LuRu Home brings a contemporary edge to a traditional craft by working with several of the remaining Chinese families using the Nankeen textile dyeing technique to create beautiful home decor pieces.
What is Nankeen and how do they keep this craft alive you ask?
Well, read on!
Nankeen is a technique used to dye cotton and linen with indigo. Can you tell us a little more about its history?
Chinese textile historians can trace the Nankeen dyeing tradition back 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty. Indigo’s roots run deep across Asia; in China, rice farmers believed that indigo’s special properties provided protection from snakes and insects in the fields.
Has the dyeing process remain intact after so many years?
Nankeen dyeing continues today as it did in antiquity, using natural vegetable indigo dye, soy-bean paste, and water, sustainable then as it is now.
However, this day and age, Nankeen indigo dyeing is perched rather precariously amidst China’s industrialized textile industry. Handmade fabrics take much longer to produce than machine-prints, and their hallmark is their variation. We love these dye-bleeds, but often they’re overlooked in favor of machine-printed fabrics.
How do you make Nankeen cloth?
With unflagging attention to detail, artisans apply a thick soy-bean paste to cottons through hand-cut screens. When the soy paste has dried, the fabric is submerged in natural indigo baths. The dried paste creates a hard, protective barrier through which the indigo dye cannot pass; it creates a resist, much like wax batik. Upon oxidation, the indigo-saturated fabric gains a vibrant blue, and is set to dry in the sun. The paste is carefully scraped away to reveal crisp prints, and the cottons are laundered to remove excess dye.
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