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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:41 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:33 am
Posts: 155
Location: Beijing
This is a "has anyone seen similar pieces" posting.

Here are pictures of a jacket and a 'blanket' that are said to be from Hunan province in China, made by TuJia people. The thing that makes these items interesting is that they are made of unspun bast fiber (woody plant fiber). They are not hemp as far as I can tell. The only other comparable bast fiber textiles that I know of from China are from Hainan island (there is an older posting on the forum with some of these), however the Hainan pieces are lightly spun, whereas these TuJia pieces use flat strips of unspun bast. Quite a number of bast fiber textiles of a similar type were formerly made in Japan, and they are known from the Philppines (abaca), but I have not seen any other examples from China. Do forum members have other examples from China or elsewhere?

Presumably a lot of textiles looked like this, before cotton and hemp were introduced into China and southeast Asia.

The fiber is quite fine in both pieces, but has a stiff texture as you might expect. The 'blanket' is brownish, but the jacket is made of nearly pure white bast (bleached?), partly dyed with indigo and woven in a basket weave. The finishing of this jacket is entirely done with bast, but the blanket is sewn together out of narrow strips using blue cotton thread. With bast it's very hard to identify the fiber since it depends a lot on how much it has been processed (unlike naturally fluffy fibers like cotton that always come out pretty much the same).

Here is the link to the older post on bast fiber items:
http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... light=bast


Attachments:
File comment: the jacket
CET393-1.jpg
CET393-1.jpg [ 87.35 KiB | Viewed 2517 times ]
File comment: close up of the jacket weave, about 1cm x 1cm
CET393-5.jpg
CET393-5.jpg [ 181.73 KiB | Viewed 2517 times ]
File comment: close up of the jacket weave, this is about 2mm x 2mm
CET393-5b.jpg
CET393-5b.jpg [ 117.94 KiB | Viewed 2517 times ]
File comment: part of the blanket, this piece is about 10cm x 20cm
CET402-01.jpg
CET402-01.jpg [ 127.77 KiB | Viewed 2517 times ]
File comment: close up view of blanket weave
CET402-04.jpg
CET402-04.jpg [ 100.54 KiB | Viewed 2517 times ]

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:30 am 
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Beautiful photography Chris.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:02 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2009 8:34 pm
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Location: Amsterdam
Hi Chris,

Nice to see another challenging post from Beijing. Long time since I checked the TTF forum, and I thank Pamela for tuning me back in.

I am not familiar with the exact textiles you posted, but I have seen similar ones.

The Buyi of southern Guizhou weave a basket weave textile that very closely resembles what you posted.

I also do not think these textiles are true Cannabis hemp (although they grow hemp in the region and weave it for domestic textiles such as heavy threshing cloths) and I suspect your textiles may be ramie.

The stiff hand, as with Japanese "asa" textiles (both hemp and ramie) results from the unspun nature of the yarn, as spinning makes yarns softer and more pliable.

Why do you surmise that your examples are NOT hemp?

Sorry I cannot be more informative, but this is the limit of my personal experience. Often the questions are more interesting, if less satisfying, than the answers :-)

Thanks,

Rob

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 5:30 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:33 am
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Location: Beijing
Thanks for your thoughtful replies, Robert. Sorry for the slow response, I missed this when you posted it a few weeks back.

Thanks for mentioning the Buyi textiles, I have not seen those but will look out for them. That's an interesting mention since the Buyi are the most closely related Daic group on the mainland (according to a recent genetic study) to the Li of Hainan, who also made items from lightly twisted bast fiber until quite recently.

The short answer is I don't know what the fibers are that make up these two items. It's very hard to tell since it the final feel depends so much on processing. I think ramie is a possibility for the jacket since it ramie is pale or white in color. But the question (i think) is why people in SW China who are familiar with the methods for processing both hemp and ramie into nice soft spun fibers would make this kind of relatively hard unspun fiber too. They would not be particularly comfortable to wear or use. The jacket in particular is a puzzle since it is rather well made in other respects.

As you say, there is quite a tradition of this kind of material in the Japanese countryside, though in that case I think it is linked to the relatively late appearance of cotton. Materials like elm bark and basho cannot be made into fluffy spun fibers (as far as i am aware) hence their use in unspun or twisted form in Japan.

More questions than answers i'm afraid.

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