My goal to Wuzhen is to see the indigo fabric workshop, Hongyuantai Dye Workshop (宏源泰染坊). The indigo dying process exists since the Zhou Dynasty and the color printing was popular in the six dynasties (317 — 589) and was used in the palace during the Sui Dynasty.

The Chinese folk culture flourish for centuries and reach its peak at Ming and Qing Dynasties. Indigo type of fabric is popular because it is a low cost process with a high end result. The people use it for everyday such as table cloth, window blinds, decoration, etc.

Indigo Fabric Workshop, Hongyuantai Dye Workshop (宏源泰染坊)

The process and pattern following the natural environment in the rural areas, using the plants as the raw ingredients such as bluegrass as dye for the blue cloth, and unique color roasting from chrysanthemum yellow pigment,  black tea and green tea for red and green pigments, mulberry bark for brown pigment and tallow leaves for grey pigment. The process is unique and brings out the bright and solid colors. All natural colors without the use of chemicals.

The production cycle involve engraving (pattern design, screen carving) – starching – pigment application 1st dye – washing – 2nd dye and drying – cleaning.

Engraving: The artisan draws the patten with thin brush on lian-shi paper, then the paper transfers the pattern on the paperboard. The paperboard mould is pressed and coated with Chinese wood oil. The mould then heated until the negative space where the pattern is can be remove. After the mould is flattened and dried, the mould is ready to use.

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Starching: The fabric for tie-dye is usually white cotton cloth. The artisan then spread the fabric flat over the printing table. The paper mould is put on top of the cloth, then with a trowel made of ox horn or wood, the artisan begins to starch the printing board.The starch is set on the cloth according to the pattern through the negative space from the paper mould. The starch for printing is usually made of 50 % quicklime and 50% bean flour.

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Pigment application or indigo dip dye: The fabric then go to several dye process to get the blue indigo color. The making of the dye is mix and stir the pigment in the vat until the water turns to yellow.

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After the dip, the bamboo containing the fabric then hang on the rack until the fabric is immerse with the indigo pigment. The color will change from yellow to green when exposed to the air and lastly, after several dipping, it becomes the indigo blue you see at the photo above. The dipping into the vat takes 6 to 9 times, depends on how blue the fabric come out to be or until the artisan get the correct blue that she/he wants.

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After the dye process, the fabric then stretch onto the rollers then flattened it to smooth, flat and light finish.

The workshop’s fabric in various colors, not just the indigo blue, hanging to dry on the high poles. I have so much fun walking through the hanging fabrics and took some photos.

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The window shop. And I do mean I only do window peaking. I know my self. I won’t be able to resist buying one or two so I didn’t get in with the other girls.

Wuzhen is fun and exciting, at least even though it’s another water town, I enjoy going to this Indigo workshop.

See my weekend trip at Wuzhen here: [Travel] Wuzhen, Water Town for the Weekend

Source: Wuzhen Website, Wuzhen China Facebook

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