Several of you have asked if I had any fabric adventures while in China. I did! Since it was a family visit, I expected that most of my fiber encounters would result from chance sightings while on excursions around the city. Our daughter-in-law, however, went above and beyond in planning daily outings while K was working. She was a wonderful tour guide around the city, showing us many interesting sides of Shanghai while considering our interests ~ construction and fabric!
For the first few days of our visit, H wisely kept us within walking distance of their place, as we acclimated to the new time zone and recovered from that long flight. One morning we took a short stroll over to the French Concession area of Shanghai, a charming section that still reflects its reputation in the 1920s as 'the Paris of Asia'. We stopped at a number of interesting little shops along the way, but there was an eventual destination.
If you weren't looking for it, you might miss the sign ~ Chinese Hand Painted Blue Nankeen Gallery.
We crossed the street and headed down the alley-like lane, the ubiquitous Chinese laundry hanging overhead.
Off the lane, to the right and left, were traditonal longtang neighborhoods.
After several twists and turns in the walkway, we ended up at a little courtyard strung with lengths of cloth drying in the sun. This looks like the place!
From several scary shots of myself that were taken that day, I can only conclude that my lack of photos here was due to the fog of jetlag. In any case, the gallery consisted of a ground floor shop which featured a wide variety of clothing and home goods made from the indigo-dyed fabric as well as a small exhibit on the second floor, tracing the history of blue nankeen. It was opened by a Japanese woman in 1990, in an effort to revive the appreciation for this beautiful, traditional Chinese handcraft.
Somewhat similar to Japanese indigo prints, blue nankeen immediately struck me as being more like Indonesian batiks and the historical exhibit supported my impression. A thick paste is applied to fabric through cut screens before dyeing. The resulting fabric does have the slightly stiff feel of new batik, although it softens nicely with use.
The traditional patterns are graphic and striking.
Upon my return home, I was surprised to read that many Chinese have no memory of this traditional cloth and that most of the visitors to the shop and gallery are foreigners. I think you would find this post I came across most interesting!
The modest cost of handcrafted yardage, around $7.00 a meter, took me by surprise and I couldn't resist bringing home a small selection of prints. All in the interest of preserving history, of course. *ahem*