group. This ancient handicraft was already being practiced around the 3-4th century in China. The Bai people living around the Dali area of Yunnan (southwest China) are renowned for their tie-dyeing in this particular style. The village of Zhoucheng has been awarded the title of "The Hometown of National Embroidery and Dyeing." 

The Bai people use white cotton cloth, or sometimes a blend of cotton and linen. To create the "resist" areas where the dye will not reach, the Bai people use knots, rubber bands, sticks, and stones. According to the needs of the desired pattern, several binding techniques are used, such as pinching, crimping, folding, squeezing and pulling into shapes. The cloth is stitched, bound, and tightened, with the un-dyed piece looking like a very textured sculpture. 

Bandhani tie-dye from Gujarat, India
 Having seen the process already when traveling in Gujarat, India, I could appreciate the finished products of this time-intensive art. The Bandhani  piece pictured here took 21 days just to tie the knots.
Removing the knotted strings, revealing the designs. Gujarat

The natural indigo color is formed from fermented leaves of the radix isatidis, mugwort, and a few other plants. The cloth is typically soaked and then air-dried several times before the desired intensity of color is achieved.
Like so many other traditional handicrafts, Bai tie-dyeing is becoming increasingly endangered, due to industrialization, as well as limited access of the dye plants themselves because of over-harvesting and pollution.

For more information on Bai tie-dyeing, visit this article or another by Interact China.
Tie-dying video by TravelChina Guide

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