Narrative Made Woven, China 

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Handpleating

The Miao, who have only spoken and no written languages, use their fabric patterns to record and communicate cultural information, history and stories form one generation to the next. Kai Jin (left) from Guizhou is a traditional pleat skirt expert in her village. She wraps 5m long of indigo dyed fabric around a large wooden water container, then fold every single pleat by hand using a large pin. A light starch coating made of bletilla striata is applied to fix the pleats. 

Read more from our article on the Miao pleated skirt

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Handweaving

Young Miao ladies wear densely pleated skirts in bright red and stripes. The traditional piece is hand woven in silk, then smocked with backing material. It is often decorated with intricate cross-stitch embroidery. Pao Sang makes a living in hand weaving these silk materials while her husband Wan Tu handles the smocking. Together, they have been serving the community with beautiful traditional costumes for special festivals over the past decades! The couple are about to weave and smock customised colourways. 

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Weft float hand weaving (jacquard weaving)

The weft float weaving, creating intricate patterns on a backstrap loom, is still widely practiced across the tribes in Guizhou. Shi Liu Sha is one of the younger generation who is mastering this heritage craft. She uses a sharpened bamboo pick to arrange the pattern-making floating weft yarn while weaving, with the back side facing up. This method requires the weaver full understanding of the design as well as significant patience and attention to detail.

Read more from our article on Miao's trimmings