Ethnic embroidery from China
The National Silk Museum in Hangzhou had a small number of embroideries made by several ethnic minorities on display. After last week's book review on the textile traditions of one of these minorities, the Miao (Hmong), I thought it a good idea to share my pictures with you!
First up is an embroidered apron worn by women of the Dong minority. The Dong are matrilinear people from the south of China. The embroidery on this apron consists of brightly coloured satin stitches (possibly over a cut paper template) and some applique. The pattern is made up of stylised flowers and the sun symbol (probably the swirls; Chinese explanations at museums are notoriously vague ...). Other parts of the apron consist of strips of wax-resist dyeing.
Unfortunately, the only thing stated on this apron is that it was worn by an ethnic minority from Guizhou province. What I understand from the museum's description is that this is a single panel and that several of these embroidered panels would make up the actual apron. Do you see all these white buttonhole wheels? There are also chain stitches and knots. I think they used chain stitches to create the star shapes on the left and the maple leaves on the far right. Quite a clever and visually pleasing piece, I think!
This panel was embroidered by the Ge people who also live in Guizhou province and who are officially considered to be a sub-group within the Miao. This piece mainly consists of outlines stitched with fine and very regular chain stitches. There is also some back stitch and some satin stitch visible.
This piece of clothing (called 'braces' in the description) was also embroidered by the Ge people. It is again covered with very regular chain stitches and interspersed with satin stitches. The regularity of both pattern and stitching is absolutely stunning!
The last piece on display was an embroidered shawl made by the Miao. The geometric pattern is based on an old song and represents flower beds. The stitching is entirely done in a form of long-armed cross-stitch.
This is even a better close-up of the flower bed pattern. The movement created with the stitching is absolutely sublime! Keep staring at it and see how many different patterns you are able to see :).
It is really, really clever, Rachel! And I have the sneaky feeling that you have to be very precise with your stitching to achieve this movement ...
Quite a few years ago I was lucky enough to take an embroidery tour in this area. In the morning women from one of the villages would teach us the embroidery of their village and in the afternoon we would tour some of the villages. The skill and the fineness of the embroideries made by the ladies was amazing. My attempts were not so amazing but I learned an appreciation of the work they were doing.
Oh wow, that sounds amazing Karen!
Hi Jessica, the "braces" piece, very nice indeed, is in fact a baby carrier that people from many of the minorities in Soutrhern China use to tie their small children to their backs whilst working in the fields. An original, complete piece has straps attached to it from the widest part, top in your picture, often a few meters long (!!!), and often embroidered too.
Thank you very much for that additional information Bruno!
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